Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho believes this season’s Premier League title race is the closest that he can remember, but that it is Manchester City that have the advantage of the strongest squad. Chelsea sit second in the table, four behinds behind Arsenal, ahead of their trip to Sunderland on Wednesday. But, having often spoken about the youth of his own squad, Mourinho has attempted to shift the pressure to the in-form Manchester City.
“If one of us loses points it's not a big surprise, it's just a consequence of how the Premier League is at the moment,” he said, according to Chelsea’s official website. “I don't remember, and I followed the Premier League for many years since I left, a situation like this previously.”
“You go through positions and you see people like [Yaya] Toure and Fernandinho, nobody more than 30 and nobody below 23, the squad is absolutely amazing, they have so many solutions.
“If you ask me the team with more ammunition I have to try to be honest, I have to apologize to the other four in case they are not happy with me, but my feeling is that City are the team with most ammunition.”
With a hectic fixture list through December and over the festive period, Mourinho stated that he would have to make full use of his squad in the coming weeks. That will include Demba Ba, who scored his first Premier League goal of the season after coming off the bench in the 3-1 win over Southampton. Mourinho also said more opportunities would be given to Kevin de Bruyne, who has been largely frozen out of the first team since Mourinho criticized his performance in the Capital One Cup tie with Swindon in September.
“Kevin is showing desire and working very hard,” he explained. “I feel sorry for him that I haven't given him big opportunities up to now but he's working better than ever. Of course, he's sad when he's not selected or not playing, but he's working in a very professional way, which is a change from the beginning.
“When he works the way he's working he has to play sooner or later. For tonight he's selected so he has a chance to play and in this block of games, for sure, he has to start matches.”
The clash with Sunderland will be particularly significant for the man in the opposite dugout to Mourinho, Gustavo Poyet. The Uruguayan, who took over from Paulo di Canio in October, had a successful four-year playing spell at Stamford Bridge, but now badly needs the points to lead Sunderland off the bottom of the Premier League.
“I have only managed against Chelsea in a friendly, but this is for real, we are at home and we need the points, so it will be special,” he said, according to Sunderland’s official website.
“The Stadium of Light was one of the places where we always knew it would be difficult because of the atmosphere. That pressure and support always helped [Sunderland]. Now I’m on the other side so I would like that to be the case, to make it difficult for Chelsea.”
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League match will kick off at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by NBC Sports’ Premier League Extra Time, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.