For the past fortnight now, The Special One over at Chelsea has been running his mouth. Mourinho has comment on everything from transfer policy to Wenger, all the while playing down his sides’ chances of winning the title, with a whole lot of horse talk thrown in for good measure.
It’s fair to say that Mourinho’s playground tactics haven’t really worked. The Chelsea boss’ attempts to rattle his rivals were instead met with a collective shrug. Rodgers’ Liverpool have gone from strength to strength, with even Kolo Toure’s best sabotage attempts failing to prevent the Reds following up their demolition of Arsenal to officially gate-crash the title race. Unlike Rodgers, Pellegrini did not merely ignore Mourinho’s jibes. The Chilean instead went toe to toe with the Portuguese troublemaker, mocking his attempts to label Chelsea a ‘small horse’ and somewhat hypocritically questioning the London club’s spending.
It was the City camp who came out on top, dumping Chelsea out of the FA Cup with the most comfortable of victories. The 2-0 score line hardly reflected the Citizens dominance, Chelsea failing to register an effort on target. It was a just revenge for City who have lost twice to Chelsea in the Premier League this term. With Chelsea’s other result this week being a second draw of the season to a struggling West Brom, it wasn’t a good week for Mourinho on the pitch.
One saving grace the ‘Special One’ might have been hoping for is that his very personal attacks on Wenger would at least hit their mark. With striker Giroud embroiled in an illicit sex scandal, multiple injuries, and a squad hurting after a five goal spanking from Liverpool, Mourinho might have hoped that his labelling of Wenger as an ‘expert on failure’ would further demoralise the Gunners. It was not to be. Arsenal were unlucky not to beat a stubborn Manchester United in the league, with the departing Vidic in excellent form, and in the Cup the Gunners were able to claim some measure of revenge over Liverpool with a 2-1 victory.
Overall the whole affair has shown that although no longer favourites, Arsenal are going nowhere in the fight for silverware this season. Mourinho on the other hand has been shown up by his rivals’ dignity, leaving him to look both a bully and foolish.
Elsewhere, there were moving scenes at Deepdale, as Preston and the footballing world said fair well to legend and one club man Sir Thomas Finney. The small forward made over 500 appearances for Preston North End, and will be no doubt sorely missed. In the same week that one footballing legend departed, another short, skilful, one club forward further cemented his place in the history books. Lionel Messi has now surpassed Telmo Zarra’s record to become the player with the most goals for a single Spanish team, as well as replacing Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano as La Liga’s third all-time top scorer. The Argentine’s 228th La Liga goal came in a 6-0 victory over Rayo Vallecano, drawing Messi level with another Real Madrid legend Raul, with only the Hugo Sanchez and the aforementioned Zarra ahead of him.
Given the star’s age, the breaking of that record seems only a matter of time, and whilst it has not been a vintage year by Messi and Barcelona’s exceptionally high standards, the Catalan side have hit form just in time for their visit to the Etihad stadium. Despite Barcelona’s intimidating league form, it is not a tie City should approach with any fear. Messi, Neymar and co are of course dangerous, but the defence is very vulnerable. Pique for example is a shadow of the player so many hailed as the best in the world just a few short years ago. The Citizens have had their own problems at the back, but going forward should feel comfortable in their ability to hurt the reigning Spanish champions. The highly anticipated match up should be a goal fest.