LONDON: Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho believes his newly crowned Premier League champions will face a challenge just to secure a top-four finish next season due to the English top flight’s competitiveness.
Chelsea claimed their first league title since 2010 on Sunday when Eden Hazard’s goal on the cusp of half-time secured a 1-0 home win over Crystal Palace that gave them an unassailable lead at the top of the table.
Mourinho’s side have dominated the division from starting gun to finish line, but with Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool all likely to strengthen during the close season, he knows the battle for Champions League qualification will be fierce in 2015-16.
“We have to try to be a strong team, because if you are not a strong team, we have no chance to finish top four, which is the first target for the top teams in this country,” he told reporters at Stamford Bridge.
“When you fight for the top four, you have chances to be champions, so we need to be strong again next year, to try to be a good team.”
Mourinho has now won three Premier League titles, following back-to-back successes with Chelsea in 2005 and 2006 during his first stint at the club, but he shied away from comparisons with those teams.
“This one is completely different,” he said. “The Premier League is different, Chelsea is different, the opponents are different.
“And my team, so many of them win the Premier League for the first time, which is something that they have to learn how to do.”
Told that he has now won as many English league titles as greats Stan Cullis, Bill Shankly and Arsene Wenger, the current Arsenal manager, Mourinho responded simply: “I will try (to win) another one.”
Chelsea’s players cavorted on the pitch at the final whistle and can now look forward to a post-season parade, when they will also be able to show off the League Cup trophy.
But with fixtures against Liverpool, West Bromwich Albion and Sunderland still to be fulfilled, Mourinho warned his squad that they still have duties to the rest of the division.
The dogs bark
“Against West Brom is a game where both teams are champions. We are champions of our league, West Brom are champions of their league,” he said.
“But when we play against Liverpool, it’s an important match for them, for Man United, for Tottenham, for Southampton.
“When we play Sunderland, maybe it’s an important game for them and for other teams. As champions we have even more responsibility to follow Crystal Palace’s attitude, which was fantastic.”
Mourinho cut a rather subdued figure after the game and revealed that he had flown to Portugal earlier in the week to be with his 76-year-old father, also called Jose, who had to undergo surgery on his head after falling seriously ill.
Mourinho has faced accusations that his team, flamboyant during the first part of the season, have become ‘boring’ in recent months, but he said they had demonstrated their worth over the course of the campaign.
“I think we showed absolutely everything since day one,” he said. “Everything football demands from a team, we had.
“We had fantastic attacking football, we had fantastic domination, we had high percentages of ball possession, we had low percentages of ball possession, we gave the ball to the opponent strategically, we defended amazingly well.