Can returning to Stamford Bridge inspire Juan Mata to get back on form?

Juan Mata will return to his old stomping ground on Wednesday when Manchester United travel to Chelsea in the EFL Cup.

Mata has never quite returned to the standard he set at Stamford Bridge, but this season has seen him struggle perhaps more than ever.

Can going back to his former club inspire the Spaniard to rediscover his best form?

He has never come across as a player motivated by revenge but is likely to want to put on a show in front of his former employers – if he gets the nod.

What was Mata like at Chelsea?

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Mata was sensational in a Chelsea shirt. In his two full seasons at the club, 2011-12 and 2012-13, he scored 12 and 20 goals across all competitions respectively.

He lifted the Champions League at the end of his first campaign in blue and the Europa League the following year.

Mata stunned United with an outstanding volley at Stamford Bridge in February 2012, and netted the winner in a 1-0 Old Trafford victory in May 2013.

He lacked the searing pace of Mo Salah or Raheem Sterling, but was an early pioneer of the inverted winger darting inside to help himself to impressive goal hauls and his arrival at Old Trafford was genuinely exciting.

Can he get back to his best against Chelsea?

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In last season’s Premier League meeting at Stamford Bridge, Mata was very impressive and clearly fired up in the number 10 role -he was unlucky to be on a side robbed of all three points late on by a Ross Barkley strike for 2-2.

The reverse fixture saw Mata open the scoring against his former employers, before United ran out of bottle and energy to make the game safe.

So there is evidence there that Mata raises his game against the Blues, even if there hasn’t been much to suggest that he can get back on song this season.

Mata is the ultimate professional and it is somewhat baffling that he has underperformed so spectacularly given a run of games in the number ten role which suits him so well.

There is no guarantee he gets the nod against Chelsea. Many would rather see Angel Gomes given a go. If Mata does get an opportunity, he has to make it count.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.