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Sizing up La Liga title contenders

La Liga
By ESPN Staff

Chelsea home comforts as Blues set new record

Jose Mourinho has set his sights on a century of unbeaten league games at home after his Chelsea side defeated Birmingham to take him to 99. Chelsea set the team record of 64 with the 3-2 win at Stamford Bridge, edging past Liverpool's efforts at Anfield between 1978 and 1981, but the manager's record is even more remarkable. He last suffered a league defeat at home in 2002 when Beira Mar got the better of his Porto team, and avoiding defeat against Portsmouth later this month will see him reach his ton. 'I'm on 99 and I hope my friend Harry Redknapp doesn't kill my record in the next game at home because I would love to reach 100,' the Portuguese said. Mourinho paid tribute to the players who featured during the team record, which was started in the season before he took over from Claudio Ranieri. 'The record means more to Chelsea than it does for me,' he said. 'The previous record belonged to top players - (Kenny) Dalglish, (Alan) Hansen, (Phil) Neal and great Liverpool players. 'At the moment it belongs to Chelsea - (John) Terry, (Frank) Lampard, (Eidur) Gudjohnsen and all the guys who contributed. 'I'll have to go home and remember every players that helped us achieve the record because not all of them are here - Gudjohnsen, Geremi, (Damien) Duff, all these guys. 'Chelsea has written its name in the history books of the Premier League and it's a great record. I'm very flattered for being part of the record. 'It has to be intimidating even when we (eventually) lose a game. Nobody is unbeatable, one day someone will come here and win and the important thing is that when we lose a game here that we don't lose the next one.' Birmingham, however, gave Mourinho's men a real scare after Mikael Forssell gave them the lead against his former club. Claudio Pizarro and Florent Malouda scored on their home debuts, although Birmingham goalkeeper Colin Doyle should have kept out Chelsea's first strike. Olivier Kapo levelled matters again with a drive that found the top corner, but Michael Essien grabbed the winner, with Doyle palming his effort into the top corner. 'It would be better to score five or six goals and win in a different way but the game was great, not just because Chelsea played great attacking football but because Birmingham also were great,' Mourinho added. 'Teams from the Championship, especially in the first period after promotion, come with a winning spirit because that is what got them promoted. 'They could have scored three and we could have scored six or seven.' Mourinho was pleased with his newcomers and was encouraged by Malouda and Shaun Wright-Phillips on the flanks. 'The wingers produced incredible football, the strikers played with great dynamic and we played good attacking football,' said. 'I always thought we would score goals, I don't like to concede goals but Birmingham played well.' Victory, however, was soured by a knee injury to Essien which forced him off. 'It was something in the knee ligament,' Mourinho said. 'He was in pain, I had two midfielders on the bench so I made the change immediately. 'If you asked me, I don't know if he'd be fit for Wednesday against Reading.' Andriy Shevchenko is also struggling with his back problem and will not train tomorrow. Birmingham boss Steve Bruce described Chelsea's record as 'staggering' but was also encouraged by his own team's performance on their return to the Premier League. 'We gave it a real go but unfortunately we gave away soft goals,' he said. 'When you come to Chelsea you need your goalkeeper to be your best player but he's had one of those days. But he was instrumental in us being here so he deserved to be in the team. 'It's great to be back, the atmosphere and the smell of the hot dogs. If we keep producing performances like that we'll make a fist of it. 'I've been here before and played 1-9-1 and it doesn't work. You have to score gaols in the Premier League.' He added: 'The whole record is staggering. You have to take your hat off to them, they are always well prepared. To keep them focused at home for three years is an unbelievable achievement for the manager and the team.'