Liverpool may have started the season slowly but they are still fighting for the Premier League title, according to Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, who is expecting a tough encounter at Anfield on Saturday.
Chelsea beat Premier League runners-up Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield in April last season, a victory that Mourinho said “gave the title to Manchester City”.
Seventh-placed Liverpool have looked far from their free-flowing best so far this season, but despite boasting a 12-point advantage over Brendan Rodgers’s side, Mourinho still counts them as one of his main title rivals.
“I think they’re fighting for the title the same as we are,” Mourinho told a news conference. “Last season, when we played them, we were not fighting for the title.
“This moment is different. Both teams are fighting for the title. Of course one is in front, a few points in front, but they are in the title race.”
Liverpool sold last season’s top scorer Luis Suarez to Barcelona during the close season, but invested heavily in a wealth of new talent.
Many of Rodgers’s new recruits have failed to live up to expectation at Anfield but Mourinho believes Liverpool have the ability to surge up the table once they have all settled in.
“I think Liverpool have to think about this season,” he said. “I think they have enough motivation. I think if I was in that position I would go back to last season for the good memories, all the great matches they played.
“They bought so many important players, all of them internationals. So they invested very good and I think their potential is there.”
Spain striker Diego Costa, who was not selected for this month’s internationals because of persistent injuries, will start against Liverpool, while fellow striker Loic Remy is also available after recovering from a groin injury.
Mourinho is expecting a hostile reception from Liverpool fans after last season’s victory, but the former Real Madrid coach said his side will not be rattled by the famous Anfield atmosphere.
“The crowd can influence the match in a big way at Anfield,” he said. “I like to play there, but I have to say that some people feel the atmosphere in a negative way, but that’s not my case.
“I like it, and it doesn’t affect my players’ performance, but in the past we have clear examples of it affecting other performances, goals that are not goal, penalties that are not given.”