Belfast Telegraph

There is no campaign against Chelsea, says Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

By Robert Jones

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has dismissed Jose Mourinho's claims that there is a "campaign" against Chelsea.

Blues boss Mourinho recently said some people were trying to influence referees' decisions against his side via the media.

Mourinho was this week fined £25,000 for his comments by the Football Association and Pellegrini, whose City side face Chelsea in a top-of-the-table clash today, does not believe such a situation exists.

The Chilean said: "I hope that in the Premier League they don't have a campaign against anyone. I hope all is fair and the referee makes mistakes for all the teams exactly the same and that the FA make the fixtures in a fair way.

"I think it is the best league in the world and I don't think it has any strange things because otherwise you are not competing.

"After that, if you won the title, it would not be an important title, because it is all arranged."

Pellegrini was speaking at a press conference to preview City's eagerly-anticipated trip to Stamford Bridge.

The build-up to the game, which defending champions City go into trailing their title rivals by five points, has been dominated by controversy surrounding Chelsea striker Diego Costa.

Costa will miss the game after being banned for three matches by the FA following a stamp on Liverpool's Emre Can in the Capital One Cup semi-final in midweek.

Pellegrini believes the ban will give Costa, who is renowned for his on-field aggression, an opportunity to change his ways.

The former Malaga boss said: "He is a great player, a very important player.

"He has his character, it is not an easy character, but I hope for him that this punishment - and I am not trying to take advantage for the game tomorrow - will be a good thing for him to change in the future because he doesn't need to do it in that way because he is a very good player, a top player."

Pellegrini's remarks did not receive an immediate response from Mourinho because the Portuguese did not hold his regular press conference on the eve of the match.

That gave Pellegrini an opportunity to land some verbal blows on Mourinho but, as is usually the case, he was not interested in stoking their rivalry.

"I don't talk about Mourinho," said Pellegrini, who often expresses indifference when asked about Chelsea's former Real Madrid boss.

Further questions were asked but Pellegrini, who has beaten Mourinho just twice in 12 games in either England or Spain, offered little that could create headlines.

Earlier this season Mourinho mispronounced Pellegrini's name as 'Pellegrino', but there was little response when the matter was brought up.

He said: "I'm not going to help you with those things because they are not important for me. I don't want to carry on in that way."

Asked why he did not comment on Mourinho, Pellegrini said: "This profession is so difficult for a manager - we have different styles. The way I do it is the best way for me, but it's not the only way to do it. Maybe you think you can take advantage but for me I don't think it's the normal way or the fair way."

Asked about Mourinho's occasional offer to shake hands with opposing managers before full-time, Pellegrini said: "I won't talk about what Mourinho might do. I will shake hands with him before the game. And after? Yes, probably."

But Pellegrini did admit he was wrong to compare Chelsea to Stoke earlier in the season after their 1-1 draw with the Londoners at the Etihad Stadium in September.

Pellegrini expressed frustration by saying Chelsea were like a "small team trying to defend" and were "exactly the same team we played against Stoke".

Stoke had actually won at Eastlands after employing effective defensive tactics but Pellegrini now feels he was wrong to say what he did.

He said: "It was a mistake to compare them with Stoke. The style of every club is dependant on how the manager wants to do it. Chelsea can play the way they want to and we are going to continue playing the style I think is the best for this team."

The absence of Costa, who has scored 17 times in 19 Premier League appearances, remains a major blow for Chelsea.

Eden Hazard outlined just what Chelsea would miss, saying: "He's one of the top strikers in the world. He's a proper number nine.

"He's a really friendly guy off the pitch. On it he's a good professional and he gives everything for the team.

"He's an unbelievable striker because he can score at any time."

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