Manchester City v Chelsea: We won't hold back at the Etihad Stadium, says Jose Mourinho
Chelsea manager denies suggestions he will park bus for crunch clash
Sunday 02 February 2014
Jose Mourinho interrupted the question and, for just a moment, seemed a little insulted. It was put to the Portuguese that Internazionale's performance in the second leg of the 2009-10 Champions' League semi-final against Barcelona was one of the most famous of his career. "Not the first leg?" Mourinho pounced. "I prefer the first!"
That's perhaps no surprise, as his team won that game 3-1 and lost the second leg 1-0. It's also relevant given the words of the last week, and the context of tomorrow's match at Eastlands. In that semi-final four years ago, Mourinho defied one of the most celebrated attacking sides of all time. Next up, his Chelsea are going to have to nullify a Manchester City team far outscoring even Pep Guardiola's Barcelona.
City, in fact, are outscoring everyone in post-war English football history. Wednesday's 5-1 win at Tottenham took them up to 2.96 goals a game in the League – by far the most prolific record of any team since 1945.
There have only been two matches out of 37 in which they have failed to score and 23 of those games have seen City hit three or more. Their manager, Manuel Pellegrini, refused to call his team "invincible" on Friday, but they are looking unstoppable.
Mourinho, however, was not all that moved. The Chelsea manager admitted, in restrained fashion, that he is "impressed by the efficiency of their attacking players", but that follows repeated comments over the past few weeks about City's wealth, not to mention the application of Financial Fair Play.
Perhaps mindful of his own situation, Mourinho did acknowledge that money is not enough "if the manager is not good". There can be little disputing City have appointed the correct coach. Throughout his career, Pellegrini has illustrated an ability to quickly integrate attacking players. City have been exhilarating, slicing open defences with devastatingly slick moves.
"We try to tell the players it does not matter who we play and whether it is at home or away," said Pellegrini. "It is very important to play from the beginning, have a willing mentality, go for the match and work very well with and without the ball. It is the best way to play."
The key question to this crunch game, then, is how Chelsea stop them doing that. So far, only two ways have come close to working. Bayern Munich denied City the ball; Stoke and Sunderland denied them space. Chelsea kept Pellegrini's side down to a goal in October's 2-1 win but City have accelerated since then.
It's difficult to escape the feeling Mourinho will have to slow them down and possibly use the type of deep defending West Ham did in Wednesday's 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge. That would be hypocritical, after Mourinho's comments about Sam Allardyce's approach. For his part, the Portuguese flatly dismissed such suggestions. "We don't do that," he said.
Many might counter that with the performance against Arsenal on 23 December, or that semi-final with Inter, when they "parked the aeroplane". Mourinho points to the superior chances they created in that 0-0 draw at the Emirates and the fact that, in 2010, Inter had done enough damage to Barcelona in the first leg. So how does Mourinho stop City? "Play our game, and they have also to stop us. We will try to win."
Manchester City v Chelsea is live on Sky Sports 1 tomorrow, kick-off 8pm
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
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