Manchester City won the Premier League last season and did not lose a single player that mattered from that squad.
City also addressed their one area of serious concern by acquiring Porto centre-back Eliaquim Mangala to provide Sky Blues captain Vincent Kompany with a worthy partner. Surely they are favored to repeat, then, right?
BBC Sport's summary of pundits' picks featured 29 predictors. More than two-thirds (19) of them picked Chelsea to win the title, while only eight tipped City to defend it successfully.
This overwhelming love for Chelsea was summarized neatly by Mike L. Goodman for Grantland:
Chelsea will be very, very good, and also very, very unpleasant to play against. Worst-case scenario, they morph into the kind of José Mourinho Chelsea team everybody hates, where they defend exceedingly well and score just enough to win. Best-case scenario, they run riot. Either way, the league is theirs to lose this season.
Well then. It is a wonder why we watch these matches at all since we know who is going to win the league.
All of this slobbering over Chelsea cannot sit well with City boss Manuel Pellegrini or his squad. City are pretty clearly not receiving the respect ordinarily accorded holders, and Pellegrini's achievement of winning the league in his first season at the helm at a new club has basically been shrugged off.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, whose infatuation with microphones rivals only that of his affinity for mirrors, got into the act again recently.
"I don’t like to get clubs developed by other managers before me, I don’t like to arrive on time to collect the fruit off their trees. I like to work. I like to build. I don’t like easy jobs," said Mourinho according to Sam Cunningham for the Daily Mail.
In slagging Pellegrini this way, Mourinho conveniently ignores that resuming control at Chelsea was not much like, say, Gus Poyet rescuing Sunderland from relegation. Chelsea have great players and plenty of money. Managing Chelsea may not be an easy job, but there are far more difficult tasks in the league.
Pellegrini has traded jabs with Mourinho over the years, but attests to knowing not to take Mourinho's verbal abuse too seriously. "Intelligent managers don’t play mind games," Pellegrini told Darren Lewis of the Mirror last season. "It's not my duty to respond to what Mourinho says."
The Pellegrini/Mourinho dynamic calls up the memory of boxer Larry Holmes' answer to fans and media types who did not think Holmes could beat a washed-up Muhammad Ali in 1980, a fight recounted at length in the ESPN Films documentary "Muhammad and Larry."
Speaking years after he destroyed Ali in that fight, Holmes tells the filmmakers, "(Ali) ain't better than me 'cause he talk better than me. Ali ain't better than me 'cause he can rhyme better than me. Nobody's better than me. Nobody."
So it is with Pellegrini and Mourinho. Pellegrini does not have much of an argument against Mourinho if their careers are measured against each other. Mourinho's list of accomplishments borders on the absurd.
But Mourinho did not win the Premier League last season. Pellegrini did.
And while Mourinho aggressively restocked his roster this past summer while Pellegrini largely stood pat, that can be spun two ways. Chelsea had to retool because several of their players were not good enough. City did not have that problem.
So Pellegrini should be content to let Mourinho entertain bedraggled beat writers who would laugh at a Carrot Top bit if it ended the press conference a minute earlier.
Pellegrini manages a great club, and in his only season there City won the league. Nothing Mourinho or the media might say will change that.
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