Jose Mourinho will lead his little horse up the M1 to the Etihad for the second time in two weeks, this time attempting to knock Manchester City out of the FA Cup. Much has been made of Mourinho's comments after the 1-0 victory in the Premier League, and Manuel Pellegrini has accused his Chelsea counterpart of playing mind games, per Paul Wilson of The Guardian.
In other news, the sky is blue and the Pope is a Catholic.
Of course Mourinho has been playing mind games; it's what he does. His comparisons between City's thoroughbred horse of a squad and his own little horse that still needs milk and jumping lessons was a textbook Mourinho ploy to deflect any pressure on his players.
He has also taken a swipe at Manchester City's approach to Financial Fair Play, telling reporters he is "waiting" for a UEFA investigation into their finances as reported by Dave Kidd in The Mirror:
The way UEFA controls the situation is very strange. There are clubs that are following exactly the Financial Fair Play rules and there are other clubs doing it in a dodgy way. I don’t say which clubs – that is not my job.
If I was a football journalist it would be an interesting thing to do. But that is when Financial Fair Play has to be fair. Financial Fair Play. Not dodgy FFP. Because if it is dodgy, take the fair and just call it ‘Dodgy Financial Play.’
Pellegrini's inability to stick to his word and avoid responding to the Special One's comments has given the Portuguese the edge in the off-field battle thus far.
However, the Chilean could regain the advantage on the pitch by picking apart Mourinho's comments to expose the fears that underpin them.
The Special One was vocal in his condemnation of the FA's decision not to apply retrospective punishment to Yaya Toure after the referee missed the Ivorian's swipe at Norwich City's Ricky van Wolfswinkel. He told reporters, per Goal.com:
If the FA make the rule that action can be taken if a referee has missed something, they have to apply that rule. If Toure is not suspended, the message is clear: the players can do what they want if the referee doesn't see.
His stance on the integrity of the game is laudable, but his decision to comment on this could come back to haunt him. Toure struggled to make an impact on the match earlier this month, but if he believes Mourinho's men fear him and would prefer not to play him, he could drastically improve his performance.
The team news reported by ITV Sport today suggests City will be strengthened by the return of Samir Nasri, while Mourinho told the official Chelsea website his first-choice centre-half pairing of John Terry and Gary Cahill will be unavailable. Considering the fact the Blues spent more time in their own six-yard box than anywhere else in the last match, this should give City an extra psychological boost.
Pellegrini was at pains to hint he had learned a lot from their Premier League defeat. In his weekly press conference, he told the Manchester City website:
We know the important players that Chelsea have and the way they play. From the other game, we know also that we have to try not to be very open on the counter attack. Maybe we made some mistakes in defending and attacking and I hope that tomorrow we can arrange it.
City may have been given what BBC Sport called a "tactical masterclass" by Chelsea the last time they visited, but Mourinho would be foolish to ignore the fact they might have been taking notes.
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