José Mourinho believes the onus is on Manchester City to satisfy heady expectations and regain the Premier League title this season given the lavish spending sanctioned by Sheikh Mansour and the resultant "unbelievable squad of players" who have been assembled at the Etihad Stadium.
City travel to Chelsea on Sunday a point behind Mourinho's team, who have yet to lose a Premier League home game under the manager in 64 matches across two spells at the club. Mourinho has benefited from Roman Abramovich's own massive investment over his time at Stamford Bridge but, having secured the club's first championship for half a century at the first time of asking in 2005, he believes the same exacting scrutiny that fell on Chelsea should now be applied to City's nouveaux riche.
Asked if Manuel Pellegrini's team should be considered favourites for the title after spending around £100m in the summer on a quintet of arrivals to replenish the ranks of the 2012 Premier League winners, Mourinho said: "People said that of us in 2004 and 2005, so now it's up to them to say 'yes'. They have an unbelievable squad of players. They have just won two matches away from home, at West Ham and in Moscow, neither easy places to win but they won there. They are a very good team, a very good team. In fact, they are two very good teams: one playing and another one on the bench or in the stands. A fantastic squad, fantastic players, a really good team.
Mourinho preferred not to suggest he coveted the options at City's disposal – "No, I'm not envious and I'm not an envious person," he said – and he acknowledged no great advantage, publicly at least, that Chelsea will benefit from Vincent Kompany's absence through injury. "It's a surprise to me that he's out because I thought he was going to play but it doesn't change things," he said. "A team that have [Matija]) Nastasic and [Joleon] Lescott and [Micah] Richards and [Javi] García still have four players who can play central defender.
"City are a squad who, season after season, have grown bigger and stronger with huge investment. They and Manchester United are the last two teams to be champions here, but everybody must make it tougher for them now. We can improve in relation to last season because last year Chelsea, in November and December, were far away from the title. Tottenham Hotspur have made fantastic investment. Arsenal are the leaders now. Liverpool are playing one match a week, which is a great advantage: it's one thing is to play four competitions and another to play two, as they do now. So that's the situation where we are. But City are still a top squad, with top players, and a top team."
Chelsea will welcome back Ashley Cole to the squad after a rib injury and are expected to retain Fernando Torres, who scored twice in midweek but has managed a solitary Premier League goal this calendar year, and recall David Luiz in central defence.
Pellegrini maintains he has no issue with Mourinho despite their previous sparring in Spain but has warned the Chelsea manager that he will not be affected by any mind games.
After succeeding Pellegrini at Real Madrid, where the Chilean finished second in La Liga, Mourinho claimed that "second is the first loser" and mocked his predecessor for moving on to Málaga.
At the time Pellegrini responded with a barb of his own about Mourinho's unadventurous playing style.
But any prospect of another outbreak of jousting before Sunday's match between Chelsea and City at Stamford Bridge was avoided by the Chilean refusing to be drawn into any potential conflict.
"I can't tell you what is in Mourinho's mind," Pellegrini said. "I can tell you I have a lot of chances to manage different clubs after Real Madrid and I have taken the decision of my life to go to Málaga. I am very happy.
"What happens with each manager, nobody knows where every manager wants to manage or where he wants to be. That is not a problem. What he said in that moment, I think answered him in that moment. I understand it was not a problem.
"We are very different, yes. I am not telling you I don't like José. I am a different person, different style, not only football. I never get involved in the moment and I will not get involved now."
Despite all the talk of their previous feuds, Pellegrini insists he will happily have a drink with Mourinho after Sunday afternoon's match at Stamford Bridge.
City's cause will not be aided by the news that Kompany will again be absent due to a thigh problem and the manager is unsure when his captain will be available again.