Jose Mourinho’s return to Chelsea will certainly sharpen the minds of his rivals at Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham – and we’ve got some great specials on how the Portuguese will fare against them next season.
The former Real Madrid boss was officially unveiled at Stamford Bridge in a blur of publicity this afternoon and was asked about the differences between the Premier League landscape he left in 2007 and the one he will encounter on his Blues return.
Arsenal had just gone through an entire campaign unbeaten when Mourinho arrived for his first stint at Chelsea in the summer of 2004, while Tottenham and Manchester City were only good enough to finish 14th and 16th respectively.
Fast forward nine years and United and City are now the dominant forces, with Arsenal having fallen back considerably since Mourinho broke their duopoly with the Red Devils by winning the title in 2005.
But considering the Gunners, Spurs and even Liverpool are likely to improve next term, there is every chance that Mourinho could find himself in an almighty battle for Champions League qualification, let alone the title.
The 50-year-old, who described himself as ‘The Happy One’ when reflecting upon his return to the club where he won five major trophies in three years, appeared to admit as much in a packed press conference at the Bridge.
He said: “Everybody will try to finish top four, and after that top three. After that, trying to win it. Of course the first objective is top four.”
Chelsea are as short as 9/100 to finish in the top four and a 9/4 chance to win the Premier League, but of equal interest will be how Mourinho fares in the eight league games against United, City, Arsenal and Spurs.
The former Inter manager has never lost in eight meetings with Gunners boss Arsene Wenger and also won five of his eight clashes with Spurs during his previous stint in west London, losing just once.
With that in mind, a price of 51/20 on Chelsea to avoid defeat against both of their bitter capital rivals next term appears to be a pretty solid punt – certainly offering more value than the 1/4 that he fails to deliver on this objective.
Similarly, 11/2 on Mourinho’s Blues emerging unscathed from their four games against United and City could attract some attention (we go 2/25 that David Moyes or Manuel Pellegrini pick up maximum points in at least one of those fixtures).
Mourinho has generally had the upper hand over United in his career – he won five of 11 meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson between 2004 and 2007, losing only twice – and will fancy his chances of enjoying similar success against Moyes.
Extra spice in the clashes between Chelsea and City (inevitably set to be dubbed ‘El Cashico’) will be provided by the presence of Pellegrini, who Mourinho replaced at Real Madrid after the Chilean was harshly sacked, in the opposing dug-out.
But on balance, I wouldn’t touch the 11/2 on Chelsea fending off the Manchester giants on all four occasions, because it doesn’t appear big enough for what would be such an impressive feat, even for Mourinho.
However, that 51/20 on the new-look Blues not tasting defeat to Arsenal or Spurs in the Premier League next term – a feat they achieved last term, it should be remembered – is certainly well worth a go.