Jose Mourinho believes that second-place Manchester City are the clear favourites to win the Premier League title this season, and that they are impervious to the pressure that status brings with it.
Asked whether he was up to his familiar tactic of deflecting attention from Chelsea and trying to heap the expectation and pressure upon a rival, Mourinho was dismissive. "You think I am? You think I'm capable of it? See the [City] squad, see the players, the number of goals, the strikers. Dzeko is the third striker of Man City. Dzeko. Pfff. Do you think I'm putting pressure on? Jovetic, is the fourth-choice striker. Pfff."
On a full day of Premier League fixtures, Mourinho's side play Southampton at St Mary's at the start of the second half of the season, trailing leaders Arsenal by two points and a point behind City. Asked whether he thought City could feel the pressure of trying to win their second Premier League title in three seasons, he said: "I don't think so. I think they know how good they are and I think they know they are the clear favourites. I don't think they feel any pressure."
Chelsea face Southampton without the injured Branislav Ivanovic and Frank Lampard and the suspended David Luiz but have Ramires back in the squad. Manchester City have a tricky match at Swansea City, while Arsenal, who are suffering from injuries to several key players, host managerless Cardiff City at the Emirates.
In both seasons in which Cheslea won the title under Mourinho, in 2004-2005 and 2005-2006, the club were leaders at the halfway point. "This season, we are OK," Mourinho added. "We are OK. Last year at this stage [Chelsea] were 11 points behind the leader, so game over. In this moment we are two points behind, so game on. Let's keep going.
"We have to protect the top four [position], because this season the top four will be a big achievement for everyone. And if we can protect the top four, let's see what we can do and let's see if Man City kills everybody or if they keep being close to all of us.
"The title belongs to Man United. And as I was saying when they were 10, 15 points behind and losing at home, I was saying Man United are Man United. Tradition plays a big part, so Man United is there ready to jump into the top four and to give a fight to everyone. Good fun.
"I think the six [he predicted at the start of the season to contend the title] are there. Of course, Everton and Newcastle are close to the top four, but I think Tottenham and Man United are ready to attack the top four. Because the difference between the top four and being champion, it looks like it's not a big difference. So I think the first objective for everyone is to attack the top four and to try to be stable in the top four."