Liverpool’s chances of winning the Premier League title will shrink after this season. That is the message from Jose Mourinho as the Chelsea boss turns up the heat on his rivals.
Who will finish highest?
Mourinho also hints Arsene Wenger has no excuse for failing with his Arsenal side, who are “not kids anymore” according to the Portuguese, quoted by the Daily Mail’s Simon Cass and Ray Massey.
Chelsea hold a one-point lead over the Gunners, and a four-point advantage over Liverpool. And it appears Mourinho is most fearful of Brendan Rodgers’ hungry side, whom the Reds’ boss recently labelled the "Chihuahuas" of the title race.
However, Mourinho increased the pressure on Rodgers by pointing out Liverpool will find it far more difficult to mount a title challenge when they are playing additional European games next season:
When the Barclays Premier League goes to the crucial point, we all will have to play Champions League at the same time.To play, for example, like we are going to do in Istanbul against Galatasaray on the Wednesday, Fulham on the Saturday.
Brendan’s Chihuahua doesn’t do that. During the week it sleeps, eats and trains a little bit. So I have to say his Chihuahua is a privileged one.
Next season he will see what it is like to play in two, three, four competitions. This season he has this privilege which gives him a big advantage.
There is no doubt that Liverpool benefit from the lighter schedule, free of European commitments. One only has to look at Swansea’s struggles this term—they have won seven of 26 league games—to see the affect of travelling abroad.
No English club has a greater European history, of course; the Reds have won more European Cups than any of their rivals, yet they haven’t played Champions League football since the 2009-10 campaign.
|Man City (a)||Feb. 15||Arsenal (a)||Feb. 16|
|Everton (h)||Feb. 22||Swansea (h)||Feb. 23|
|Galatasaray (a)||Feb. 26||Southampton (a)||Mar. 1|
|Fulham (a)||Mar. 1||Sunderland (h)||Mar. 10|
|Tottenham (h)||Mar. 8||Man Utd (a)||Mar. 16|
|Aston Villa (a)||Mar. 15||Cardiff (a)||Mar. 22|
|Galatasaray (h)||Mar. 18|
|Arsenal (h)||Mar. 22|
The respective fixture lists of Chelsea and Liverpool illustrate Mourinho’s point. The Blues’ next eight games will take place over a 35-day period, whereas Rodgers’ side play two fewer games during that period.
The result is almost two extra days' rest per game.
If Chelsea advance in the Champions League, that situation will only intensify as the campaign reaches its business end.
However, Mourinho fails to acknowledge that he is currently in charge of a squad that began the season as favourites for the title in the eyes of many experts. Chelsea won the Europa League last term and finished in the top four.
Liverpool, by contrast, finished 14 points beneath their rivals in seventh and no team in the Premier League era has ever leapt from that position to the top of the pile inside 12 months.
Arsenal, meanwhile, were only two points adrift of Chelsea’s tally last campaign, and they began this term with the advantage of having a settled management setup under Arsene Wenger.
Mourinho points out Wenger has had nearly a decade since winning his last trophy to shape a title-winning squad, and he has even added £42 million Mesut Ozil.
Where Mourinho is moulding a new Chelsea, he says Wenger has been nurturing talents like Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for several years.
It is a point the Telegraph's Jeremy Wilson fails to advocate:
How does Mourinho regard Wilshere (22), Ox (20), Gibbs (24) as "mature" but Oscar (22), Hazard (23), Willian (25) as "kids" ??....— Jeremy Wilson (@JWTelegraph) February 13, 2014
That gives the Gunners an advantage they cannot afford to waste, says the canny Chelsea boss, who is clearly turning up the pressure in order to crack his title rivals over the final 12 games of the calendar.