LONDON, March 7 (Reuters) - Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho played down his team’s Premier League title hopes on Friday, saying their position at the top of the table was “unrealistic” because they have played more matches than Manchester City.
Chelsea, who host fifth place Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, lead the standings with 63 points with 10 matches to play, four more than second place Liverpool and Arsenal in third.
They are six points clear of Manchester City, who are playing Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup on Sunday and will have played three games fewer than Chelsea by the end of the weekend.
“We expect a very tough game against a very good Tottenham team who are fifth and so are the biggest threat to the top four teams,” Mourinho told reporters.
”We want to guarantee our top-four place and win, but I keep saying, the position at the top is not a realistic situation.
”It is realistic when all the teams have played the same number of matches and then you can say ‘I am in front, I am behind’, so when some teams have played more matches than other teams the situation is not real.
“I don’t look at the top of the table, I just look at tomorrow’s game.”
Tottenham are fifth on 53 points, but come into Saturday’s clash without a win at Stamford Bridge in 24 years.
Yet they arrive with the best away record in the league this season to face a Chelsea team who have picked up more points at home than any other.
Chelsea have not lost any of the 74 home league games they have played in Mourinho’s two spells there as manager but he expects a tough examination of that record on Saturday.
”I don’t know why that is (Tottenham’s poor record at Chelsea),“ said Mourinho. ”It is just coincidence because every time I have played Tottenham they have always been a very difficult opponent.
“I don’t remember, in my previous years here as well, an easy match against Tottenham, so it will be a very difficult match.”
Mourinho also said he had sympathy for Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew who was fined 100,000 pounds ($167,200)by his club following his headbutt on Hull City midfielder David Meyler last week. Pardew is facing the prospect of a substantial ban from the FA for his actions.
“I spoke with Alan a couple of hours after the incident, and he knows he made a mistake and he knows he has to pay for it with a punishment,” Mourinho said.
”But for me, more than that, he is a good friend and a great guy and I prefer to stay with a good friend and a great guy than the mistake.
“He made a mistake but he’s a good man.”
Asked if he thought changes needed to be made to the technical area where coaches and managers stand by the side of the pitch, Mourinho said: ”I have never had a problem to share with other managers.
”The manager should have the freedom to come out into the technical area. That is not the problem, the problem is human nature.
”I have made mistakes in technical areas too, I have paid for the mistake and (been) suspended for the mistake.
“The biggest punishment is not the money, or the matches you are outside, but it’s you, yourself. The worst punishment is the self-blame. That is the big punishment.”
$1 = 0.5982 British pounds Reporting by Mike Collett; editing by Toby Davis