Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has written off Liverpool's title chances and declared Chelsea to be biggest threat to his team's hopes of retaining their Premier League crown.
Much is expected of Rafa Benitez's Liverpool this term after they finished a close second last season but Ferguson, who is chasing an unprecedented fourth consecutive league title, doesn't think his arch-rivals will be able to maintain their improved level of performance.
"Liverpool had probably their best season for 20 years and still finished four points adrift," the United manager told The Sun. "It will be hard for them to match last season, let alone improve on it. Other teams will know more about them, so it has to be Chelsea as the main threat."
Benitez, who had a few high-profile run-ins with Ferguson last season, is bound to bristle at such comments and will be determined to knock United of their perch. But with Xabi Alonso about to join Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Karim Benzema at Real Madrid, it is difficult to see how a Liverpool side whose focus continues to be the axis of Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard can get better.
The arrival of Carlo Ancelotti also brings an unknown dimension to Chelsea, although Ferguson believes the Italian's past record makes him an opponent to be respected.
"Ancelotti will play the Milan way," said Ferguson. "It brought him two European Cups - it should have been three because they should never have lost to Liverpool, so why should he change?"
That put-down of Benitez's proudest moment as Liverpool manager from Istanbul in 2005 will not endear him to the Anfield club either.