Jose Mourinho may be playing down Chelsea’s chances of competing with Manchester City and Arsenal for the Premier League title for the rest of the season but only a fool would dismiss the Blues now following their highly-impressive win at the Etihad on Monday.
Much of the pre-match focus had, some will say inevitably, been on Mourinho as he once again shifted the attention from his players and onto himself ahead of a big game. The vastly-experienced Portuguese coach knew exactly what he was doing by labelling City “lucky” and bemoaning the fact Chelsea lag behind their rivals when measuring the collective wealth of the two clubs.
However, make no mistake, Mourinho – behind his public media-savvy stance at least – knows Chelsea can go toe-to-toe in this year’s title race. And their deserved 1-0 success in the game proved it.
This was no defensive ’smash-and-grab’ performance from Mourinho’s side. Contrary to what many soccer betting pundits expected pre-match, Chelsea were set up to go for the win and their fine-tuned counter-attacking gameplan worked a treat. Branislav Ivanovic’s goal was enough to secure the win but it could have been an even greater success as the visitors hit the woodwork three times in a game they always had the upper hand in.
Fans who bet on soccer games will recall that Chelsea became the first club in over three years to stop City scoring at home and the narrow win appears to be a significant one. Not only does it suggest the Blues are very much title candidates but it will give the chasing pack confidence that Manuel Pellegrini’s side are not unbeatable and they are not the shoe-in for the title many had thought after their free-scoring form for much of the campaign to date.
Mourinho, again typically of him, said after the game that his side remain outsiders for the top prize, likening his squad to a young horse that needed nurturing up against a couple of thoroughbreds in the shape of City and Arsenal.
But no-one who witnessed their win at the Etihad should take that analogy seriously.