You have to hand it to Jose Mourinho. When it comes to achieving results away from home against expressive high flying teams he is in a class of his own. I nearly said ‘grinding out’ but this would be uncharitable to a display at the Etihad which overwhelmed Manchester City.
It’s all about the way you set up your team and their ability to implement orders. Chelsea did what Mourinho does so well: to close out the opposition by pressing and then counterattacking brilliantly. For the past month our press corps have been telling us that Manchester City are the best team in the planet. Here they have confused Premier for planet. Bayern, Juventus and Paris SG are also storming away at the front of their league, but never mind – who reads what’s happening in mainland Europe anyway?
Perhaps the most impressive feature to take away from the game is something that England cannot profit from, namely the performance of Terry and Cahill in central defence. Terry carries too much baggage to be recalled internationally, but the way these two blocked, tackled and positioned themselves to close out free-scoring City was exemplary. Conversely City’s problems at the back, which until they are resolved make them short of a winning outfit at the highest level, were there for all to see. De Michaelis in particular is simply not good enough.
I have always thought that Mourinho, with his ability to supply copy with controversial statements has made the press overlook that the quality of his team’s football, is not that much better than his hated predecessor Benitez. I have to admit that the verve of Chelsea last night had me on the edge of the seat. The way they assumed control of the game and held it and counterattacked with pace – and the weaving running and passing of Eden Hazard – were all a joy to watch. Added to this, Luiz and Matic provide the foundation stone in midfield and the defensive unit is efficiently mean.
No doubt about it, this team has the look of champions. Furthermore, I can see Manchester City falling to Barcelona in the next round of the Champions League.