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Aug 8, 2014

Jose Enrique fit for Liverpool's opener

ESPN FC's Janusz Michallik weighs in on the teams who are likely to be involved in the 2014 English Premier League title race.

Jose Enrique has declared himself available for Liverpool's opening Premier League match against Southampton a week on Sunday.

- Usher: Rodgers relies on Sterling

The Spanish left-back made just nine appearances last season before undergoing knee surgery in November that brought his campaign to a premature end.

He resumed training in July and enjoyed some playing time on the Reds' preseason tour to the U.S.

Speaking to Press Association Sport at Liverpool FC Members' Family Day, Enrique said: "I'm feeling good. I was training on my own and running a lot, and it's not the same when you play with a team because it's a lot more with the ball and a different type of running.

"I'm still getting my fitness back but I feel really good and confident that I can play soon. It's little by little, and not just me, everyone is getting their fitness. If the manager wants me to play in the first game of the season, I am ready of course.''

Enrique's fitness is a boost to boss Brendan Rodgers, who was left without a specialist left-back last season and has not been able to strengthen in that area. The Reds have been heavily linked with young Spaniard Alberto Moreno but so far he has stayed with Sevilla.

Rodgers has still been busy in the transfer window, spending significant money on Southampton duo Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren, Belgium World Cup star Divock Origi, Benfica's Lazar Markovic and Emre Can from Bayer Leverkusen.

Liverpool fan Rickie Lambert was another player to leave Southampton for the Reds while right-back Javier Manquillo has joined on loan from Atletico Madrid.

All will have to work extremely hard to fill the gap left by Luis Suarez's departure for Barcelona but Enrique sees no reason why they cannot match last season's second-placed finish.

"Everyone says about Luis and of course Luis was a top player for us, one of the top players in the world,'' said the Spaniard. "But we've spent a lot of money on good players as well, we have a very good team. Hopefully we can do the same thing as last season.''

One advantage for Liverpool may be that the former Southampton trio are all experienced Premier League players.

"It depends on the player but normally [it's an advantage],'' said Enrique. "It's a different league, a completely different type of football. This one probably is the hardest in terms of fitness because in the Premier League you run a lot, going wide and back more or less all the game.

"Of course if you are used to this league, normally you do well. That doesn't mean that a player that comes from another league can't do well as well, but it is more risk.''

Strength in depth is key for Liverpool this season as they return to the Champions League for the first time in five seasons. Enrique, whose only trophy with the Reds was the Capital One Cup in 2012, cannot wait to make his debut at Europe's top table.

He said: "Liverpool has been for a while without Champions League. I've never played in the Champions League and I'm so excited to play in this competition because the best teams in the world are in this competition. I think Liverpool are one of the best teams in the world so Liverpool have to be there as well.

"We'll try to go as far as we can but of course not forget about the league and the two cups. We have a big squad and we want to compete for everything.

"Hopefully, like the manager says, we can win a trophy. We won one before with Kenny [Dalglish]. I know it wasn't a Champions League or a league title but it was really exciting and for the fans it's really good to win trophies.''

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