Manchester City's flickering Premier League title hopes are out of their hands, and now the Sky Blues' fate is largely in the hands of one of their primary tormentors.
Liverpool must drop points between now and the season's end for City to have any chance to catch the Reds. Two of Liverpool's remaining three matches are against mid-table clubs in which Liverpool is apt to be favored.
Liverpool's other remaining match is against Chelsea at Anfield.
City supporters will watch that match experiencing the weird sensation of rooting for a Chelsea victory. Unfortunately for City supporters, not even Chelsea's manager seems focused on seeing Chelsea drag City back into the race with a win over Liverpool.
Mourinho is understandably locked in on the return leg of Chelsea's Champions League semi-final battle with Atletico Madrid. And he is saying worrying things about the XI he might choose for Liverpool.
"With Petr Cech out for the season and John Terry set to miss next week’s second leg after being injured in Tuesday night’s 0-0 draw with Atletico, Mourinho said he will talk to the board about playing fringe players at Anfield," Neil Ashton wrote recently for the Daily Mail.
When asked who might start for Chelsea at Liverpool, Mourinho casually triggered alarms throughout the blue half of Manchester. "I would play the players who are not playing next Wednesday," Mourinho said.
"If we have to play the kids next week (at Liverpool) we have to play the kids," Mourinho added.
Yeah, that is not what City fans want to hear. But ultimately, City have no one but themselves to blame for relying on other Premier League clubs to do the work they failed to do at Anfield and elsewhere.
It is not Mourinho's fault that City recently lost to Liverpool and drew with Sunderland. Mourinho had nothing to do with City's earlier losses at moribund sides like Cardiff City, Aston Villa and Sunderland.
Conversely, Mourinho had everything to do with Chelsea's league double over City this season. But that was just a manager doing his job.
In a manner of speaking, Mourinho's mulling of fielding a weakened side against Liverpool is also just a manager doing his job. Chelsea's league title hopes are even sorrier than City's, but Chelsea are one victory over Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge from a berth in the Champions League final.
City fans might be tempted to consider Mourinho's machinations as a personal slight to City manager Manuel Pellegrini, with whom Mourinho traded barbs in the press throughout the season.
As Michael Corleone famously said in "The Godfather," though, "It's strictly business."
City supporters will also spout platitudes about the integrity of the Premier League competition and how Chelsea somehow owe it not just to City but also to themselves and the rest of the league to try their best to earn a result at Anfield.
Such sentiments, while noble in a vacuum, have no relevance in modern football.
Mourinho himself underscored in his comments that "I work for Chelsea, the board and I have to follow what my club decide. I am just the manager. I have to listen to the club."
If you had a vested interest in Chelsea's financial and competitive outcomes, which of the Liverpool and Atletico matches would you prioritize?
Even if Cech and Terry were healthy, Mourinho would have to consider resting his best against Liverpool in a match that means more to City than it does to Mourinho's side.
With those two stalwarts unavailable, Mourinho must do everything he can to preserve the greatest number of his best players for a match that could help deliver Chelsea another Champions League trophy.
The only good news for City in all of this is that Chelsea's squad depth (like City's really) is such that Mourinho could select a sub-optimal XI and still grind out a draw or even a win against Liverpool.
And the possibility remains that this whole episode is another in a string of examples of how much Mourinho likes to hear the sound of his own voice, and that he will in fact try very hard to beat Liverpool.
However it turns out, though, City have no grounds to complain.
City already had 34 opportunities this season to keep Mourinho's whims from undercutting their title hopes.
It should never have come to this.
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