Liverpool's Jose Enrique has backed Martin Skrtel to emerge stronger from his spell on the sidelines and return a better player next season.
Skrtel has lost his place in the side to veteran defender Jamie Carragher after Liverpool's humiliating FA Cup exit at the hands of League One outfit Oldham, leading to questions over his future.
But with Carragher due to hang up his boots at the end of the season, Enrique believes the Slovakia centre-back can re-establish himself in the side.
"I think we have one of the best centre-backs in the league in Martin Skrtel,'' Enrique said. "Like every player he has not had a good season this year but last season he was player of the season for us. For me when he comes on he will be top-class again for sure.
"In my case it was the start of the season and it was not really good but when the manager told me this (he would not be playing) I didn't think to go.
"Last year I played a lot of games for Liverpool and before the start of the season I knew I would play a lot of games because if I am fit I can play in this team.
"From the start I tried as hard as I could and sometimes it is good for someone to tell you the bad things you don't want to hear. This, to be honest, woke me up and now I am playing well.''
Skrtel has already been linked with a move away but Enrique said it was difficult to leave a club like Liverpool.
"You can go to other big clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City, who are at the moment are better teams than us as they are in the top four and we don't play Champions League or Europa League next year,'' he added.
"You think you can go to another club but if you talk about the (Liverpool) fans, the stadium, things inside the club - things people don't see that the players see every day - like the people work for us make us as good as we can then I don't think at any other club the treatment will be better than here.''
Enrique is prepared for a frosty welcome from Newcastle fans when he returns to his former club. The Spaniard left St James' Park for Anfield in the summer of 2011 after criticising the club's transfer policy which saw them sell Kevin Nolan, Joey Barton and Andy Carroll prior to his departure.
"I know I am not going to have a good reception there but I think I did really well while I was there,'' he said. "They took my words badly when I say they would never be in the top six if they sell their best players, they took it the wrong way.
"I try to treat people well but if they want to receive me badly I will be ready for it. I am really happy how they treated me there, they gave me the opportunity to play in the Premier League.
"They are fighting to avoid relegation and I hope they stay in the Premier League. We need three points and of course after that I hope they win all their games.''
Information from the Press Association was used in this report