LIVERPOOL -- Brendan Rodgers insists that Chelsea will still field a more expensive lineup than Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday, and says he will not be drawn into mind games with Jose Mourinho.
Mourinho has indicated that he will leave out a number of key names for the meeting of the Premier League’s top two, even though his side can still overtake the Reds to win the title.
He claims that his priority is on beating Atletico Madrid in the Champions League semifinal second leg at Stamford Bridge three days later, and the Premier League is unlikely to take action against Chelsea even if they field a weakened side at Anfield.
Liverpool boss Rodgers -- who was Chelsea’s youth and reserve-team coach during Mourinho’s first spell in charge, between 2004 and 2007 -- has dismissed the idea that Mourinho might be playing mind games.
But even though defeat on Sunday would end Chelsea’s mathematical chances of winning this season’s title, Rodgers does not believe Mourinho has given up on winning the Premier League yet.
“Jose’s a winner. He won’t give up,” Rodgers told his prematch news conference on Friday.
“There are certainly no mind games between him and me. He knows me well enough to know that it wouldn’t bother me one iota what anyone says or does.
“I saw some stuff written about them maybe fielding a weaker team. I think that’s hugely disrespectful to some of their players, if they’re deemed to be the weaker ones in the squad.
“Whatever team they put out, it will have cost more money than ours, and it will be more experienced that ours.”
Rodgers accepts that Chelsea will have to make changes between the two games, with midfielders Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel likely to figure at Anfield because they are suspensed for the Atletico match.
Similarly, Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah -- both ineligible to play for Chelsea in this season’s Champions League -- are also likely to face Liverpool.
Rodgers cited the recent problems facing Manchester City, who he suggested failed to make enough changes between the side that lost 3-2 at Anfield on April 13 and the one that drew 2-2 at home to Sunderland three days later, severely damaging their title chances.
“It is difficult for Chelsea because they’ve got the game in the week, and there’s no doubt that if they field the same team on Sunday and Wednesday, then there is a cost to that,” Rodgers said.
“We’ve seen that with Manchester City. When they played us, it was a really intense match because of the nature of our game. We work tirelessly, we’re aggressive in our attack and our defence.
“And I think Manuel [Pellegrini] felt on the Wednesday, when they played Sunderland, they had a real cost to pay and ended up drawing the game.
“I’m sure Jose won’t want to go down that route. But in terms of mind games, it’s not something that affects me.”
Liverpool will take a late check on the fitness of striker Daniel Sturridge, who suffered a hamstring injury during the victory over Manchester City, and missed last Sunday’s 3-2 win at Norwich as a result.
Rodgers said: “We’ll wait and see. We’ll give it another 24 hours. He’s working hard with the medical team.
“If he’s not fit, then we’ve coped before. We’ve managed before without a number of our players. We’ll go into the game with confidence. We’ll assess it over the next 24 hours.”