JOSE MOURINHO has incredulously claimed some of the credit for Chelsea’s Premier League title charge – because of his failures at Stamford Bridge last season
The Manchester United manager returns to his former club for tonight’s intriguing FA Cup quarter-final tie insisting Antonio Conte has had it easy this season because Chelsea have not been burdened by any European commitments.
Jose Mourinho was sacked midway through last season after Chelsea had made a disastrous start to their championship defence.
They were 16th when he left, eventually finished 10th under caretaker Guus Hiddink, didn’t win either of the domestic cup competitions and failed to qualify for Europe.
Now he says their lack of fixtures this season has played a huge part in their domination of the title race – runaway leaders Chelsea will play a maximum of only 47 games this season if they go all the way in the FA Cup while United have already played 45 and could have as many as 66.
“The most difficult thing to have is the time to work [on the training pitch] and they have time to work,” he said.
“I know that he [Conte] said a couple of weeks ago that it’s not his fault that they are not in the European competitions – it’s my fault and the players’ fault.
Jose Mourinho insists Chelsea’s lack of fixtures have been key to their success this season
“But the reality is that he got a situation in his hands where they have time to work, time to rest, time to relax, time to disconnect, time to travel, time to have holidays, time to go and enjoy America for a couple of days, they have time for all of these things, so they are in a position of privilege, the same privilege that Liverpool had a couple of years ago when they almost won the Premier League.
“But I don’t want to say that they don’t deserve credit for it.”
Mourinho insists it will give him no extra pleasure taking revenge for United’s humiliating 4-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge earlier this season in tonight’s tie which he says has come at the wrong time for his team.
Antonio Conte has guided his side to top of the Premier League table – 10 points clear of the rest
The quarter-final is sandwiched between two round of 16 legs with FC Rostov in the Europa League a competition he admits is more important because it offers the winners a back-door route into next season’s Champions League.
He added: “I know what I did at Chelsea but I am the kind of guy that when I move I have no regrets and I am not looking for bad feelings at all.
“I have some friends there, who before and after the game great, but during the game it’s just another game for me. Am I sadder to lose against Chelsea than against another team? No. Am I happier to win against Chelsea than another team? No.
“So for me it’s just a game that comes in the wrong moment for us, because the Europa League is a competition that can give us a Champions League spot, and the FA Cup does not. So the Europa League is more important than the FA Cup for us.”