Sunderland v Chelsea
Jose Mourinho claims title rivals are going to have to go on near relentless winning streaks if they are to pip to Chelsea to the trophy this season, declaring he does not expect a "bad period" from his side.
The Portuguese also cryptically spoke about other managers who “sell smoke” as he praised the substantial evolution in his side’s winning mentality.
Mourinho is certainly enjoying a good period now, as his undefeated team travel to Sunderland today on the back of 10 wins in 12 games and a six-point lead at the top, but no injuries.
It got to the point in his pre-match press conference where he was joking about the club’s Christmas party. Nothing illustrates the change in the side more than the fact that they are actually having a festive do, given Mourinho cancelled it last season. He was eventually asked what it would take for anyone to cancel out Chelsea’s lead and prevent them winning the league.
“It would take some other clubs winning every match. Not every match, but WWWWWWW [and for us to] have a bad period where we lose more points than our direct opponents. But I don’t believe in bad periods.
“With my team, I don’t believe in bad periods. I believe in a defeat. I believe that there are many, many difficult matches ahead of us, so many points to lose. I believe in that. But I don’t believe in bad moments.
“The team is a good team, a solid team. The players know what they want and how to reach it. I don’t believe in bad periods. That’s why we go match after match, and the next one is the important match.
“Complacency is not a risk we have because it’s not the profile of this group at this moment. We were winning 5-0 against Schalke in the 88th minute and Eden Hazard made a sprint to defend.
“They have changed. There was an evolution in these young people, a clear evolution. I don’t think the group, as a group, can be complacent.”
That cast-iron winning mentality has always been a mark of Mourinho’s team and he elaborated on how he builds it, and why so many young players have enjoyed such an evolution.
“Football is a bit of everything. I have my concept about what is football. I have my own idea about what it is to coach and manage a team. Every ingredient has a space when you are cooking a team. You need a bit of flair, yes. But you cannot lose the work-rate, the objectivity. You have to be defensively solid and strategic in some matches. In some matches, the percentage of strategy has to be higher than the other ingredients. Sometimes you think more about your way of playing. Other times, when a team is very specific in some areas, you concentrate more on the other team.
“This is my football, the way I see football. I’m not a philosopher. I’m not somebody who sells smoke. I try to be objective, I try to be a coach, which is what I am. In my career, I was always worried about all these details. At this moment I have a group of players who have these natural qualities, this natural talent and creativity. People with good imagination who are ready to think about football in a certain way. I adapt to it and I try to build a team where their qualities can flourish.”
When he was asked which managers he felt “sell smoke”, Mourinho only smiled.
“Lot of people. Not just managers. Lots of people in the world: politicians. They are experts. In this moment in my country we have the former prime minister in jail. Imagine how much smoke he sold.”
Mourinho also expressed his distaste for individual awards like the Ballon D’Or in a team sport like football.
“The team is much more important than anyone. For me, that’s clear. And they have to think about the team. It’s something I don’t really like a lot, but I understand.”
Those comments came on the day when his former club Real Madrid released a statement promoting Cristiano Ronaldo’s candidature and Mourinho was pointedly asked whether he had seen any players get affected by it.
“Yes… Not one or two. More.”
It seems it’s going to take more than individuals to stop Chelsea.
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