LIVERPOOL, September 11 – Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is backing his side to embarrass those who have written off the team's title chances just four games into the new season.
Last season’s runners-up lost two of their opening three matches before a late Steven Gerrard goal secured victory in a five-goal thriller against Bolton in the final match before the international break.
Liverpool entertain promoted Burnley on Saturday trailing joint leaders Chelsea and Tottenham by six points while title favourites Manchester United are three points ahead.
Despite a stuttering start, Benitez insists that it was far too early to dismiss his side’s chances of winning the title for the first time in 20 years.
"You cannot win titles in September, so you have to go to January and see where you are, and then April and May is when you will fight," said the Spaniard.
"The team as a team has not played at the level we can, but hopefully the win against Bolton will be a lift for us.
"When you are not doing well you always need character – and the players showed character against Bolton.
"We controlled the game and although we conceded two goals, we scored three and came from behind to win. That is very positive and hopefully it will be a different situation for us now.
"The message is always the same – we have to think about one game at a time, try to get three points and then see what our position is each week."
Benitez believes the expectations have increased since Liverpool finished last season on 86 points – four behind champions Manchester United.
With United already having lost a match, Benitez thinks Chelsea’s unbeaten start to the campaign will soon be over.
"You don’t want to lose two games, especially early in the season, but clearly this year will be different," he added.
"The teams at the top fighting can beat anyone, so I think you will see some top teams lose games."
Despite being labelled favourites for relegation, Burnley have already claimed the scalps of Manchester United and Everton, who finished fifth last season, since winning promotion.
And Benitez knows they will provide a stern test for his players at Anfield.
"Burnley are a good team and have a very good group of players who know each other very well," he said.
"They have beaten Manchester United and Everton and that shows they are doing well."
Benitez revealed Brazilian full-back Fabio Aurelio could come into contention while Gerrard and Glen Johnson, fresh from helping England qualify for next summer’s World Cup following Wednesday’s 5-1 victory over Croatia, will also start.
Gerrard scored twice against Croatia from his makeshift position on the left on midfield – but Benitez believes his captain is good enough to operate in any role.
"I have been for talking about Steven’s best position for years, but he is a very good player who can play in any position," added the Liverpool manager.
"He is doing well for England on the left and if he plays in the middle or as a second striker he will be good too.
"In playing Gerrard on the left, I think Steven knows he has freedom and can go inside."
Burnley famously beat Liverpool in the FA Cup four months before Benitez led the Merseyside club to Champions League glory in 2005.
But the east Lancashire club have not won a top-flight game at Anfield since September 1974.
"We have to remain focused from start to finish. If we can do that then we’ve always got a chance of taking some points," said manager Owen Coyle.
"We cannot afford to switch off at any given time and we have to take care of the ball. These are the top teams in the world you are talking about, not just the Premier League.
"We have to be at our very best and anything short of that will not be good enough."