Middlesbrough, United Kingdom – Juan Mata says Chelsea must use recent disappointments as a source of motivation as they bid to set up an FA Cup quarterfinal glamour tie with Manchester United.
The European champions visit second-tier Middlesbrough in the fifth round on Wednesday, three days after a 2-0 loss at Manchester City that left them seven points adrift of the top two in the Premier League.
It leaves Champions League qualification as Chelsea's only realistic objective in the league this season, but they remain in contention for honours in both the FA Cup and the Europa League.
The draw for the last eight in the FA Cup dealt Rafael Benitez's side a possible trip to Old Trafford in the next round and Mata believes that should provide enough motivation to cast recent setbacks into the shade.
Writing on his official blog, blogs.grada360.com/juanmata, the Spain midfielder said: “We're sorry for our fans.
“The way to overcome the disappointment is winning again, and this coming Wednesday we have an opportunity to move one step forward in the FA Cup.
“We can still win two titles. That, plus getting a ticket to play the next Champions League, is our motivation with a view to the rest of the season and we will fight for those goals until the end, like this club has always done.”
Interim Chelsea coach Benitez has complained that his club are “playing too many games” at the moment and he seems likely to shuffle his pack for the trip to the Riverside Stadium.
Striker Fernando Torres and club captain John Terry will both hope to start, having been named on the substitutes' bench for the defeat at City.
Middlesbrough, FA Cup quarter-finalists five times since the turn of the century, are also seeking distraction from poor league form.
The north-east club have lost seven of their nine Championship games to date this year and slipped out of the play-off places after losing 2-1 at home to Millwall on Saturday.
“I'm looking forward to it. It is a one-off that will lift the tensions of the Championship season,” said manager Tony Mowbray.
“I hope the supporters turn up, but it's their hard-earned money and you can't tell them that they have to come.
“However, we will need a great atmosphere and hope the players find a performance to make the fans proud.” – Sapa-AFP