herald

Saturday 10 December 2016

Title race is done for Mourinho and Blues

Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho

IT’S all over now bar the detail. Chelsea’s dogged pursuit of the Premier League title is just a few games from completion and who can say that they do not deserve it?

I said from the start of the season that they would win it and that didn’t take mystical powers of predication. Even back then Chelsea looked like the most complete squad in the Premier League.

While all around him rivals stuttered and staggered through the season, Mourinho’s Chelsea have been consistent. They’ve been beaten just twice and nobody else comes close to that.

They’ve been strong at the back, clever in midfield and prolific in front of goal. In other words, Mourinho has got the basics right and when good players form good habits like that success usually follows.

equipped

Mourinho was right when he said after the game that three points won against QPR were just as important as upcoming big games against Manchester United and Arsenal.

Among the top teams, he’s the one manager this season that paid attention to the fine detail of opponents like QPR and found a way to make sure that his players were equipped to beat them.

Others struggled with this basic requirement but not Mourinho. He needs 11 points to be sure of the Premier League title but I’d be happy enough to give it to him now.

Sure, Diego Costa won’t be available for a good chunk of the run-in and Chelsea don’t really have a striker without him but Mourinho has milked this group of players for every ounce of their commitment and determination and their lead is too big as a result.

Chelsea’s midfield has been the key to the big lead they have constructed and signing of the season, Cesc Fabregas, underlined that fact with the all-important winner against QPR.

At Old Trafford, they were arguing over crumbs and the story of the day was Manchester City’s collapse. Had they won that game and Chelsea not found a late winner, the Premier League title was still in play.

But the comprehensive nature of Manchester United’s win simply confirmed Manchester City’s decline.

Chelsea will not collapse to the extent needed to give some of the chasers hope but even if they did, it would be the red half of Manchester in hot pursuit.

By now we know that Liverpool won’t be in that group by any other method than those ahead hitting a speed bump and with that in mind, it does look like Manchester City have lost their way completely.

It’s amazing to think that Liverpool are now chasing City rather than Manchester United for the fourth Champions League qualifying spot and I think that spells bad news for Manuel Pellegrini.

His team has fallen apart and I don’t think Sheik Mansour will be able to tolerate that. He needs new blood on and off the pitch and the summer will see big changes at the Etihad.

For Brendan Rodgers, tonight’s game against Newcastle is a must win to pull back some of the gap to City and it comes against a background of a good FA Cup quarter-final replay win and a confirmed place in the Wembley semi-finals.

It was an awful first-half against Blackburn but much better in the second. I was particularly pleased to see how much it meant to the players to win.

That’s what they will need against Aston Villa in the semi-final. Tim Sherwood is doing something right at Villa Park and they will be a formidable opponent at Wembley.

Promoted articles

Entertainment News