Jose Mourinho is adamant Chelsea can turn around their horrific start to the current Premier League campaign to finish fourth and qualify for the UEFA Champions League.
Mourinho, 52, has seen his team lose eight of their opening 15 PL games this season as the reigning champs are languishing just three points off the relegation places and are 14 points off the top four.
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Speaking to the media ahead of Chelsea’s trip to surprise PL leaders Leicester City on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) Mourinho was asked about comments from Leicester’s manager — and former Chelsea boss — Claudio Ranieri who believes the Blues can finish fourth.
Turns out, Mourinho agrees.
“It is nice from him, nobody forgets his time at Chelsea, nobody does. Everyone that is in this club for a certain period of time likes the club very much, [Claudio] Ranieri is showing that nice feeling he has for the club, but I also believe in what he says,” Mourinho said. “Before we lost the last three points against Bournemouth I was convinced, absolutely convinced, that the fourth position in the table, I was absolutely convinced of a great December for us and I have to be honest and say the last defeat was something that was miles away from the belief that we could lose this match.
“But the reality is some clubs are doing so well and some other clubs are not capable of doing what people are used to. It is not easy for the top clubs any more to win three, four, five, ten matches in a row, so who knows? We can get a run of four or five consecutive victories and because nobody is doing that from the top clubs, maybe we have a chance to shorten the distance and to dream with a great finish and to finish fourth.”
Pretty meaty stuff, huh? I’m not sure if finishing fourth was a “dream” for Chelsea at the start of the season — for the record, it definitely wasn’t — but that’s the situation they’re in after an incredible slump to start the season.
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Mourinho’s men will have to break all kinds of records to make the top four this season but in their favor is the fact that no team (apart from Leicester) really seems able to string together four or five wins on the trot. That has kept even the likes of Tottenham Hotspur in fifth place in touching distance, as they are 11 points ahead of Chelsea with 23 games to go.
Hope is not lost that Chelsea will salvage this season, and qualifying for the UCL last 16 in midweek will certainly boost their confidence ahead of the trip to Leicester next Monday. However, Mourinho is not underestimating Leicester anymore, as the Blues boss plots wins for his side in the next five games over the busy festive period.
“They deserve to be where they are, let’s be honest. I said a couple of weeks ago they cannot be champions, maybe I have to think twice before I say that again,” Mourinho said. “Because one thing is to be top of the league in September after a beautiful start, another thing is to be top of the league in December, that’s a completely different story.”
With Leicester away, Sunderland and Watford at home, then Manchester United and Crystal Palace away in the next three weeks, this spell will define Chelsea’s season.
Can they make that top four “dream” a reality?