LONDON, England, December 15 – Jose Mourinho insists the Premier League title race will not be decided until the final moments of the season after Chelsea put themselves in with a chance of topping the table at Christmas.
The Blues’ 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace on Saturday moved Mourinho’s second placed side to within two points of leaders Arsenal.
Chelsea’s next league fixture takes them to the Emirates Stadium to face Arsenal and a victory in north London would take them to the top of the table ahead of the hectic festive programme.
But, even if Chelsea’s prospects suddenly look a lot brighter after a recent wobble, Mourinho played down the prospect of striking a blow against their major rivals in the race for the title.
“I think in this league to be top of the league by December or even by the end of January is not crucial. I think it will be open until very late,” the Blues boss said.
“It’s very hard, every game, the distances they open and they close, I think it is very hard.
“Of course we want to win and we go to Arsenal with the objective of being at the top of the league. But I don’t think it’s crucial.”
Mourinho has spoken of his team as being a work in progress and the performance against relegation-threatened Palace was again unconvincing.
Yet despite acknowledging there is more to come from his team, Mourinho believes their rise into second place reflects the winning mentality at the club.
“I’m not surprised we are in the position we are because it is in our nature,” he said.
“It is in the DNA of this club over the years to try to fight for trophies and that is my way of work too.
“We all know this is a transitional period, we all know we have just a few players from the winning side from the past.
“We all know we have lots of young talent to improve so we know it’s a transitional period.
“I believe in another club with a different profile everybody would say okay lets work and wait, the results will come in the future.
“But we are not like that. We want to build and at the same time we want to fight for titles and at this moment in the Premier League we are there just two points behind the leaders.”
Fernando Torres put Chelsea ahead in the 16th minute but it took a 34th minute strike from Brazil midfielder Ramires to secure the points after Marouane Chamakh had equalised for Palace.
“When you don’t get a second goal to go 2-0 or 3-1 you can always have problems. So it could have been 5-1 or it could have been 2-2,” Mourinho added.
Palace remain in the bottom three but there were more positive signs for manager Tony Pulis, who has overseen a significant improvement in form since taking charge last month.
Chamakh in particular has responded to the new regime and the former Arsenal striker scored for the third successive game.
“The lads have bought into what we are trying to do,” Pulis said.
“The most important thing, and I’ve always tried to do it, is galvanise a spirit inside the football club.
“I want to create a spirit where the players are getting on well together, wanting to be together and wanting to work together.
“And Marouane has bought into that. You’ve seen the quality of him today, top class.
“Arsene Wenger doesn’t buy players who can’t play and this kid can play.
“And it’s helped I think that he’s playing just off the striker. He’s got a bit more space and he hasn’t got his back to a player all the time.”