Exclusive: Adebayo Akinfenwa tips Liverpool for Premier League and Champions League glory

Exclusive: Adebayo Akinfenwa tips Liverpool for Premier League and Champions League glory

Liverpool fan and iconic EFL striker Adebayo Akinfenwa is backing the Reds to win both the Premier League and Champions League this season, as they aim to compete on all four fronts in the campaign's final months.

Speaking exclusively to Anfield Watch, the Wycombe Wanderers striker discussed a range of topics, including the Reds' prospects for the rest of the campaign, the players at AFCON and how Liverpool have coped without them, Diogo Jota's impressive form and the youngsters that are shining on Merseyside, plus much more.

Watch our full Q&A with Adebayo below or read on for a full transcript...

What's your prediction for the Premier League? Can Liverpool still win it?

Oh, it's a hard one! I'm going to say yeah. I'm going to go with my heart on this one. We're going to get our boys back, we're going to win at City, and that's going to make the title race really interesting.

I think City are a joke, but I've liked how we've kind of ground out results recently as well and especially with our big hitters being away, so why not? I'm going to say we can catch them.

How impressed have you been with performances despite Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita being at AFCON?

Massively. I was [worried], like all Liverpool fans, when we didn't beat Arsenal at home and couldn't break them down. You're thinking that the three will be a big loss.

But from my experience of being in a changing room, I think the players would have turned around and said, 'look, we're ballers and it's up to us to step up,' and I think they have.

The young bucks have come in. I think Jota has been a bad-boy signing. So I've been impressed. I watched the Palace game the other day and, you know, for 30 minutes, we were a blur. And then, of course, momentum changes and then we grind out the result, and I think you need to be able to do that.

Naby Keita impressed while away at AFCON. Would you like to see him starting more?

I think he's been so unlucky. I think when he first came in he had to acclimatise to the Premier League. And then I think he did and I thought he was excellent, and then he got injured.

It's been stop-start but the ability is there. We've seen it. When he played against Manchester United earlier this season, you can see he's got ability. I think our midfield trio is as important as our front three.

I know our front three gets all the plaudits and I get that and I see why. But I think the three in midfield allow our front three and our fullbacks to do what they do and I think he plays a major part in that.

Who would you say is our strongest midfield three?

I think it's down to the game. I think sometimes as a player that kind of understands, I think sometimes we overlook technical abilities because there are other attributes of getting around a pitch, that supersede that.

We kind of do them a disservice by saying, 'oh, we just put three runners in to win the ball,' because when they do win the ball it keeps us ticking.

The middle three have to kind of do that groundwork because Robertson and Trent go forward and our front three do what they've got to do. It just depends on the team we're playing because sometimes you need legs in there, and then sometimes you need the guile of a Thiago to be able to break down a team.

What do you make of Harvey Elliott? How good can he be?

I played against him last year in the Championship and he was one that I wanted to kick up! I just couldn't get close to him and I was watching him from the bench and he was running it.

I love the fact that you're seeing confidence from him and as a player you can see the senior boys there trust him, they're happy to give him the ball. You know when things don't come off he goes again. So listen, he's really one for the future and he'll be like another new signing with an injection of energy and pace.

Do you think Liverpool should look to send more players out on loan to the EFL?

I'm a massive advocate for going out there and learning different styles and different environments. I'm massively for it. If you can stay at Liverpool and break into the first team without going on loan I salute you but I do feel like if you're not getting game time, and no u23s match can emulate a Championship fixture or League One fixture, you should go out and get experience.

It's good for them to come up against somebody like me so I can barge them in their back and hustle and tussle with them. I'm making them strong for the future, you know what I'm saying!

I'm a massive advocate for young bucks to go out and just learn. The U23s is technical, but at the end of the day, there's nothing really riding on it.

No matter what level you are, three points is three points so I think it should give you an extra drive and motivation and I'm a massive advocate for that.

Kaide Gordon is another talent, what do you make of him?

I watched him in the semi-final and I think the biggest thing, like all the young players, is the confidence they have to go on the pitch and play.

My strike partner's 20. I'm almost double his age, and I've got nothing but confidence when I play with him. I can give him my experience if he misses a chance but I've got nothing but confidence.

When a young player feels that it makes them feel seven feet tall, and that's what I get off these young bucks. And as long as they keep their head down and know that the work's just begun, I think with the likes of Hendo, Robertson, Trent VVD, Klopp, they won't allow them to get complacent. I do think the future's bright for Liverpool.

Diogo Jota has been excelling, how impressed have you been with his form?

I had to send him a message after the semi-final. I think nobody expected what he's doing but him.

I think he's a quiet, confident individual and I always felt that he knew he was going to go and cause a stir.

The talk would have been about him finding it tough to break into the front three but he's shown that inner drive to say, 'not only am I going to come to Liverpool, I'm going to come and break into the team.'

What I love is he's a small man but he puts himself about, he gets headers, he works, he scores goals.

I'm impressed, not just with what he's doing on the pitch, which is for everybody to see, but in a sense of how he's doing it. He's said 'I'm literally going to make a stir,' and that's what he's doing. What's good is he's made everyone up their game. I think complacency is the worst aspect of any footballer to come in. I'm not saying anybody was, but that competitive nature you can really see this season and long may it continue.

Champions League action returns this month against Inter Milan, how far can Liverpool go?

I actually think we're going to win the Champions League. I think Liverpool's team is kind of made for the Champions League. I still want us to win the Premier League, but I don't think there are many teams that Liverpool should fear [in the Champions League.]

Even though, of course, there are teams that are fearful. Everybody in this round is going to be considerably tough, but I'm not too worried about that tie and I think we will win the game.

Liverpool face Chelsea in the EFL Cup final at the end of February. What's your prediction and will the 2-2 at Stamford Bridge hold any bearing?

I think we'll learn from that. I do think Chelsea will be in a better position when we play them again. Hopefully, they'll still be in turmoil, and Lukaku will still be in turmoil, and I think we are good in the cup. I do think we'll win it 2-1.

Jurgen Klopp has suggested Caoimhin Kelleher will start the final over Alisson Becker. What are your thoughts on that call?

I think that you have to trust your squad.

There are no two ways about it; Kelleher knows he's number two. But I do think you trust your squad. And I think if you've got your number two goalie that's played the whole cup, you play him in the final.

I know there's talk about playing your strongest players, and Alisson is stronger, but at the same time, your squad is your squad and if Allison's not there, Kelleher's more than happy playing any league game, so why not reward him?

I'm cool with that, and if it were me where I had played in the cup because I don't play in the first team every week and then we got to the final, and the manager played a striker who scored more goals than me, I'd feel bad because I played the whole tournament so don't do me a disservice like that.

So I think it's the right choice for Klopp to do it. And I just think that he just keeps the whole harmony in the squad, and that's important.

Finally, next season sees the World Cup played in November. What are your thoughts on that and how could it impact Liverpool?

I'm a creature of habit and I'm old school.

I just think that it'll be mid-season, and players will have one eye on a World Cup and not wanting to get injured. So I feel that it will be a knock-on effect.

For me, the World Cup is played at the end of the season in the summer. It's not played in November time because it will muck up the fixtures. December has always been a tight-knit set of games.

I don't know how it's going to pan out, but from the outside looking in, I don't think it's a great idea. But hopefully, I'm proven wrong.

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