Belfast Telegraph

Relentless Chelsea in a league of their own

Mourinho believes Chelsea's superiority told as his side strengthen their grip on top spot

By Tim Rich

Logically, their meeting with Chelsea at Anfield on Saturday was a game that should have favoured Liverpool.

They had played in Europe in midweek a day earlier than their visitors and rested seven players from their Tuesday night encounter with Real Madrid. However, when asked to explain why his side had won, Chelsea's manager, Jose Mourinho, simply tapped the side of his head.

"It is not in the legs because, obviously, players who did not play during the week have more energy than people who played," he said. "What makes the difference is inside."

When he was asked if superior mentality was one of the reasons for the 2-1 win, he replied: "I think so."

There is a strong bond between Mourinho and his Liverpool counterpart Brendan Rodgers, which would only increase the capacity of his analysis to wound.

"We are a better team," Mourinho said when explaining the differences between two clubs who finished second and third in the Premier League last season but now seem an ocean apart.

"We got players to improve the team, not the squad. We have had an evolution in everything since last season."

While the certainties that drove Liverpool forward last season appear to have disintegrated - there were times when they appeared not to know how to clear their own lines and Rodgers' substitutions were jeered - Chelsea seem very certain.

Having endured a trophyless return to Stamford Bridge, Mourinho always argued that his second season would be better because with Mourinho they always are.

He won the European Cup in his second seasons at Porto and Internazionale and he captured La Liga in his second season in Madrid. After 11 matches of the 2005-06 campaign, Chelsea had 31 points from 11 games.

This time they have 29 and, if this victory over Liverpool was hard-fought and dependent on some questionable refereeing, it showed discipline and self-confidence after falling a goal behind to Emre Can.

Gary Cahill equalised just five minutes later before Diego Costa's second-half winner.

Southampton are hanging in there gamely but Chelsea are now eight points clear of Manchester City, 13 ahead of Manchester United and 15 in front of Liverpool.

"They have learnt a lot since last season," Mourinho said of his players. "They have adapted to my personality and I have adapted to theirs. They are getting experience and we are better.

"How many coaches have these players had at Chelsea over the last three or four seasons? At this moment it is the same coach for the second successive year and that brings stability in the culture, the process of leadership and the dynamics."

Asked if his was a side without weaknesses, Mourinho laughed and said: "We are very good at hiding them."

After three successive defeats and one victory in the last six matches, the dynamics at Anfield are hidden and the weaknesses obvious.

Rodgers is a very different manager from Mourinho. His background is in youth-team football, which means he is much more attracted to the idea of buying and developing young players.

Mourinho's first job in football was assisting Bobby Robson with first-team affairs in Lisbon, Oporto and Barcelona. He has always preferred to sign ready-made footballers.

Mostly funded by the sale of Luis Suarez, Rodgers spent £116m on eight footballers in the summer and, if you discount Rickie Lambert, their average age was 22. Of those eight, half did not play against Chelsea and of the four who did only Can played well.

There is still trust in Rodgers as a nurturer of talent but the clamour in the red half of Merseyside is for some A-list footballers in January.

"We have to work harder and smarter to convince these players to come," said Rodgers. "But players look at where they want to live, the social factors as well as the football. If someone gets offered more money to go elsewhere, there is not much you can do about it.

"The club has shown its hand that it is prepared to pay for top players. Whether they come is another story."

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