Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has hit back at Jose Mourinho's claim that Chelsea are the “little horse” in the title race.
Mourinho's Chelsea drew level with second-placed City in the Premier League standings with a 1-0 victory at the Etihad Stadium on Monday but afterwards said they were still third favourites behind them and Arsenal.
Pellegrini brushed off that suggestion by pointing out that Chelsea have been one of the one of heaviest spenders of recent times.
The Chilean said: "Maybe it is a small horse if the manager thinks like that. It can be a little horse, but very rich.
"This is the team that has spent most money in the last 10 years, is the team that spent most money this year and the team that spent the most money in the transfer window. So, little - but rich."
It was a strong counter-reaction from Pellegrini, coming soon after Mourinho also spoke about the "dodgy" attitude some clubs - possibly City - had towards financial fair play.
It was also the first time Pellegrini had responded this season to Mourinho, with whom he has a perceived rivalry dating back to when the Portuguese succeeded him at Real Madrid in 2010.
In previous weeks he has refused to engage in the apparent mind games of the Stamford Bridge chief.
Mourinho went on to say on Monday that City remain the title favourites, but Pellegrini insists Chelsea - after beating the Citizens twice this term - cannot be written off.
In his words - Jose Mourinho's best quotes
In his words - Jose Mourinho's best quotes
1/15 'The Special One' arrives
'Please don't call me arrogant, but I'm European champion and I think I'm a special one'
At his unveiling as Chelsea manager in 2004.
2/15 Have you got a licence for that dog, Jose?
'The dog is fine in Portugal - that big threat is away - you don't have to worry about crime any more'
After the police questioned him over whether his dog had a pet passport.
3/15 The Devil in disguise
'Some clubs are treated as devils, some are treated as angels. I don't think we are so ugly that we should be seen as the devil and I don't think Arsene Wenger and David Dein (pictured) are so beautiful that they should be viewed as angels'
4/15 Arsene Wenger's appaent 'voyeur sickness'
'Wenger has a real problem with us and I think he is what you call in England a voyeur. He is someone who likes to watch other people. There are some guys who, when they are at home, have this big telescope to look into the homes of other people and see what is happening. Wenger must be one of them - and it is a sickness'
5/15 Look who's talking now
'I don't regret it. The only thing I have to understand is I'm in England, so maybe even when I think I am not wrong, I have to adapt to your country and I have to respect that. I have a lot of respect for Liverpool fans and what I did, the sign of silence - 'shut your mouth' - was not for them, it was for the English press'
Mourinho defends putting a finger to his lips during the 2005 Carling Cup final against Liverpool, an action which resulted in him being sent to the stands.
6/15 GI Jose
'Look at my haircut. I am ready for the war'
Unveiling a short crop.
7/15 On THAT Luis Garcia goal
'I felt the power of Anfield, it was magnificent. I felt it didn't interfere with my players but maybe it interfered with other people and maybe it interfered with the result. You should ask the linesman why he gave a goal. Because, to give a goal, the ball must be 100% in and he must be 100% sure that the ball is in'
Mourinho questions the validity of Liverpool forward Luis Garcia's goal which puts Chelsea out of the Champions League semi-finals in May 2005.
8/15 Jose's eggy farewell to Roman Abramovich
'No eggs, no omelette. And it depends on the quality of the eggs. In the supermarket, you have eggs class one, class two, class three. Some are more expensive than others and some give you better omelettes. So when the class one eggs are in Waitrose and you cannot go there, you have a problem'
A parting shot at Abramovich, coming ahead of his final match in charge, for the Russian's failure to buy quality players to help his injury-hit squad.
9/15 Mourinho v Barcelona
'Barcelona are a great club. But in 200 years of history they have won the European Cup only once. I have been managing for a few years and I have already won the same amount'
Barcelona went on to win the Champions League that season (2006) and in two further years (2009 and 2011), while Mourinho added a second with Inter Milan
10/15 Mourinho v Barcelona part II
'When I saw Frank Rijkaard (then Barcelona coach) entering the referee's dressing room I couldn't believe it. When Didier Drogba was sent off (after half-time) I wasn't surprised'
On losing to Barcelona in 2006. He was later given a touchline ban by UEFA.
11/15 Mourinho v Barcelona part III
'We have played against them four matches in two seasons. (When it was) 11 against 11 they never beat us. That is the reality'
After 1-1 draw at the Nou Camp in 2006 which sent Barca through to the quarter-finals 3-2 on aggregate.
12/15 Mourinho on his egg-cellent Chelsea squad
'Beautiful young eggs, eggs that need a mum, in this case a dad, to take care of them, to keep them warm during the winter, to bring the blankets and to work and improve them and one day we'll arrive in a moment when the weather changes, the sun rises, we break the eggs and the eggs are ready to go for life at the top level'
Mourinho has his chefs' hat on again to describe the squad he has inherited on his return to Stamford Bridge
13/15 I am the happy one
'If I have to describe myself, I would describe myself as a very happy person because it's the first time I arrive in a club where I already love the club'
Mourinho had the pleasure of being unveiled as Chelsea manager for a second time in the summer of 2013 and having labelled himself the 'Special One' first time around, was quickly given the label of the 'Happy One' after these comments.
14/15 Chelsea the Shetland pony
'Two horses and a little horse that still needs milk and to learn how to jump. A horse that next season can race'
Mourinho plays down Chelsea's title chances compared to Manchester City and Arsenal's following the 1-0 win over City
15/15 Specialist in failure
'He's a specialist in failure'
Mourinho gets himself labelled silly by Arsene Wenger and a bully by Bob Wilson after saying this about his Arsenal counterpart. It was in response to Wenger suggesting his title rivals were playing down their chances of winning the league due to a fear of failure.
Pellegrini said: "He has shown in the last two games [against us] he has a strong team with some great players.
"I think he is favourite. He thinks if he wins he will have the merits but if he loses he does not have responsibility.
"It is the way he acts. Everyone acts the way he thinks is better for the team.
"I think it will be very close with Chelsea and Arsenal. Arsenal are the favourites because they have two points' lead in the table.
"Of the 24 games we have played, Arsenal have been top of the table for 16 or 17. They have an important advantage.
"I am sure the three will fight to the end for the title."
City remain above Chelsea on goal difference and will hope to hold off their challenge, and respond to Monday's setback, with victory at Norwich this weekend.
City thrashed the Canaries 7-0 when the sides met at Eastlands in November but Pellegrini expects a different game this time.
"It's a very difficult game, it is very important the way the team reacts after the defeat at home," said Pellegrini, whose efforts in January have earned him a second successive manager of the month award.
"We play against a good team in Norwich, a team that tries to play, so we hope that we can win again.
"It will be absolutely different. They will want revenge for what happened here in Etihad.
"They have a good team that play good football, it is very important for us to continue playing the same way we are doing away because the last four games we won all of them."