Juan Mata's "plight" - if we want to call it that to heighten the drama - has been discussed and overdiscussed enough by now to last us several lifetimes. And yet still, every move that he makes (or doesn't make) on the football pitch is hawked over by the majority of fans wondering if perhaps that one dribble, that one pass, that one tackle or interception is what will make Jose Mourinho "see the light" and reinstate Mata as the automatic first choice.
After seeing less than 180 minutes of competitive action in the last month (90 of which came with Spain in a friendly), Chelsea's back-to-back player of the year made his return on the right side of the once-vaunted Mata-Hazard-Oscar trio. It was his ninth start and 12th appearance overall, good for about half of all available minutes played. He actually finished out the full 90 on Sunday for just the second time all season. He ended up playing most of the match on or near the right wing (even after Oscar's knock) with Mourinho's second-half tactics affording him the freedom to create yet still show that he can be at least aware of (if not always able to execute on) a few defensive responsibilities.
"It was good, in the second half he gave us what we needed, I needed him to come inside and be a bit of a winger and come inside and connect with the attacking players, he did that well."
"We also needed him to control Luke Shaw because the kid goes forward, and he was also a big support to Ivanovic, so his performance was good."
-Jose Mourinho; source: chelseafc.com
So that's all ... good. The one other time Mata played the whole match was in the League Cup third round away to Swindon Town, a performance similarly praised and subsequently rewarded with increased involvement, including three consecutive starts (Steaua, Norwich, Cardiff). If I were to guess, I'd say a similar reward is sure to follow after today.