07.02.2014 20:54 h

Football: Mourinho happy to mess with rivals as title race hots up

Jose Mourinho is happy to play mind games with Chelsea's title rivals because he believes it can help his side win the Premier League.

Mourinho raised eyebrows last week when he claimed Chelsea were the "little horse" in the title race and should be regarded as third favourites behind leaders Arsenal and second-placed Manchester City.

The Chelsea manager stuck firmly to that line when asked if he had changed his verdict on his third-placed team's title chances following their impressive 1-0 victory at City on Monday.

But Mourinho's comments could be seen as a bid to take the pressure off his players and increase the scrutiny on Chelsea's main competitors in the fight for the title.

And the Portuguese coach, whose team host Newcastle on Saturday, conceded that his reputation as a clever manipulator of the media meant many of his public comments would be taken as mind games, regardless of whether that was his intention.

"Everything I say is mind games. Everything I do is mind games. Everything is mind games," Mourinho said on Friday.

"The only thing that is not mind games is the results. That's not mind games.

"Do we dream to win the Premier League? Of course. If we don't, we don't play.

"If we have the chance to win we are not going to say we don't want to, but we have not the same responsibilities (as Arsenal and City), that's for sure."

Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger has challenged Arsenal to seize control of the Premier League title race as the leaders kick-off a vital period with a trip to Liverpool.

Wenger's side regained pole position last weekend and the Gunners can cement their spot on top of the table with a victory at Anfield.

Arsenal, who are two points clear of City and Chelsea, have repeatedly been written off by pundits who don't believe they have the mental strength to end the club's nine-year trophy drought.

But Wenger is confident his players are ready to finally put some silverware in the Emirates Stadium trophy cabinet and sees their next two fixtures against Liverpool and Manchester United as the perfect opportunity to send a message to their title rivals.

"This is a massive month for us," said Wenger, who hopes England midfielder Jack Wilshere can return from an ankle injury.

"When you are in a good position to fight for something, the closer you get to the end of the season, every game becomes vital and every point is important.

"We have fought very hard up until now to be in this position, so let's enjoy it and do our best."

Liverpool's potent attack will provide a significant test to Arsenal's title credentials however.

Uruguay forward Luis Suarez has bagged 23 league goals this campaign and although none have come in matches against Arsenal, Chelsea or Manchester City, manager Brendan Rodgers expects his star to shine on Saturday.

"I think he has made an impact; he may just not have scored but he certainly scored in those games last season," Rodgers said.

Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta is confident his side will get back on track at Norwich City as they look to erase the bitter taste of that loss to Chelsea.

"We can learn from mistakes and we see how difficult the Premier League is at the moment. Every game is very difficult," said Zabaleta, whose team routed Norwich 7-0 in November.

"We need to keep calm. I think the manager is clever enough to work during the week and show to us on video what we did wrong and try to do well in the next game."

Swansea City begin life after Michael Laudrup with a south Wales showdown against bitter rivals Cardiff City at the Liberty Stadium.

Laudrup was sacked by Swansea in midweek after just 18 months in charge and Garry Monk will take over on a temporary basis as the Swans look to avenge their 1-0 defeat at Cardiff earlier this season.

On Sunday, Manchester United face Fulham, while Tottenham Hotspur and Everton, both in the race for Champions League berths, meet at White Hart Lane.

Fixtures (1500GMT unless stated):