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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Deco says former club Chelsea will find winning the Premier League 'more difficult' against the Manchester teams this season

The retired Portuguese footballer is in Dubai along with Ronaldinho, Giggs, Scholes, Crespo and Salgado for the Premier Futsal 2017 finals

Deco, centre, in action for Telugu in Premier Futsal. Courtesy Premier Futsal
Deco, centre, in action for Telugu in Premier Futsal. Courtesy Premier Futsal

Former Chelsea midfielder Deco says the Premier League champions will have a difficult time defending their title given the fresh threat posed by the Manchester clubs.

Manchester City and Manchester United sit joint top of the table after six matches, with both teams claiming 16 points from a possible 18. City, last crowned champions in the 2013/14 season, have won their past three league matches by five goals or more - a Premier League record - while United look set for a first genuine title challenge in five years.

Champions Chelsea, meanwhile, are three points worse off in third following Saturday’s 4-0 victory at Stoke City. Last season, Antonio Conte’s men held off London rivals Tottenham Hotspur to seal a sixth top-flight crown, although they did top the standings for the majority of the campaign.

However, having played an instrumental role in the Chelsea’s title-winning side in 2009/10, Deco believes the fast start made by the Manchester clubs proves his former employers will have their work cut out trying to hold on to the trophy.

“This season will be more difficult - the other teams are strong now.” said the Portuguese playmaker, in Dubai this week to contest the Premier Futsal 2017 finals. “Manchester United are better than last season, Manchester City, too.

“Tottenham kept the same team and it is more difficult to win. But it is not impossible. Chelsea won last season and they can win this season. When I was at Chelsea we had a lot of good players who were at a high level, players with some experience.

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"At Chelsea, they usually have a mix of strong players and players with quality. The best team was always this kind of combination.”

Deco finished a playing career in 2013 that included spells at Porto and Barcelona, but has spent the past month competing in the Premier Futsal tournament in India. He captains the Telugu Tigers against another five teams led by former Barcelona teammate Ronaldinho, United greats Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, former Real Madrid defender and Dubai resident Michel Salgado, and former Argentina international striker Hernan Crespo.

The event, launched last year, has moved this week to Dubai, with the closing stages taking place from Tuesday night at Al Wasl football club.

“Premier Futsal are trying to do something different,” Deco said. “Futsal in Europe, in Brazil and South America is so big and there are some fantastic players. Here they are trying to develop it - that’s a fantastic idea.

“The games in India were very nice. The fans there received us very well and they came out for the games, enjoyed them. It was amazing. This is a great opportunity for fans [in the UAE] to see something from us former players. They seem to like us and, of course, we want to have fun and create some fun for them.

“It’s nice to play against the other legends. I played with Ronaldinho at Barcelona, while I played against Giggs and Scholes many times with either their clubs or national team. Crespo and Salgado as well.

"At the end of the day we respect each other - Paul Scholes was one of the best midfielders in history. Of course, when you go to the pitch you want to win, but you respect each other immensely.”

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