English Premiership

Jose respects English rivals

2014-03-14 15:54
Jose Mourinho (AFP)

Cobham - Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho insisted on Friday that he has a high regard for the Premier League leaders' major English rivals after being accused of lacking "respect" by Manchester City's Yaya Toure.

Mourinho's side are seven points clear at the top of the Premier League table ahead of Saturday's trip to Aston Villa.

Three days later they have the chance of securing a place in the Champions League quarter-finals if they beat Galatasaray at Stamford Bridge in the second leg of their last 16 tie, which is poised at 1-1.

With Arsenal and Manchester City exiting the Champions League this week at the hands of Bayern Munich and Barcelona respectively, Mourinho's team are the only English club still in contention to be crowned champions at home and in Europe.

However, the Portuguese manager continues to play down Chelsea's prospects of winning the Premier League by pointing out that City, who already have a better goal difference, can close the nine-point gap to the Blues by winning their three games in hand.

His claims prompted a reaction from City midfielder Toure, who earlier this week accused Mourinho of a lack of "respect" by discussing the prospects of rival teams.

"It's his (Toure's) opinion," Mourinho told a news conference at Chelsea's Cobham training ground south of London on Friday. "I respect it."

However, he added: "If, to say before the Munich match and before the Camp Nou match (in the Champions League)... if to say the English teams can do it, this is not over, Arsenal and City have enough quality to go there and turn things around, if supporting the teams from the country where I am and work, if this is a lack of respect, okay it's a lack of respect.

- 'Support the English teams' -

"The same as me saying City are capable of winning their three matches in hand to go top of the league.

"If that is a lack of respect, he (Toure) has a strange concept of a lack of respect.

"I've tried to be respectful with the two English teams. I want to say the same in relation with Man United.

"I think they are a better team than Olympiakos (United trail 2-0 after losing the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie in Greece).

"I think they can do it, and I hope they do. If (Wayne) Rooney, (Robin) van Persie, (Michael) Carrick or (Rio) Ferdinand says Mourinho is not being respectful, I think they are wrong because I support the English teams and I was not happy the English teams were out of the competition."

As for Chelsea's chances of a domestic and European double, Mourinho said the west London side were hampered by the fact January signings Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah were ineligible to play in the Champions League.

"If you ask me can we go all the way in the Champions League and Premier League, I think it's very difficult. Our squad is quite short.

"On top of that, two of our players cannot play in the Champions League. So it's 20 minus two, so 18, minus (injured) Marco Van Ginkel is 17, so it is not a huge squad in terms of numbers or experience."

Mourinho added winning either the Premier League or Champions League, let alone both, would be tough.

"To win the Premier League we have to win nine matches and we have to wait for Man City not to win every match.

"To win the Champions League we have to beat Galatasaray and somebody in the quarter-finals and somebody in the semi-finals, and somebody in the final. And by somebody, I mean the best teams in the world.

"So I think both are very, very difficult. But let's go match by match and see what happens."

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