With his side preparing to usher in 2014 with an away game against Southampton, Jose Mourinho insisted he is pleased to be within just two points of leaders Arsenal at this stage of the campaign.
Sunday’s 2-1 win against Liverpool ensured we remain firmly on the shoulder of Arsene Wenger’s side, and while historically the Portuguese is more accustomed to leading from the front, our current position in the Barclays Premier League table, particularly in comparison to this time last season, makes for pleasant viewing.
‘We are okay, last year at this stage we were 11 or 12 points behind the leaders so it was game over, at this moment we are two points behind, so game on,’ said Mourinho.
‘Let’s keep going, we have to protect our place in the top four because this season finishing in the top four will be a big achievement for everyone. If we can do that let’s see what we can do, let’s see if Man City kills everybody or if they stay close to all of us.
‘The six teams are there, Everton and Newcastle are close but Man United and Tottenham are ready to attack the top four. It looks like the difference between being champions and finishing in the top four won’t be very big, so I think the first objective for everyone is to attack the top four and try to be stable in there.’
Results during the first half of the season mean there is very little to choose between the teams at the top of the table, but although Mourinho has, on a few occasions, claimed the depth of Manchester City’s squad gives them an advantage, he is not attempting to put pressure on Manuel Pellegrini’s side.
The Portuguese also believes their near neighbours are beginning to click into gear at a crucial time.
‘Look at their squad, their players, the number of goals, their strikers,’ said Mourinho. ‘[Edin] Dzeko is the third striker at Man City. Do I think I’m putting pressure on them? [Stefan] Jovetic is the fourth striker at City. I think they know how good they are and they know they are favourites, so they don’t feel any pressure.
‘The title belongs to Man United, and as I was saying when they were 10 to 15 points behind and losing at home, I was saying Man United are Man United, and tradition plays a big part, so they are there, ready to jump into the top four and give everybody a fight.’
Today’s opponents have been one of the surprise packages of the season, impressing with their expansive, fluid style of play and producing some outstanding performances under the guidance of Mauricio Pochettino.
The corresponding fixture at Stamford Bridge a month ago saw us come from behind to win 3-1, and Mourinho believes today’s encounter will be equally tough.
‘They are another good team, another team who are influenced by the manager’s culture with the way they play and the way they build,’ explained the Blues boss.
‘They have good players and they feel very comfortable so it will be a difficult match. We both have had two days to rest, so in that sense we are equal. We lost David Luiz to suspension with a yellow card, we’ve lost Lampard and Ivanovic through injury, we recover Ramires but we are still in a difficult situation.
‘I had a look at their team selection against Everton and only [Artur] Boruc and [Victor] Wanyama weren’t in the team, everybody else was, so they must be at their maximum strength.
‘It’s a big game but it’s good for us, we are in the top four, two points behind the leaders.’
With the January transfer window now officially open for business, there will inevitably be talk of both incomings and outgoings in west London.
Much has been made of the form of our strikers up to now, but Mourinho is happy with what he has at his disposal in that area of the pitch and doesn’t foresee any movement this month.
‘My two strikers played fantastically against Liverpool,’ he said. ‘Samuel did a great job and Fernando, when he came on for the last five minutes, showed mobility, initiative and almost scored a goal.
‘I’m happy with them, I keep saying they are not the type of players who score every weekend or 25 to 30 goals a season, but they are giving everything they have. There will be no new strikers in January because we trust these guys and we will go with them.’
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