Ryan Giggs lit the fuse on Manchester United's potentially explosive clash with Chelsea by claiming the Premier League leaders are not yet the finished article.
While Chelsea have made a flying start to their title challenge with seven wins from eight matches to open up a four-point lead over second-placed United, Giggs believes it is too early to crown the west London club as champions elect.
Chelsea's 2-1 defeat at Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League on Tuesday underlined Giggs' belief that the rebuilding job undertaken by Blues boss Roberto Di Matteo after the departure of several senior stars is still a work in progress.
"Chelsea are a talented team. They have changed the personnel a bit with Oscar, Hazard and Mata, who play in those little pockets and are so hard to pick up," Giggs said ahead of tomorrow's clash between the top two at Stamford Bridge.
"Only time will tell if they are better. But it doesn't really matter because you know you are up against a very good team when you play Chelsea, and it will always be tough at Stamford Bridge," the former Wales international said.
United would dearly love to win a league game at the Bridge for the first time since 2002 as they try to close the gap on Chelsea, but to do that Giggs knows they must find a way to cure their defensive woes.
Alex Ferguson's team have conceded the first goal in eight matches out of 12 this term, and they were at it again on Tuesday, when Braga stunned Old Trafford by taking a 2-0 lead in the Champions League before United hit back to win 3-2.
"There are two ways of looking at it," Giggs said. "Obviously we are pleased we are able to come back and have shown great character in those eight games, but you cannot keep relying on the lads up front to score."
Meanwhile, Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech is confident his team's slip-up in Donetsk will prove a valuable lesson ahead of the United match. The Blues have lost four of their last five meetings with United, but Cech expects a strong response after the Champions League setback.
"It is good that this happened now because Manchester United is a similar team who play on the counter-attack away from home," Cech said. "We will play more or less the same kind of side as Shakhtar. We didn't deal with it well, so hopefully this will serve as a lesson for the weekend."
Meanwhile, Manchester City midfielder James Milner admits the champions must bounce back from their latest disastrous European outing when they return to Premier League action at home to Swansea today.
"Although the score [against Ajax] was 3-1, we had enough chances to score more goals, but we weren't clinical enough," he said.
"We need to make sure there is not pressure on the strikers to score … Goals have got to come from all over the park."
Tomorrow, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers gets his first taste of the Merseyside derby as the Reds make the short trip to Goodison Park to face Everton.
Everton midfielder Marouane Fellaini hopes to recover from a knee injury in time to feature and his teammate Kevin Mirallas said: "It's good to have Marouane available because he is scary for the other team. People in the opposition fear him."
Agence France-Presse, Associated Press