Jose Mourinho has predicted that the Premier League title race is about to get “even more interesting” as he believes Manchester City and his Chelsea side are ready to pile the pressure on leaders Arsenal.
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Arsene Wenger’s Gunners travel to face title favourites City on Saturday protecting a five-point lead at the top of the table, while the Blues will get their chance to take on Arsenal the following weekend.
“Man City and Chelsea now have the chance to make the Premier League even more interesting than it is already,” Mourinho said, also insisting that Manchester United cannot be entirely counted out in the title race despite falling 13 points behind Arsenal.
“It is very difficult to predict the way things are going. If we beat Arsenal it is one thing, we can close the gap. If they beat us they can open the gap. The people behind us, it is a bit of the same. This weekend, Tottenham vs. Liverpool, somebody loses points. Arsenal against City, somebody lose points.
“Five points is a gap that is not a drama, but we have to try and make sure the five-point gap doesn’t open. Two matches, one week and everything can change. If the gap goes to eight, nine, ten, the situation is more complicated.”
Meanwhile, Mourinho has insisted he is not surprised by the scale of the task he has inherited in his second stint as Blues boss and stressed he is enjoying the challenge of building another successful team at Stamford Bridge.
Mourinho’s side will look to get back to winning ways in the Premier League against Crystal Palace on Saturday after Chelsea’s surprise loss at Stoke last weekend inspired the club’s manager to suggest “we are in trouble.”
“I knew it [would be difficult],” he said. “Some managers choose easy jobs, some choose difficult jobs. I choose difficult, but I enjoy it. I knew perfectly the situation from the beginning. We have a job to do for quite a long time until we become the team we want to become again.
“It is a difficult job because we have two groups of players. We have the players that need time to progress and time to become top, I am speaking about the younger ones. We have another set of players who are still top, but they cannot play like they did five, six, seven years ago, playing every minute at the top of their form -- players with a certain age. Why is it difficult? Because the style of play is completely different to the way we tried to play in the past.
“This is not a criticism, but also because the last manager, [Rafa] Benitez, knew that he was not the next manager for the next year, he was chasing results. He was not worried about the building of a team with a certain style because he knew he was not here for the next year. So he went in a direction of results, so we didn’t start with a base. We knew all this. We are competing against important teams, in a very difficult league, where you don’t have an easy match. We knew it would be difficult, but enjoyable.”
Mourinho went on to stress he was not asking for an extended period of time to transform Chelsea into a force to be reckoned with once again, as the demands for success at the club remain in place despite their recent difficulties.
“My nature is my nature, of the club and the nature I want the players to have too,” he said. “It would be easy to say we want four, five, six years [to build], but this is not me, this is not Chelsea.
“We want to chase results. We are not favourites, but we want to feel like the favourites. We want to fight the favourites and we should put ourselves under a bit of pressure, it only can help to be better. I want that.”
Mourinho confirmed that Cesar Azpilicueta will return to his starting lineup against Palace on Saturday in place of Ashley Cole, who will start the Capital One Cup quarterfinal against Sunderland next week.
Gary Cahill is set to be rested so David Luiz will start alongside John Terry in the heart of the defence.