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The Blues' manager does not underestimate the challenge his side face from the Reds of Merseyside, not just on Sunday but all season, regarding them as potential champions

Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas insists that Liverpool are contenders to win the Premier League, ahead of the meeting between the two sides.

The Blues host Kenny Dalglish's men at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, starting the match 12 points behind league leaders Manchester City - albeit with a game in hand.

The Reds have amassed 19 points so far, three fewer than Chelsea, but despite the current gap between Liverpool and City, Villas-Boas believes that the squad-strengthening that took place at Anfield during the summer has put them in a position to challenge for top honours.

"I've always seen them as title contenders because it's been assumed by them that they would do it," Villas-Boas said, according to The Observer.

"Dalglish has made the necessary changes to Liverpool for them to progress to title contenders this year.

"He made seven changes to the team, seven coming in, which represents the type of commitment the ownership have to put them back on title-winning ways. They are one of the biggest clubs in England and I always assumed they were challenging for the title."

For his part, Villas-Boas has had to endure recent criticism of his style of management, as the 2009-10 champions find themselves in danger of slipping out of the top four should they lose, and Tottenham Hotspur beat Aston Villa on Monday.

"Chelsea's recovery last season was from February onwards," said the former Porto boss.

"April, March and May are still tight in terms of the calendar. All the top teams will most likely be involved in the Champions League, which can dictate tiredness or less response in terms of the Premier League."

Meanwhile, the 34-year-old manager praised young striker Daniel Sturridge for his recent progress, which saw him given a chance in the England national team during the week.

"His performances for the club have taken him to England, and to a first appearance, which is something that is gratifying," Villas-Boas added.

"When someone arrives at that level, you have to prove you can continue to be at that level. That's the challenge he faces."

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