London – When Jose Mourinho last went to Manchester City as the Chelsea manager it was March 2007 and the rules were different.
In fact, Mourinho admits when you worked for Roman Abramovich back then there were no rules to worry about.
Chelsea bought who they liked, spent what they wanted and won plenty of trophies, if few popularity contests.
These days, Chelsea are still rich but City are richer, have built a dashing and free-scoring team and, Mourinho suspects, are not playing fair when it comes to Uefa’s Financial Fair Play regulations (FFP).
It is a role reversal from the days when Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger peered across London and complained of financial doping.
“We were accused of buying the title, no?” said Mourinho. “Maybe it was because our owner was Mr Abramovich and he had just arrived in the country. Maybe people see City in a different way.
“I don’t care. I don’t envy the fact that they have this kind of protection. It is the way it is. No problem. In society, many things people considered wrong 50 years ago are very normal now.
“Maybe 10 years ago a huge investment in the club was something people hated but in this moment it is something people accept in a different way.”
Despite beating City at Stamford Bridge, Mourinho has long since hailed Manuel Pellegrini’s team favourites for the title.
“They’re complete,” said the Chelsea boss. “The players are amazing, the squad is fantastic but you also need the manager to do a good job and I think he is. The players are experienced. They were champions two years ago and a big nucleus is the same. They have everything and we need a bit more time, a few more players. Just a little bit. If we finish second it is fantastic.
“If we finished second, doing the formation work, it is an acceleration of our progress. It is good.”
Chelsea have a different financial plan in the wake of FFP. When Abramovich first arrived, they would not have sold Juan Mata mid-season and would have fought with City for Porto centre half Eliaquim Mangala, rather than conceding defeat to sign teenager Kurt Zouma.
“Back then it was a free world,” said Mourinho. “There was no FFP. If your club was a rich one, your owner a rich one, there were no rules. It was an open situation.”
These days, Chelsea find it “impossible” to compete financially with City. “We are working, thinking and believing that FFP is going to be in practice,” he added.
‘So there are things that are impossible for us. We can’t sign Mangala. We signed Zouma, who is even younger and has comparable figures.
“We have the central defender of the Brazil national team (David Luiz), the centre half of the English national team (Gary Cahill) and the best central defender in the Premier League 2013-14 (John Terry). So we’re fine.”
Those defenders are sure to be tested on Monday night. City have not dropped a point at home this season, winning 11 and scoring 42 goals but Chelsea are not planning all-out defence. “I want to attack them,” said Mourinho. ”Maybe after 10 minutes, people will say I’m not attacking but, if I don’t, it’s because I can’t.”
One of the more intriguing sub-plots on Monday night will have a Brazilian flavour.
Fernandinho, City’s £30m midfielder, could find himself outnumbered four-to-one by compatriots Willian, Oscar, Ramires and Luiz. But if his main priority is to help the league leaders go six points clear of their rivals, then making a statement to Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari comes a close second.
Later this month, Scolari will name his squad for the international against Bafana Bafana on March 5. It is two years since Fernandinho won the last of his five caps in a friendly against Bosnia. He senses that this could be his final chance to win a place at the World Cup in his homeland this summer. “Scolari needs to watch this game!” said Fernandinho.
“If you are a manager and you have so many players in one game, you must be watching. If I have a good performance, there is no doubt it will open the door for me. That’s what I am hoping. Getting to the World Cup is a big dream for me.”
City are still smarting from a 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge in October when a 90th-minute winner from Fernando Torres proved the difference.
Pellegrini’s side have been practically unstoppable since then, particularly at home, and Fernandinho knows that victory would represent a massive step towards clinching the title.
“It’s not about revenge,” he insisted. “The result down there was a very bad one but now things are completely different.
“The whole team is better. If we beat them we’ll be six points ahead.” – Daily Mail