I will have to be even better than Mourinho to land the Premiership crown, says Andre Villas-Boas
Andre Villas-Boas has declared it would be harder for Chelsea to win the Barclays Premier League this season than it was when Jose Mourinho landed back-to-back titles at Stamford Bridge.
Blues boss Villas-Boas insisted he was not trying to downplay his former mentor's historic and record-breaking achievements but claimed the top of the table was far more competitive today than it was five years ago.
The implication, of course, is that should Chelsea finish this season as champions, it would represent an even greater achievement than they managed under Mourinho.
“It's much more competitive — not in the sense of taking the merit off what has been done in the past,” said Villas-Boas, whose side have 19 points after eight matches, five fewer than Mourinho masterminded during Chelsea's perfect start to the 2005-06 season.
“The second Premier League title that Chelsea won, it was eight games, eight wins, and the final points total was a record.
“But more teams now look as if they are in title contention.”
Although it is still very early in the season, there does appear to be some merit in Villas-Boas' claim.
Nineteen points was enough for Chelsea to lead the table 12 months ago but this season they trail Manchester United by one point and Manchester City by three.
That will change tomorrow providing Villas-Boas' men win their London derby at QPR, which almost immediately follows the Manchester derby at Old Trafford.
Three points would ensure Chelsea end the weekend at least level on points with whoever finishes the derby in second place.
Emphasising the importance of victory at Loftus Road, Villas-Boas said: “For us to profit, we need to get our own three points.
“I need those three points — desperately.”
That is about as blunt a statement as you will ever hear from the new Chelsea manager, who nevertheless downplayed the significance of tomorrow in the grand scheme of things.
“It's too early to be a real opportunity,” he said.
“If this had happened in April, it would have been, but not now.
“We were five points from United, and now we're a point away. Things have changed dramatically in recent weeks. But it's still not a pattern regarding how it will happen in the future.”
John Terry, Didier Drogba and Juan Mata are set to return to the starting XI tomorrow after being rested for Wednesday night's Champions League thrashing of Genk.
Salomon Kalou also staked a claim for a recall after coming off the bench and scoring, the forward declaring afterwards that he wanted a guarantee of more game time before renewing his contract, which expires next summer.
Villas-Boas refused to provide Kalou with such assurances, saying: “Everyone wants more playing time.
“Everyone thinks they fall short because we have 26 players and we can only pick 11.
“He can play a part for this team, as he did against Genk, and he just has to keep going and keep working.”
There was a similar message to Josh McEachran, whose dream of this being his breakthrough season has failed to become a reality.
Admitting McEachran might benefit from a loan move, Villas-Boas said: “We didn't have as many competing in midfield last year, so Josh had more chances to be in the team.
“I've just been choosing others. But that doesn't mean Josh's future wouldn't be at Chelsea. It will be.”