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Mata believes in top-four dream
Juan Mata has urged Chelsea not to throw in the towel on their top-four dream ahead of tonight's Barclays Premier League trip to Liverpool.
The Blues' hopes of finishing third or fourth looked doomed after Wednesday night's defeat to Newcastle that left them four points adrift with just two games remaining. But the Magpies' loss to Manchester City and draws for Tottenham and Arsenal kept alive Chelsea's slim hopes of qualifying for next season's Champions League via the Premier League.
They must beat FA Cup final opponents Liverpool for the second time in four days to stand any chance of overhauling two of the three teams directly above them. Mata said of the clash at Anfield: "We have to win and still believe in playing the Champions League next year."
The midfielder insisted there was no chance of him suffering burnout ahead of what could be more overtime for the winger. The 24-year-old had looked set to be handed a well-earned day off at Anfield following Chelsea's FA Cup final triumph, having been through a punishing run of fixtures.
Caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo admitted after Saturday's Wembley win that his line-up against Liverpool would depend on the outcome of Sunday's games, implying that were a top-four finish mathematically impossible he would make wholesale changes with the May 19 Champions League final in mind.
But he would have been pondering whether to field his strongest possible side - which would surely contain Mata, who is the only outfield player to have featured in all 18 of his matches at the helm.
After winning the FA Cup in his maiden season in English football on Saturday, exhaustion was the furthest thing from Mata's mind.
"I have plenty of energy left," said the Spain star.
"It is a long season and my first in England, but the benefits of winning easily outweigh the fatigue."