Carlo Ancelotti has claimed Chelsea hold the mental edge ahead of Sunday's Barclays Premier League title showdown at Manchester United - because Sir Alex Ferguson's men never saw them coming.
The Blues travel to Old Trafford on the brink of completing the greatest comeback in Premier League championship history, storming to within three points of United having been 15 behind just over two months ago. They were in danger of falling 18 adrift when they were 1-0 down to Ferguson's side at Stamford Bridge on March 1 but turning around that game has sparked a run of 25 points from the last 27.
And that has caught United napping, according to Chelsea boss Ancelotti, who said: "Man United hoped they wouldn't have to play this kind of game against us."
The Italian, whose side will go top for the first time since November if they win on Sunday, added: "If they'd had more of an advantage, it could have been an easy game against us - not easy, but a different game. They have to fight again for the title. Maybe two or three weeks ago, they didn't think in this game they'd need to fight so much. Mentally, for this reason, we can have an advantage."
The threat Chelsea pose concerned Ferguson enough for him rest half of his first-choice XI in Wednesday night's Champions League semi-final second leg against Schalke. The Blues' resurgence has also prompted the Scot to renew his attack on referees, claiming the champions were being handed the title by poor decisions.
Certainly, Chelsea benefited from two goals that should never have stood in Saturday's 2-1 victory over Tottenham. But Ancelotti insisted his side had suffered more than their share of bad officiating this season, including in their Champions League defeat against United. The Italian rubbished any suggestion Ferguson's latest referee rant could unduly influence Howard Webb and his assistants on Sunday.
"If the referee has no experience, maybe I can be a little bit worried about this, but with Howard Webb there is no problem," said Ancelotti, who is renowned for his reluctance to criticise officials.
He said: "It's not good to speak about the referee. I don't want to put pressure on the referee. I have trust in the referees in England. They are good, I think. If they make a mistake, as all referees do in the world, it's normal. You have to accept that."
Chelsea realistically need to win all three of their remaining games to land the title, a feat that would surely make billionaire owner Roman Abramovich think twice about sacking Ancelotti. Reiterating his desire to stay, Ancelotti shrugged off the prospect of losing his job under those circumstances.
"It's not crazy to think that the club can change," he said. "Every club has this possibility to change the manager at the end of the season if they want to change. I've tried to do my best. But the club has to check my job. If they consider my job good, I will stay. If they don't consider it good, they can change."