independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Mourinho plays down title hopes

Eden Hazard netted a hat-trick in Chelsea's 3-0 win

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho again downplayed his side's title chances after Eden Hazard's hat-trick earned a 3-0 win over Newcastle which took the Blues to the top of the Premier League standings.

Mourinho is now tired of his little horse metaphor coined after Monday's win at Manchester City, but he maintains Chelsea are still third favourites behind Arsenal and City despite taking advantage of their rivals' slips on Saturday.

"It's time to kill the horses," Mourinho said.

"We are playing well. People individually are in a good moment, the team is getting results and we are top of the league.

"That is something that we can't hide, but I say the same and I feel the same. I don't change."

When told that bookmakers had made Chelsea title favourites, Mourinho said: "I don't bet."

Hazard struck two goals in eight first-half minutes and a second-half penalty as Chelsea capitalised on Arsenal's 5-1 loss at Liverpool and Manchester City's goalless draw at Norwich.

"A big result is always surprising," Mourinho added.

"When two big teams are playing against each other, you are never expecting such a big result, but sometimes it happens.

"Norwich is not easy. We beat them there in the last minutes.

"These are the results that can happen to any one of us. But when it happens to City it's more surprising, because City are City, their attacking power is fantastic, so when they get this kind of result, it's a bit surprising."

Chelsea have won the title once since Mourinho's departure - in 2009-10 under Carlo Ancelotti - and his second Blues team is often compared to his first.

The Chelsea boss believes his current squad have the potential to replicate the long period of success enjoyed by his first team, who won the Blues' first championship in 50 years in Mourinho's first season in 2005.

"My team here was an amazing team, it was a team that lasted for almost a decade and won lots of trophies for the club," Mourinho said.

"These people here are just starting and I don't want to compare.

"Potentially this team is good and hopefully we will have a good decade because only John (Terry) and Frank (Lampard) and a couple more are over 30, after that they are young guys with lots of years to play."

Hazard could be the cornerstone of the Chelsea of the present and future.

But Mourinho does not believe the Belgian's performance against the Magpies was any better than other displays in recent weeks.

"The only difference was that he scored a hat-trick for the first time," Mourinho added.

"But it was a very similar performance to the one he had at Hull, at City, at home against (Manchester) United, against Liverpool, at Southampton.

"He's playing basically the same way. In my opinion he's playing really well. Big evolution, consistency, ambition. Fantastic."

The latest victory came without captain Terry, who missed his first Premier League minutes of the season as a precaution due to a muscular strain but could be back for Tuesday's match at West Brom.

"It's not an injury, it's almost an injury," said Mourinho, who revealed Fernando Torres could also play at The Hawthorns.

"We decided not to risk and to protect him. Normally he's ready for Tuesday."

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew bemoaned injuries, the form of Hazard and substitute Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa's decision to wrestle Samuel Eto'o to the ground and concede a penalty.

Pardew said: "I don't know why he's grabbed him quite in that manner and I think Mapou's scratching his head about why he got himself in that position."

Newcastle were already two down at that point as Hazard enjoyed his afternoon and Moussa Sissoko fluffed a chance at 1-0.

The Newcastle boss believes the current Chelsea squad is as good as any from Mourinho's first spell and is also optimistic of a resurgence from his team.

"This is as good as he's had. They've got a good chance," Pardew said.

"We need those players back, especially for games at this level.

"Tottenham is a game I'd like to think we can get through and hopefully get a strong result.

"And then after that I think a lot of our big players will come back to us and for the next 13 games I think we'll be strong and then in the summer we've got work to do."

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