"The commitment of the players and the training sessions have been very good. That is the most important aspect.
"The players accepted my words in the right spirit. They have experience and they know they can improve. They have been listening to me for five years so they know what I feel.
"The team wants to show that we are good enough [to challenge for the title]. We know we can improve and I can guarantee that the players will be fighting hard from the very first minute [at Bolton on Saturday].
"We were so close last season to the title and now people are expecting us to win lots of games in a row. But the Premier League is very difficult.
"We have lost to two of the clubs who will be chasing the top four, Villa and Spurs, and there are good teams now trying to get into the top four. It will be more difficult for top sides now to win every game."
New signing Sotirios Kyrgiakos played for the reserves on Thursday and is in line for his league debut.
The Greek international played 45 minutes of the 3-2 defeat by Blackburn and, with concerns still over Martin Skrtel's jaw injury, the centre-back could play at the Reebok Stadium.
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