Former Chelsea star Juan Mata has refused to rule out Jose Mourinho's side for the Premier League title despite the Blues' "unreal" poor start to the campaign. The Manchester United playmaker, meanwhile, has tried to play down the idea that the Portuguese boss is an incredible character.
The Blues are currently 16th in the Premier League after having secured just eight points from the first eight games of the campaign. Mata, however, thinks that the current Champions are still able to overcome the situation and even fight to revalidate the title.
"I think they are leaving an unreal situation. I don't think it will last. The squad is not one that will finish 16th in the Premier League," he said during an long interview with Onda Cero.
"In this league you can make up 15 points in a couple of months. I think Chelsea will get out of it because of the competitive squad they have. I don't rule out for the title. With [Eden] Hazard, Oscar, Cesc [Fabregas], Diego they are going to compete this season."
The Spanish international left the Blues in January 2014 after falling out of favour of Mourinho – despite having being the Chelsea player of the year during the previous two campaigns.
Asked whether Mourinho is the most incredible character he has ever met in football, Mata said: "No. There are many big characters in football, maybe they are not that famous but there are a lot."
Mata then turned to the reporters and asked: "But he is good for you, isn't he? Journalists say that he gives them a lot of work, at least in England."
Meanwhile, he defended Costa's behaviour despite Spain boss Vicente del Bosque recently saying he didn't like his attitude in the controversial game against Arsenal.
The Blues have missed Costa in the past three games after the FA retrospectively punished him for violent conduct after he shoved his hand in the face of Laurent Koscielny during the controversial derby against Arsenal on 19 September. Del Bosque left the striker out of the squad for the Euro 2016 qualifying game against Luxembourg and Ukraine while admitting he is not happy with his behaviour in the London derby.
"[Costa] can't play the first game and we have opted [not] to include him in the squad. He is not playing bad and we count on him for the future," Del Bosque said at a press conference last week. "We have made the decision we considered right. But we already thought [about leaving him out of the squad] before [because he couldn't play the first game]. But his ban is not something uplifting. It was not nice. I certainly do not like what he did."
But Mata said: "It's very difficult to face him. With his movement and his goals he always creates problems, and also because he fights with the centre-backs and causes friction that somehow knocks the opponents' concentration. That's his game and it has always been that way. It's not new. Now it seems to have been noticed more because he's in the Premier League and it's different from what was there before, but he has always played well. He played that way at Albacete, Valladolid, Celta... I'd rather have him as a teammate than a rival."