Jose Mourinho admits Blues are not finished article
Jose Mourinho takes his Chelsea side to Manchester City tomorrow afternoon, hoping that he is closing the gap on the side who just beat him – and Liverpool – to the Premier League title last season.
Chelsea finished four points behind City last year but they can go eight points clear with victory at the Etihad Stadium.
Mourinho famously described his Chelsea side as a "little horse" last year compared to City and while he would not describe them as a thoroughbred quite yet, he was clear at his pre-match press conference yesterday: "We improved. We improved our team and our squad. I don't want to compare (to City)," Mourinho said. "I just want to say that I feel our squad is better than last season. We have more solutions.
"We got a couple of players with qualities which we didn't have last season."
Those players, Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas, have transformed Chelsea this season, giving them far more attacking threat.
Costa has scored seven goals in the first four Premier League matches despite a hamstring problem that is being managed.
Mourinho admitted that Costa starting tomorrow is a "risk", and that it will stop him from facing Bolton Wanderers in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday.
"Diego is not in the best condition, but he will start the game," said the Blues boss. Mourinho said that Costa – who trained fully yesterday morning – could do with a few weeks off, but accepted that Costa "had to play" tomorrow.
"Me, him and the doctor, the decision was made between us," Mourinho explained. "What we can do to improve the situation, we have to do if he is not playing.
"He needs work, not just from the medical department, but also on the pitch and in the gym. The player is amazing, his attitude is amazing. Clearly, we have to try and protect him."
Chelsea have also been improved by the arrival of Fabregas, providing a creativity in midfield which they missed last season.
Mourinho said he was not surprised at all by Fabregas' impact, and that the Spanish midfield had filled an obvious gap in the side.
"I know the player, I know his qualities: age, experience, tactical culture, made in England, made in the Premier League, no need to learn principles and philosophies and feelings. The team was waiting for a player of his dimension."
Fabregas has helped to replace Lampard, who could turn out for City tomorrow. Mourinho said he could foresee him back as the next Chelsea manager. "He can be back one day," he said, "if he wants to be a manager."
Of course, Chelsea are just four games into the season and Mourinho believes they have a long way to go.
"I want to make everything better, I am not happy with what we have," he said. "We are far from being the perfect team. Are we better than last season? We believe so. Do we have more potential than before? I believe so. But we still have lots of work to do."