MANCHESTER: Samir Nasri has launched an extraordinary attack on Chelsea, branding the Premier League leaders "not special at all".
Nasri, the Manchester City midfielder, has cranked up the tension in the title race with a tirade at Jose Mourinho's squad and insisted they rely too heavily on pounds 32?million striker Diego Costa.
The controversial former France international also believes Chelsea will stumble in their attempt to wrest the trophy away from the Etihad Stadium, despite holding a seven-point lead at the summit in pursuit of their first title in five years.
Mourinho, the self-styled 'Special One', has constantly sniped at City this season, suggesting earlier this month that they should not be allowed to be champions after breaking Financial Fair Play regulations. But Nasri's outspoken remarks are certain to ensure an extra edge to the final weeks of the season.
"I'm a big fan of Mourinho, but I am not impressed with his team, not at all," Nasri said. "When I have seen some of their games, I don't think they are that fantastic - they are just strong, and have a good striker up front.
"For me they are not special at all, and I think they are going to make some mistakes. We have played them twice, one time with 10 men, and we were better than them. Then we played them at Stamford Bridge, and we were better than them.
"We just have to perform, to win our games, and see what's going to happen. This title will be like this until the end of the season. No one will win the league 10 games before the end of the season."
The sniping between the two clubs has been relentless this season, with Mourinho frequently using his press conferences to criticise Manuel Pellegrini and his squad.
Last month he hinted that City play by different rules after completing the pounds 26?million signing of Swansea forward Wilfried Bony and has even referred to the Chilean manager as "Pellegrino".
Pellegrini has refused to allow himself to be drawn into a war of words but Nasri's comments are likely to provoke a reaction from Mourinho.
City secured their first win in five league games with an impressive 4-1 victory over Stoke City on Wednesday and Nasri insists the pressure is all on Chelsea.
"The season is still long, they have the Champions League and the final of the Capital One Cup as well, so have a lot of games to play," he said.
"They won in the last minute against Everton, so maybe next time they will draw. Two months ago we were eight points behind Chelsea and came back and went level with them. Now we are seven points behind, but are not going to make big talk about it. We will just try to get as many points as possible and wait for the mistake.
"If we reach 90 points we will be champions of England. If we win all of our games, it will put pressure on Chelsea."
Defeat by Stoke would have effectively killed off any lingering hopes of challenging Chelsea but City's emphatic victory breathed new life into their season.
Sergio Aguero scored for the first time since Dec 3 while it was also their first win in the absence of Yaya Toure, who has been away with the Ivory Coast squad at the Africa Cup of Nations.
City will now have a break until they return to league action against Newcastle on Feb 21, ahead of the Champions League bout with Barcelona.
Pablo Zabaleta, the Argentina defender, is convinced City can close the gap on Chelsea and ensure a nail-biting finish to the season.
He said: "We are Manchester City and we will never give up, simple as that. We have had that situation before, when we won the league in 2012, and we were eight points behind United.
"We have 13 games to go to the end. We have belief in the team and if we play like we did on Wednesday night we will have a chance to catch Chelsea.
"They are also in great form and keep winning games. We need them to drop some points but we need to think about ourselves.
"We cannot afford to drop points. We have made mistakes this season and if we want to be champions again we have to play well and win games."
City's title push will be further boosted by the returns of Toure and Bony for the visit of Newcastle tomorrow week. The Ivory Coast internationals flew to Abidjan to celebrate the Africa Cup of Nations but Bony is set to finally make his debut for the club later this month.