• Manchester City 0-1 Chelsea

Mourinho maintains his mind games

ESPN staff
February 3, 2014 « Negredo in for Aguero as Mourinho opts for defensive Chelsea | Chartbeat test »
City shut out at home

Jose Mourinho continued his mind games by claiming Chelsea are still the underdogs in the Premier League title race despite their significant victory at Manchester City.

The manager revelled in the tactical success of his team's 1-0 win at the Etihad Stadium but maintained his claim that City and Arsenal are still the favourites.

Only two points separate the three teams at the top of the table and Chelsea's players have been clear about their ambition to take the title.

But Mourinho said: "There are two big horses and a little horse. A horse that next season can race.

"We can win it if they lose it. Arsenal are working for many, many years for the evolution of their team. What we are doing this season is what Arsenal have been building to for years.

"We are there, but are not favourites. We are preparing the team to be one of the favourites next season and this is a very important step.

"We lost points at home against West Brom, against West Ham, we lost at Stoke, we lost at Newcastle.

"We are a team in evolution but this is the kind of performance that helps the team to grow up a lot, tactically, mentally, I think it was fantastic."

Branislav Ivanovic struck the only goal of the game in the first half on Monday night, taking Chelsea on to the same 53 points as City, with Arsenal maintaining their two-point advantage at the top.

it was the first time since November 2010 that City have failed to score in the Premier League, losing their unbeaten home record this season into the bargain.

The absence of Fernandinho with a muscle injury that is expected to sideline him for at least two weeks weakened City, who have scored 68 league goals this term, defensively.

David Silva thought he had scored the opening goal of the game when a well-worked City move resulted in him side-footing his effort wide.

Chelsea took the lead after 32 minutes when Ivanovic rifled in a half volley on his weaker left foot, picking up the loose ball from Ramires' deflected effort.

And Jose Mourinho's men went close to doubling their advantage with Samuel Eto'o, Nemanja Matic and Gary Cahill all hitting the woodwork.

"I think they did amazing," the Chelsea manager said. "When the team lost the ball they all sacrificed for the team.

"Today we won because we were the best team - I am not saying we are better, I am just saying we were today.

'It's not our objective to win the league. Our objective is to build the team and complete the puzzle and formation of the players. Some managers because of their nature and DNA say they need two or three years."

Silva squandered City's best moment in the second period, as he hit his shot wide of the target when coming in from Aleksandar Kolarov's cross.

Mourinho's safety-first methods may come in for criticism but he knows how to set up a team to get a result and Chelsea's approach in the first half of this 1-0 win was spot-on.

Many predicted they would come and "park the bus" as they had done in a dour encounter the last time they were in Manchester across the city at United.

But that was not the tactic in which became the first side to end City's 61-game run of scoring at home in the league stretching back to November 2010, when a less-celebrated Birmingham team achieved the same feat.

Central defender David Luiz playing the holding role in midfield alongside Nemanja Matic gave the four players in front them freedom to press, harry and hurry their City opponents.

Eden Hazard led the attack but the relentless running of Willian and Ramires ensured Chelsea, while maybe not playing the best football, posed the greater threat.

City, without injured leading scorer Sergio Aguero, created a number of half-chances but the visitors looked the more likely to score and ultimately did.

And Mourinho revealed they may have been inspired by team masseur Billy McCulloch, who gave the pre-match team talk.

"I didn't speak," Mourinho said. "'It was Billy the masseur that spoke to the team. He was screaming so much in Scottish I didn't understand him.

"I am serious. But the players were clapping. It was Billy's team-talk. The last time I spoke to the players was midday."

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