In a typical show of self- assurance Jose Mourinho, the Chelsea manager, declared yesterday that his side have all but wrapped up the Premiership title and said that his team can now afford to relax.
Mourinho claims to be feeling "no pressure" as his side sit pretty 10 points clear of Arsenal in second place and 11 clear of Manchester United in third.
"If one day we lose a game or two points and the gap goes from 10 to seven or eight, we are ready to accept it as natural and keep going, controlling the distance," Mourinho said. "The reality is that if it goes from 10 to 12 or 13 points then maybe it [the title race] is over."
Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal manager, and Sir Alex Ferguson, his counterpart at United, have both tried to unsettle Mourinho over recent weeks, claiming that he will start to feel the pressure as he lacks their experience in Premiership title races.
However, Mourinho said: "I have never felt that pressure. They can say what they want, it doesn't interfere with what I think. This may be my first year in England but I have the experience of other leagues. For me, there is no pressure to lead. The pressure is being second or third.
"Every week, you have to win and then be on television or radio, asking for the leader to lose points. When you lead, you can forget the other teams. I don't see Arsenal or Manchester United on television, I am not waiting for their results on the radio. I just want to play. If we win, the job for that week is done. So I don't feel pressure and I carry on saying that to the players. Now we have a 10-point lead, I tell the players that we can afford to make a mistake.
"Even if we lose a game, like we did at Manchester City, we have to win the next one and we still have a seven-point lead."
Mourinho, who last season won the Champions' League with Porto, believed he could win the Premiership in his first season from the very start. "Since the first day, we have just thought about winning the championship," he said.
"We believed we could do that, in spite of competing against Manchester United and Arsenal, who have had a lot of years with the same managers and players, and didn't need time to adapt."
Now Chelsea have established a 10-point lead, only a collapse akin to Newcastle's self-destruction in 1995-96, when they blew a 12-point advantage over United, can unseat them.Reuse content