Top-four 2016 battle will be a bruiser due to cut-throat league – Mourinho
CHELSEA manager Jose Mourinho believes his newlycrowned champions of the Premier League will face a challenge just to secure a topfour finish next season due to the English top flight’s competitiveness.
The Blues claimed their first league title since 2010 on Sunday when Eden Hazard’s goal on the cusp of half time secured a 1-0 home victory over Crystal Palace that gave them an unassailable lead at the top of the table.
Mourinho’s side have dominated the Premier League this season, but with Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool all likely to strengthen during the close season, he knows the battle for Europe’s elite Champions League qualification will be fierce in 2015/16.
“We have to try to be a strong team, because if you are not a strong team we have no chance to finish top four, which is the first target for the top teams in this country,” he said.
“When you fight for the top four, you have chances to be champions, so we need to be strong again next year, to try to be a good team.”
Mourinho has now won three English Premier League titles, following back-to-back successes with Chelsea in 2005 and 2006 during his first stint at the Blues, but shied away from comparisons with those teams.
“This one is completely different,” he said.
“The Premier League is different, Chelsea is different, the opponents are different.”
Told that he had won as many English league titles as greats Stan Cullis (Wolverhampton Wanderers, 1950s), Bill Shankly (Liverpool, 1957’74) and Arsene Wenger, manager of Arsenal, Mourinho simply said: “I will try [to win] another.”
Meanwhile, Chelsea’s players can now look forward to a post-season parade, when they will also be able to show off the League Cup trophy.
But with fixtures against Liverpool, West Bromwich Albion and Sunderland still to be fulfilled, Mourinho warned his squad that they still have duties to the rest of the division.
“Against West Brom is a game where both teams are champions. We are champions of our league, West Brom are champions of their league,” he said.
“But when we play Liverpool, it’s an important match for them, for Man United, for Tottenham, for Southampton.
“When we play Sunderland, maybe it’s an important game for them and for other teams. As champions, we have more responsibility to follow Crystal Palace’s attitude, which was fantastic.”
Mourinho has faced accusations that his team, flamboyant during the first part of the season, have become boring in recent months, but he said they had demonstrated their worth over the course of the campaign.
“I think we showed absolutely everything since day one,” he said. “Everything football demands from a team, we had.
“We had fantastic attacking football, we had fantastic domination, we had high percentages of ball possession, we had low percentages of ball possession, we gave the ball to the opponent strategically, we defended amazingly well.
“We do everything that a team needs. That’s why we deserve so much to be champions – and I think everybody knows that.
“And [to] those who say we don’t deserve it, in my country we say: ‘The dogs bark and the caravan goes by.’”
Palace manager Alan Pardew said that criticism of Mourinho’s methods was misplaced. “That’s why he earns the money he does – he wins,” Pardew said.
“It will have to be a very good side that tops this team next year and I’m sure Jose will add to his depth as well.”