Mata targets Europa League glory
By Football News
Chelsea attacker Juan Mata says his team will take the Europa League seriously, insisting their goal is to win the tournament.
Rafael Benitez's men dropped into the competition after failing to qualify from their Champions League group, despite being holders, finishing behind Juventus and Shakhtar Donetsk.
The round-of-32 draw took place on Thursday and saw Chelsea drawn against Czech Republic outfit Sparta Prague, with the first leg set to take place on February 14 and Mata wants to win the trophy.
"We face Sparta Prague in #EuropaLeague," the Spaniard wrote on Twitter.
"The first step to reach our goal in this tournament: Become Champions!"
The clash will see Chelsea 'keeper Petr Cech return to his former club, where he spent a season before moving to Rennes and then onto Stamford Bridge.
The English Premier League club's secretary, David Barnard, said the 30-year-old will be taking up extra duties as a scout for the clash against his ex-employers – a tie which he will be relishing.
"No doubt he will fill us in on Sparta," he told reporters. "It's one of his previous clubs and his home town, so he'll be looking forward to going back."
If the Stamford Bridge outfit defeat their goalkeeper's former side over two legs then it will be Dutch champions Ajax or Romanian side Steaua Bucharest waiting for them in the next round.
Manchester United legend, and marketing director at the Eredivisie club, Edwin van der Sar, was shocked by Chelsea's exit from the main European competition but hopes to face them in the Europa League.
"It's a surprise for everyone," he said. "They're 10 points behind in the league and Benitez had a tough start.
"Let's see in two months if he can steady the ship and maybe claw their way back into the title race.
"Hopefully, we'll see them in the next round."
Chelsea have endured an inconsistent season, sitting 13 points behind leaders Manchester United in the Premier League, and defender Branislav Ivanovic has called on his team to start grinding out results.
The Serb said: "We know we are inconsistent and still building.
"It is important for us to win ugly as that develops belief and confidence in the players."