Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists that neither he nor any of his rival bosses are afraid of failure in the title race.
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Rodgers, Jose Mourinho, Arsene Wenger and Manuel Pellegrini have become embroiled in an increasingly bizarre series of verbal jousts as the battle to win the Premier League hots up.
Chelsea boss Mourinho’s assertion that his team are the “little horse” in the race has sparked several animal metaphors to describe the title contenders, with Rodgers having described his team as both “foals” and “chihuahuas” in the last week.
Mourinho has also made several digs at Manchester City and their boss Pellegrini, while describing Arsenal manager Wenger on Friday as “a specialist in failure”.
Wenger, for his part, has argued that Mourinho’s “fear of failure” is behind his consistent downplaying of Chelsea’s title chances.
The war of words has intensified as Chelsea, City, Arsenal and Liverpool prepare to take a break from Premier League action for the FA Cup this weekend. Liverpool travel to face the Gunners on Sunday, while City host Chelsea on Saturday.
Rodgers has indicated that he will name a strong side on Sunday, although his priority remains Champions League qualification. His side are on course for that, as they lie fourth in the Premier League, four points behind leaders Chelsea.
The Reds boss accepts that it is time to stop comparing the various title contenders to animals, saying: “It’s getting stupid now, isn’t it?”
And he is also looking to steer clear of the mind games that are threatening to overshadow the title race.
He said: “At this level, you are focused on your own team. I don't think any manager working at this level would be frightened to fail. It is what drives you on.
“Jose is a wonderful manager and has had great success, Wenger in a different way has had his success too. This is the most competitive league in world football, so to be at the top you have to have something about you.
“I don't think the mind games will have too much impact. I can only speak for myself, and it doesn't affect me. I focus on the players, and let them do the talking on the field. It's the manager's job to release the pressure.
“The players are concentrated on their work. It may affect some players, but the majority have a strong mentality, and it goes over their head. It’s going to be a really interesting final 12 games of the season [in the Premier League].”
Rodgers continues to play down Liverpool’s title chances this season, but believes they have the quality to be contenders in the future.
He added: “When I first came to the club, Jose made the comment that the conditions for us meant it would be a miracle for us [Liverpool] to win the league. I don't think that has changed too much in the last 18 months. For us, our objective is to finish as high as we can. In the Premier League, you need energy and commitment and quality to be at the top. We have those qualities.”