LONDON (AFP) - Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has tipped in-form Liverpool to emerge as serious challengers for the Premier League title this season.
Mourinho's side are currently top of the table, but fourth-placed Liverpool are just four points adrift and the Portuguese coach feels Brendan Rodgers' men have a major advantage given their lack of European involvement.
Chelsea, second-placed Arsenal and third-placed Manchester City have Champions League last 16 ties looming, with all three holding ambitions of a long run in Europe's elite club competition.
That could benefit Liverpool and although they are still outsiders to win the title with most bookmakers, Mourinho claims they have to be taken seriously.
And he insists it is not just mind games to put pressure on a rival who recorded an impressive 5-1 win over Arsenal last weekend.
"When I say we're not the top candidate everyone thinks 'here he is again, with what you like to call the mind games'," Mourinho told Sky Sports News.
"But it's just my feeling. The league is amazing but Liverpool have a big advantage because of the fact they don't play in the Champions League." Given the unusually wide-open nature of the title race, Mourinho does not expect his team or any of their rivals to have an easy run-in as the pressure mounts.
"Every team needs points for their objective - some for relegation, some for Champions League football and some are trying to be champions," he added.
"It's going to be hard for everybody." Meanwhile, England manager Roy Hodgson this week made a concerted effort to end any talk of Blues central defender John Terry coming out of international retirement.
Terry's form has been so good this year that former England striker Gary Lineker, among others, called for the Chelsea skipper to come back to the international fold.
But Mourinho does not believe the subject of Terry playing for his country should be under discussion.
"It's a waste of time to keep speaking about the situation," he said.
"Roy Hodgson is the person to kill the discussion or to feed it. End of story.
"I'd never intervene. He's in charge and has everything in his hand. He has made that decision.
"For me as a Chelsea manager I'm happy players play with their national teams - but at the same time I'm happy an important player like him is fully focused on his work at Chelsea."