Andre Villas-Boas believes this season’s Premier League title race is the most competitive in years and that his job is harder than the task faced by Jose Mourinho who led the Londoners to back-to-back titles.
Villas-Boas’s side face QPR at Loftus Road on Sunday immediately after the clash between current leaders Manchester City and second placed Manchester United.
If City triumph in the Manchester derby, Chelsea will go into their game knowing defeat would leave them six points adrift. If United win, however, Villas-Boas’s team could move to within one point of the top if they can overcome Neil Warnock’s QPR.
The Chelsea manager, however, insists the battle for the title is not simply a three-horse race and claims the eventual winner will have overcome the biggest challenge in a long time to claim the crown.
“I haven’t seen a Premiership so tight as this one, with so many good teams,” he said.
Chelsea enjoyed back-to-back title success under Mourinho in 2005 and 2006 and another trophy under Carlo Ancelotti in 2010.
But comparing the current campaign with previous seasons, the manager added: “It’s much more competitive. Not in the sense of taking away the merit of what has been done in the past.
“The second Premier League title that Chelsea won, it was nine games, nine wins (at the start of the season). But more teams now look as if they are in title contention.”
Villas-Boas, meanwhile, accepts the pace set by the Manchester clubs means there is little margin for error if Chelsea are to take advantage of a round of matches when one of the top two is guaranteed to drop points.
“Whatever happens, for us to profit, we need to get our own three points. I need those three points. Desperately,” he said.
The emphatic 5-0 Champions League win over Genk confirmed Villas-Boas’s side are in outstanding form, although the manager is expected to make changes, restoring Didier Drogba, Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge to his starting line-up.
Fernando Torres, scorer of two goals against the Belgian side, is suspended while midfielder Ramires has been ruled out with a knee injury.
Villas-Boas turned 34 this week but he has already done enough to impress Warnock, his opposite number this weekend during his first season in the Premier League.
“You have to take opportunities when they come,” Warnock said. “I think he has shown that he is a very brave manager and he has won things with Porto.
“He knows that he has some fabulous tools at Chelsea and he has added to that and has given them another dimension as well.”
QPR have made a steady start to their campaign following last season’s promotion.
They have been taken over by Malaysian businessman Tony Ferndandes and sit 11th in the table.
Not that the season has progressed entirely smoothly, however, with midfielder Joey Barton publicly criticising team-mate Adel Taarabt’s decision to leave the ground after being substituted during the recent 6-0 defeat at Fulham.
Warnock, though, has played down suggestions of dressing room conflict.
“I don’t know whether they fell out to be honest. I have only read what’s been in the papers. I’ve not heard anything about it around the training ground,” said Warnock.
“This sort of thing happens at every club. I could tell you every club where there’s a few who can light the touch paper and we are no different to them.”