at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
London - Jose Mourinho was at his most cagey when discussing the prospect of Chelsea opening up a nine-point lead at the top of the Premier League away to Aston Villa on Saturday.
Should fourth-placed Manchester City slip up at Hull City in Saturday's early kickoff, victory at Villa could even establish a 10-point cushion for Chelsea as second and third placed sides Liverpool and Arsenal are not in action until Sunday.
Not that the Portuguese coach was too interested either way.
“I keep saying the same, the table is fake,” Mourinho, whose side have played three more matches than City, told a news conference at Chelsea's training ground.
“If you look at the table, before the points column is the number of matches played. We could have 30 more points but have played 10 more so it means nothing.
“When everyone has the same number of matches, I don't know when that will be, maybe in the last week, only then is the table real.”
Fake table or not, with 26 points from the last 30 available, it would appear that Mourinho is closing in on a third league title at Stamford Bridge, having won it in 2004-05 and 2005-06 during his first spell in charge.
While admitting he thinks Chelsea are “ahead of schedule”, Mourinho said his side deserved to be at the top.
“I would prefer the destiny in my hands,” he said. “But the position at the top is real. Lots of work, lots of sweat from the players and they deserve the 66 points they have.”
Mourinho will take charge of his 150th Premier League game on Saturday and despite Chelsea having won the last four league clashes with Villa, racking up 16 goals in the process, he said a point “would not be too bad”.
“We have a very difficult match tomorrow,” he said. “After Villa comes Arsenal, we go match by match. I really live day by day and we don't look at the table because it's fake.”
Defenders David Luiz and Ashley Cole are both still unavailable, having also missed last week's 4-0 thrashing of Tottenham Hotspur, but striker Fernando Torres could be involved at Villa Park after recovering from a hamstring injury.
“Maybe I'll take him tomorrow,” Mourinho said.
“Maybe I won't take him and I'll try everything for Tuesday, but maybe I'll take him tomorrow. It depends on today's training and conversations after the session. Yesterday he looked okay.”
Chelsea host Galatasaray on Tuesday, looking to seal a place in the last eight of the Champions League after drawing the first leg 1-1 in Turkey. – Reuters