Manchester United playmaker, Juan Mata talks to FourFourTwo about giving big defenders the slip and how he competes with physical players.
How does a small player such as yourself survive in a division as physical as the Premier League?
It's a good question! In England there are many big, strong players which means I have to think a bit more because of the difference in size between myself and a lot of players. If you're not tall or strong you have to move earlier and try to find the spaces before your rival. The mental side of the game is really important for smaller players - if you try and stand toe-to-toe with a bigger man then it's very difficult to come out on top.
Do you adapt your game against fast or strong defenders?
It depends if you have the ball or he has the ball. If he has possession I make sure I'm smart tactically and pick up good positions to stop him from running into space or making a key pass. If I have the ball, I make sure my first touch is good - that's really important. I also like to play one-twos with my team mates to try and draw him out of position. It's all about tricking him and you have to think really quickly.
Are there any exercises you think are important for playmakers?
I use the gym three times per week, but it always depends on how many games we have. If we have two or three matches in quick succession then we can't do too much as we need to focus on recovery. We do sessions that work both the legs and upper body. Even though I'm physically tiny I still make sure I do my physical work as well to make sure I avoid injuries and so I have a base level of strength with which to shield the ball.
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