Mourinho losing Midas touch
It’s 13 years since José Mourinho strutted into Stamford Bridge like a king rooster entering a hen house and proclaimed himself the “Special One”.
In the decade that followed, Mourinho made it impossible for his teams to be liked, but no one could argue with his results as he steamrollered his way across Europe like a modern-day King Midas, except everything he touched turned to silverware.
Having already won the Champions League with Porto in 2004 before he arrived in England, Mourinho proceeded to win five major trophies in three years with Chelsea, including back-to-back titles, before he was sacked after a disagreement with owner Roman Abramovich.
He moved on to Inter Milan, with whom he won successive championships and the Champions League, before heading to Spain, where he ended the dominance of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona by winning La Liga in 2011-12.
However, since Mourinho’s return to Chelsea and despite winning the Premier League in his first season back, he is beginning to look like an ageing lion-tamer who can no longer get the best out of his big cats.
Mourinho stifles creativity more than ever. He sold this season’s two standout players, Mohamed Salah and Kevin De Bruyne, at Chelsea and anybody apart from Paul Pogba who has ever shown a spark of individuality at Manchester United, such as Henrikh Mkhitaryan or Juan Mata, struggles to get game time. The longer his teams play the Mourinho way, the less likely it is that the “Special One” deserves that epitaph.
11am kick-offs unless stated
Arsenal v Liverpool (3.45pm)
Potentially the most exciting game of the Premier League weekend takes place tonight. Goals are guaranteed and, from a Fantasy League perspective, it may be wise to bench any defenders you have from these teams. Sit back and marvel at the exciting attacking talent on show rather than wonder just how poorly organised the defences are. Prediction 2-2
Everton v Chelsea (8.30am)
Chelsea made plenty of changes before their midweek Carabao Cup quarter-final win against Bournemouth but they will still find it tough against Everton, who remain unbeaten under Sam Allardyce. Chelsea are without the suspended Álvaro Morata, while Gylfi Sigurdsson is starting to justify his huge transfer fee under the new Everton regime. Prediction: 1-1
Brighton & Hove Albion v Watford
Watford may struggle to field a team, with Troy Deeney and Abdoulaye Doucouré the latest players suspended. Their poor disciplinary record and long injury list is likely to continue to cost them points. Prediction: 1-0
Manchester City v Bournemouth
Pep Guardiola’s top attackers should be fresh after most of them sat out the Carabao Cup quarter-final win over Leicester in midweek. David Silva may still be missing for personal reasons but if I were a Bournemouth defender, I think I’d be feeling a slight muscle strain about now. Prediction: 3-0
Southampton v Huddersfield Town
Southampton are struggling at the moment and the pressure will be on to pick up three points here. They may just have enough to beat one of last season’s promoted teams. Prediction: 1-0
Stoke City v West Bromwich Albion
A massive game at the bottom of the table. Mark Hughes can now be found passed out in a dingy corner of the Last Chance Saloon and needs to be put out of his misery. West Brom could be the team to do just that. Prediction: 0-1
Swansea City v Crystal Palace
Bottom club Swansea are without a manager and welcome one of the Premier League’s in-form sides. Roy Hodgson’s men are unbeaten in seven games and have one of the league’s outstanding talents in Wilfried Zaha. Prediction: 1-2
West Ham United v Newcastle United
West Ham have eased clear of the relegation zone with a string of fine results and should continue their good run despite the absence of Manuel Lanzini, who was retrospectively banned for a dive against Stoke last week. Prediction: 2-0
Burnley v Tottenham Hotspur (1.30pm)
A difficult match to predict the outcome. Burnley should struggle to contain Tottenham’s firepower but that has been said of Sean Dyche’s team all season and yet they sit in sixth. However, their best defender, James Tarkowski, has been handed a three-match ban for elbowing Brighton’s Glenn Murray in the ribs last week, and that could prove crucial. Prediction: 0-2
Leicester City v Manchester United (3.45pm)
Another tough game to call. Leicester will fancy their chances against a team knocked out of the Carabao Cup by Sky Bet Championship team Bristol City on Wednesday evening. Mourinho’s men need to win every game to stand a chance of catching Manchester City, but they may have to settle for a point here. Prediction: 1-1
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