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Chelsea player Juan Mata urges teammates to shurg off defeats

Midfielder urges teammates to use losses as motivation for Champions League qualifying and set realistic goals amid hectic schedule

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 February, 2013, 4:56am

Juan Mata says Chelsea must use recent disappointments as motivation as they bid to set up an FA Cup quarter-final glamour tie with Manchester United.

The European champions visit second-tier Middlesbrough in the fifth round tonight, 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 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 aside.

Writing on his blog, 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."

Chelsea centre-back Gary Cahill thinks the club's hopes of qualifying for the Champions League are being hindered by what he describes as "ridiculous" fixture congestion.

Tottenham Hotspur climbed above Chelsea into third place with a victory at West Ham United, while Arsenal are just two points behind Benitez's side.

Sunday's game was Chelsea's 46th this season - more than Arsenal (41), Tottenham and Manchester City (both 38), and sixth-placed Everton (32).

The Blues' calendar has been swelled by December's trip to Japan for the Club World Cup, while they also remain in contention in both the FA Cup and the Europa League.

"Unfortunately, it does take its toll," Cahill said. "If you look back at the start of the season with the spark and the zip we had - I think sometimes a little bit of fatigue plays its part.

"We haven't had a clear week for about 29 weeks and you're expecting to go into games feeling 100 per cent fresh, trying to push on further in all competitions.

"I think at this stage of the season, it's not an excuse, but fatigue has to play a part. They [Manchester City] had a clear week and we've had a ridiculous amount of games."

There is little respite on Chelsea's horizon, with the Middlesbrough tie followed by a league game with West Bromwich Albion and the away leg of their Europa League last-16 tie with Romanians Steaua Bucharest.

"It's something that we have got to deal with," Cahill said. "We've got the two cups and obviously trying to get the Champions League spot. That's our aim from now until the end of the season. That's our focus. We are still in that position."

Benitez has also complained that his club are "playing too many games" 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 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.

"However, we will need a great atmosphere and hope the players find a performance to make the fans proud."

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