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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 January 2005, 12:52 GMT
Chelsea show no signs of weakness

By Alan Hansen
BBC Sport football expert

Jose Mourinho
Mourinho cuts an impressive figure and is clearly a great manager
Alan Hansen

Chelsea's current hold on the Premiership title race is so firm that even Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have become allies in the fight to turn up the heat on Jose Mourinho.

They got together to indulge in a spot of psychological warfare, suggesting they were waiting to pounce when Chelsea had their blip.

It's part of football that has always been there, it just gets more exposure in the media these days.

Mourinho, however, is sharp and I do not believe he will be drawn into it because it doesn't suit him.

He will also know Ferguson and Wenger would trade anything to be in Chelsea's position now.

The bad news for them is that I think Chelsea may have had their blip in two below-par away performances at Portsmouth and Liverpool.

And the blip yielded six crucial points.

I think they were both looking ahead to four days in April when Chelsea have to travel to Manchester United then play Arsenal at Stamford Bridge.

These are the fixtures that can give them hope, but after the holiday programme it is my feeling more than ever that Chelsea can only lose the title now.

Manchester United and Arsenal would have looked at the festive fixtures and thought they would have closed the gap on Chelsea by getting 10 points out of 12.

They've done their bit - and yet find Chelsea have extended their lead by another two points.

It's also very difficult being in the chasing pack when the team at the top keeps winning, because eventually you can just get fed up. It's a mental thing.

Terry is the epitome of everything you want from a captain and has a massive heart
Alan Hansen

The equation is simple. It doesn't matter what you do if the team at the top keeps winnning.

I recall chasing Everton a couple of times when I was at Liverpool. We caught them once, but on another occasion we didn't and it is mentally sapping to try and keep up the chase against a team that keeps getting results.

And Chelsea have now got a resilience they haven't had in their recent history.

They were not at their best at either Portsmouth or Liverpool, but they ground out the wins - and that is what you recognise as the true sign of champions.

And they have conceded just eight goals in 22 games, the starting point for any title-winning team.

At Liverpool, our coach Ronnie Moran always used to preach about not losing a goal. Easier said than done, but obviously the logic was that you wouldn't lose.

We conceded only 16 goals in 42 league games in 1978/79, and that was the benchmark we set ourselves.

Chelsea look incredibly solid, and the man responsible for that is John Terry, who has developed into a magnificent defender.

In the past, Chelsea have been regarded as soft touches away from home, but not any more with this boy around.

He epitomises everything you want in a captain and has got the biggest heart you've ever seen.

Terry puts his body on the line to make clearances, and even though he hasn't got lightning pace, he more than makes up for it in other areas.

He would be missed by Chelsea if anything happened to him. William Gallas and Ricardo Carvalho would still make an outstanding pairing - but Chelsea would lose the aerial presence and influence Terry gives them.

Mourinho continues to cut an impressive figure in charge. He was regarded as arrogant when he first arrived from Porto, but you watch him now and he says all the right things.

He is generous in victory, and most importantly he is obviously a great manager, with a Champions League to his name.

It is all very well having money, but you have to build a team and Mourinho has done it in five minutes.

Obviously Chelsea's players do not have title-winning experience at this stage, so who knows how they will react as pressure mounts when the season reaches the sharp end?

But they do not give the slightest hint of weakening yet - and as I said, it is only theirs to lose now.





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