Mourinho takes aim at Arsenal's additional day of rest

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The Independent Football

Jose Mourinho, who cedes nothing to the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsène Wenger in the psychological warfare department, appeared to be doing his best to stir up another war of words by telling Arsenal that they are being given an easier ride than Chelsea in the Premiership title race thanks to the vagaries of television scheduling.

The Chelsea manager is unhappy that second-placed Arsenal have an extra day's rest than his side over the holiday period. Chelsea snatched two late goals on Tuesday afternoon to win at Portsmouth and go eight points clear at the top while Arsenal had to wait until last night for their trip to Newcastle.

Mourinho, who had complained after his team narrowly beat Aston Villa on Sunday that two games in three days are bad for the health, said: "They [Arsenal] always seem to have two days or three days in which to recover from matches. Perhaps it is something to do with the TV schedules. They had the same on Boxing Day."

Arsenal, in fact, had one day fewer to prepare for their Christmas holiday fixtures, having met Portsmouth at Fratton Park the previous Sunday after Chelsea had moved eight points ahead 24 hours earlier with a 4-0 trouncing of Norwich City.

Also, before Arsenal and Chelsea met in the 2-2 draw at Highbury on 12 December, a Sunday match which was also dictated by Sky, they had both played their final preliminary group Champions' League matches on the same Tuesday night.

After also aiming verbal jibes at his Manchester United counterpart, Ferguson, this season, it is becoming evident that Mourinho revels in the vitriol at the top. But he is serious when he supports calls for a midwinter break in English football.

"Yes, you can play two games in three days but it is still not correct," he said. "You can smoke three boxes of cigars and still be alive but that doesn't mean it's right or healthy.

"My players are tired. All of them, especially John Terry. At least he has a few days now to be ready for the next game at Liverpool. Who knows what our lead will be after that? Arsenal play at Charlton. I just don't know.

"But I know this has been one of my greatest years, probably the best. I won the Portuguese League and the European Cup with Porto, came to Chelsea, qualified for the knock-out stages of the Champions' League and finished 2004 on top of the Premiership. There are still some hard tests ahead but my players have shown they have the desire to win the title and they know they have the ability."

Arjen Robben's 79th-minute strike produced a hard-earned Chelsea breakthrough at Fratton Park but the Dutchman admitted he was "stupid" to pick up a yellow card for his extravagant celebration. He stripped off his shirt, waved it above his head and threw it away as he ran back up the touchline.

The £12m winger said: "I was so happy to score such an important goal for Chelsea right at the end, but I shouldn't have done it. You don't get many goals that mean as much as that one, though, and I will have to accept the booking although no harm was meant at all."

Mourinho said he has forgiven Robben who is back in goalscoring form again after an explosive start to his Premiership career - four goals in four starts - faded slightly. But the yellow card was his fourth of the campaign and one more will earn him an automatic one-match ban.

After repeatedly having said he would not need to spend heavily again in the January transfer window, Mourinho now appears to be reconsidering. "I am down to my last 16 outfield players," he said. "That is not very many. We had 20 but Scott Parker [who has a broken foot] and Celestine Babayaro [hamstring] have injuries and Ricardo Carvalho [broken toe] is still recovering."

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