José Mourinho has claimed Manchester City's "unique" squad has placed greater pressure on them to secure the Premier League title and is concerned Chelsea's rivals, most obviously Manuel Pellegrini's side, may bypass the new financial fair-play regulations and spend lavishly in the transfer window.
Chelsea's outlay on six players in the summer approached £65m, a figure eclipsed at the Etihad Stadium where almost £100m was spent. Yet, while Chelsea believe they are on track to adhere to Uefa's FFP policy and do not anticipate adding to their options in January, they are concerned a rival title contender may sanction a massive outlay which could, potentially, flout the regulations.
Mourinho is far from deceived by the 2012 champions' underwhelming away form. "The team with more responsibilities to win the title, because their squad is quite unique, is Manchester City," Chelsea's manager said.
"I mean the quality and profile of the players, the experience of the players, and the average age. They don't have old players or very young players.
"You see all of them, players with big maturity and experience: [Sergio] Agüero, [Edin] Dzeko, [Alvaro] Negredo, even [Stevan] Jovetic … These are their four strikers but go through the positions and you see [Yaya] Touré, Fernandinho … nobody more than 30, nobody below 23. The squad is amazing.
"They have solutions and solutions and solutions. If you ask me which team has more ammunition, I have to be honest. I have to apologise to the other four in case they're not happy with what I say but City are the team with more ammunition. They are a team able to make a run of victories."
Mourinho was asked whether January offered the temptation to buy a game-changer who might thrust them clear of the perceived six-pack of title contenders. His own club spent over £70m signing Fernando Torres and David Luiz a little under three years ago, before Uefa's policy came into operation. "I hope financial fair play is for everybody and not just for some," he said, "because we care about financial fair play. We look at it, we respect it, we prepare ourselves for the future based on financial fair play coming into action. I hope it applies to everybody.
"We are worried about the spending. We have a board, we have an economic department working hand in hand with the sports department, and we want to respect it. We know our owner is a special person in the economic world and has incredible potential to show his passion for this club and for football but financial fair play has an objective to control the differences between owners and clubs. January is a period where we will see whether it is or is not [being implemented]."
Chelsea trail Arsenal by four points going into Wednesday's fixtures, with Chelsea visiting Sunderland and the leaders hosting Hull. Mourinho and Arsène Wenger are the only managers in the division who have won the Premier League title. "But we've forgotten how, it was so long ago," he joked. "Arsène is like me. It's been a long time but there's always a first time (for the others). We don't play. We just try to help from the bench during games. The real pressure is on the players out on the pitch."
While the Chelsea manager seeks to educate his younger players to cope with the pressure of a title challenge, he offered a warning to Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur that they can ill-afford to drop further off the furious pace being set by Arsenal. "United are nine points behind Arsenal, and it's a gap," he said. "Tottenham are 10, no? That's a gap. We are speaking about four points, and that's not a gap. It's something that, in two matches, is over. But nine or 10 points is a gap.
"At the beginning of January we can have a look and say if all six are with short distances, or if someone has opened up a real gap. December will clarify the situation but Spurs and United know that if the next step is to reduce from 10 to seven, nine to six, it's to go again into the race. If the next move is from 10 to 13, or nine to 12, it becomes hard. Some teams know [Wednesday] night can be crucial."