Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti expects Liverpool to do everything in their power to beat his team on Sunday even if it means handing the title to bitter rivals Manchester United.
Ancelotti’s side are one point clear of second placed United with two matches to play and they can move within touching distance of the Premier League crown if they take three points at Anfield.
It has been suggested Liverpool may give less than 100 percent against Chelsea because they can’t stand the thought of Sir Alex Ferguson’s team landing a 19th English championship, which would surpass the Reds’ own record of 18 league titles.
If Chelsea win on Sunday and United lose at Sunderland later the same day, Chelsea will be champions for the first time since 2006.
But Ancelotti is convinced Rafael Benitez’s side, who can still claim fourth place and the Champions League spot that comes with it, have too much pride to surrender in front of their own fans.
“I don’t think about these mind games. Sunderland will do their best to beat Manchester United and Liverpool will do the same to beat us,” Ancelotti said.
“Every team has respect for the Premier League and every team has to do their best until the end of their matches.
“We have to play against fantastic players in a very difficult stadium with a very difficult atmosphere. We know how the fans of Liverpool support their team.
“It is very difficult to win at Anfield but we have to try. We have one more point than United and with two victories we can be champions.
“We have to stay focused on our game and not think about the result of the Sunderland v Man Utd game. If we win two games we will be champions.”
Liverpool’s morale and energy levels will have been damaged by Thursday’s Europa League semi-final exit against Atletico Madrid after the second leg went into extra time.
The Reds are also without injured star striker Fernando Torres, but Ancelotti refused to belittle Liverpool’s prospects.
“They played two hours so maybe they will be a little bit tired,” said Ancelotti.
“But I know very well that at Anfield I have never seen Liverpool tired. They play strong for 90 minutes and I am sure they will do the same on Sunday.
“To have Torres out is a disadvantage because he is one of the most important strikers in the world.
“That is a problem but the team that played on Thursday was a very good team. They lost but played a good match for me.”
Victories over Liverpool and then Wigan at Stamford Bridge next weekend will guarantee Ancelotti a first English title.
The former AC Milan boss knows he needs to deliver a major trophy after Chelsea’s Champions League exit to Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan and has told his players to focus on 180 minutes which will define their season.
“It is 180 minutes until the end of the season and I think if we stay focused for every moment we will be champions,” Ancelotti said.
“We will have pressure before the game. This is normal because it is a very important game. We have to keep this under control.
“I’m not worried. We had a good week training here at Cobham. Maybe I will be worried at the end of the season if we don’t do well in these two games but I hope to be happy.
“At the start of the season our aim is to win something and with 15 days to the end of the season we are involved in two important competitions.”
Ancelotti, who is boosted by John Terry’s return from suspension, also revealed he hadn’t contacted former Chelsea boss Mourinho to congratulate him on Inter’s Champions League semi-final triumph against Barcelona this week.
“No, I didn’t text him,” Ancelotti said. “But I did send a text after the first game against Barcelona saying congratulations.”