DUBAI: Liverpool return to Champions League action at Anfield against Porto on Wednesday with little at stake having secured qualification to the knockout stages after four wins from their opening four matches.
It is a competition the club have a special affinity for, and former left-back Jose Enrique believes Jurgen Klopp’s men can go all the way in it this season, despite some inconsistent results over the last few weeks.
He said: “In the league the only problem I see is that we’ve been unlucky with injuries, again. It happened last season with the center-backs, and this season it’s happening with the midfield. Let’s see how it goes, that will (impact) our Premier League title fight, because maybe we don’t have as strong enough squad.
“But the Champions League I believe we can go all in. Obviously, we’re through, and we now have away and home stages, anything can happen. And I can bet that in the Champions League Liverpool are really strong, especially when they play at Anfield,” the 35-year-old Spanish former defender added.
Speaking to Arab News in Dubai, where he met fans at the opening of the official Liverpool FC store at Mirdif City Center Mall — an event organized by the club’s official retail partner Seventy-8 — Enrique said: “The level of support for Liverpool FC around the world is well-known, and the passion for the Reds can definitely be felt here in Dubai and the UAE.”
Enrique announced in 2018 that he was recovering from surgery to remove a brain tumor.
“My health is completely fine now; I don’t feel any side effects. After the operation and treatment, I was feeling some side effects, but they’re completely gone now.
“Since I retired, I’m now working with my brother as a football agent. It took me a while to get used to it but now I’m so happy, and my brother is actually here in Dubai to close a player as well.
“So, I’m really happy, travelling quite a lot, now that (coronavirus disease) COVID-19 restrictions allow us to travel a little bit. So can’t complain, probably the best moment of my life since I retired,” he added.
Enrique recently returned to Anfield for the first time since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and he remains a fan five years after leaving.
“Against Brighton (2-2), the second half wasn’t the best but against Atletico Madrid (2-0) we won and that was great. It was very, very nice to be back because it was my first time back at Anfield after the COVID-19 pandemic.”
He had special words of praise for the Liverpool manager who he said had transformed the club and won the Champions League, the Premier League, and the FIFA Club World Cup in recent years.
“Klopp, what can I say that hasn’t been said already? Obviously, we have to give a lot of credit to the players but for me he is the main guy. If he was not there we would not be in this position, definitely for me he is the main man.
“I would have loved to have played under him because I believe he would have improved me a lot as a player. In my last season I was actually with him, but I wasn’t fit enough, I had many, many problems with my knee. So obviously I wasn’t available to play, the way he wants to play needs a lot of intensity, and my knee couldn’t handle that.
“I definitely would have loved, in one of my peak years, to play under him, because I really believe he would have made me maybe one of the best in my position,” he added.
Enrique also revealed his delight for Steven Gerrard after his former captain at Liverpool became the new coach at Aston Villa.
“I’m very happy for him, I’ve already congratulated him. I think it’s the right move for him. I don’t think you have to compare (Glasgow) Rangers to Aston Villa because they play in completely different leagues. Rangers are massive in Scotland, but Aston Villa are a massive club in the Premier League, they’ve just been struggling in the last few years.
“With Stevie, if they give him the right money, not big money, and the freedom to make his own decisions, I believe he can do really well there,” he said.
And Enrique also had words of encouragement for fans of his former club Newcastle United after the recent Saudi-backed takeover.
“I’m really happy for them. It’s a club that I will always love, they gave me the chance to play in the Premier League. The fans, they loved me when I was there, some of my best years. I wish them the best, I know how much they suffered with (Newcastle United’s former owner) Mike Ashley. Obviously, I left because Liverpool came for me, but Mike Ashley was one of the reasons to leave the club, and not just me, but many players.
“And now the new owners are ready to spend, and you can see when they signed how the fans celebrated outside the stadium. I’m very happy for them, because I believe it’s a club that at least should be in the top six in the Premier League,” he said.