Jose Mourinho believes his Chelsea team are capable of winning the Barclays Premier League title and that Manchester United and Manchester City - the champions in the past two seasons - profited from their rivals’ mistakes, rather than blowing the opposition away.
The return of the self-proclaimed Special One, whose second spell as a Premier League boss begins against Hull on Sunday, means the Blues are many people’s favourites to lift a first title since 2009/10.
The Portuguese led Chelsea to a first championship in 50 years in 2005, his first season in charge, after proclaiming the Blues would win the title, but nine years on he would say only that his current squad could triumph.
“We can this season, of course we can, we want to think we can, but it’s a different process,” Mourinho said.
“They don’t need that added pressure. I don’t think they need outside pressure to say that they have the conditions to do it.”
United won last season’s title at a canter and although he believes the competition is collectively stronger, Mourinho does not think individual teams are as good as in the past.
He said: “Sometimes you win because you are tremendous and other times you win because you are the best. But you can be the best without being tremendous.
“Do you think Man United last year won the Premier League because they were an unbelievable team? I don’t think so.
“The other contenders, they didn’t have a very good season.
“The same thing the season before, when Man City won the title in the last second of the competition.
“Were they an extraordinary team? I don’t think they were.
“I think other teams made so many mistakes that Man City finally won the competition.
“You had in past years a fantastic Arsenal that won almost every game and was champion without a single defeat, you had Chelsea which has the record of points in the Premier League. You have the Man United that won the title after our double that had an unbelievable season too.
“The champions, in other seasons, were magnificent. Especially in the last two seasons, I felt not.
“I felt the champions were the champions as a consequence of many things, not just because they were phenomenal, because in my opinion they weren’t phenomenal.”
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger believes six teams - United, City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool - are in title contention and Mourinho agrees.
“We don’t see that somebody this season can destroy the competition by winning 95, 100 points,” Mourinho said.
“By one side it’s good, competition is very, very high. But we have all the managers, to try to keep that competitiveness, but by all of us being really good. That would be fantastic for the competition.”
Chelsea have an experienced core group - Petr Cech, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Michael Essien among them - as well as young players full of potential, such as Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne.
Mourinho believes his side will evolve and grow as the season progresses, rather than previously when he had established global stars, bought with Roman Abramovich’s millions, ready to deliver.
He said: “This team step by step will be better, and step by step will make less mistakes and step by step will be more solid.
“This competition lasts 10 months and 38 matches. Let’s go step by step.”
Mourinho returns to Stamford Bridge on Sunday still to taste Premier League defeat at home as Chelsea boss.
He enjoyed a long period of home success with Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan, but says the 60-game unbeaten run at Stamford Bridge is certain to end.
“I have to lose some time,” he said.
“Two seasons in Porto, no defeats at home, three and a half at Chelsea, no defeats at home, two at Inter, no defeats at home. That’s not normal.
“My team is going to be strong at home? Yes, for sure.
“We are going to win lots of matches at home, for sure.
“We are not going to lose many points at home, for sure.
“But if we lose a match I think it’s not a drama, it’s normal.
We are ready.”