Michael Owen says Liverpool' are 'one of the best teams he has seen' ahead of Champions League tie

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They say 2-0 is a dangerous scoreline in football – one Jurgen Klopp will be mindful of as his Liverpool side take a healthy advantage into their Champions League last 16 second leg tie against Inter Milan. 

But former Reds star Michael Owen thinks their place in the quarter-finals of the competition is more or less a formality – believing the ‘experienced’ Merseysiders will prove too much for the Serie A giants at Anfield.

While Klopp insists he is taking nothing for granted, Owen is backing Liverpool to avoid a banana skin when Inter come to town, saying the tie is ‘close to being over’. 

Liverpool take on Inter Milan in the second leg of their Champions League clash this evening

Liverpool take on Inter Milan in the second leg of their Champions League clash this evening 

Former Liverpool legend Michael Owen sat down with Sportsmail to discuss the fixture

Former Liverpool legend Michael Owen sat down with Sportsmail to discuss the fixture

It wasn’t all easy work for the Reds – despite the scoreline – in the first leg. Liverpool were caught off guard during the first leg of their Champions League knockout tie, being kept on the back foot for long periods of the game. 

Ivan Perisic caused chaos down the left hand-side, while Arturo Vidal dominated central midfield.  

‘I was quite impressed with Inter Milan in the first leg I must say,’ Owen told Sportsmail. ‘I think Liverpool were probably flattened by them actually because there was not much in it for a large part.’

However, Owen said that Inter will struggle to redeem themselves at Anfield after describing Liverpool’s home ground is a ‘different kettle of fish’. 

Liverpool beat Inter Milan 2-0 away from home during the first leg of their clash (above)

Liverpool beat Inter Milan 2-0 away from home during the first leg of their clash (above) 

However, Inter Milan dominated spells of the game that took place earlier this month

However, Inter Milan dominated spells of the game that took place earlier this month 

Nevertheless, the 42-year-old did express some concern over Liverpool’s 2-0 advantage, saying it could cause tactical issues for Klopp. 

The former Liverpool star said: ‘Anfield is a different kettle of fish. Although, I think it’s difficult being 2-0 up. You never know whether to attack or defend. 

‘You start thinking about doing an overlap then you think hang on a minute, we don’t need to chase this game. You can be a little bit in two minds. 

‘But, Liverpool are so experienced and have had some great success in Europe so I don’t think they are going to have a problem. I am not saying it’s over, but it is very close to being over.’

Owen also expressed his delight at the availability within the Liverpool squad as the likes of Thiago Alcantara, Joel Matip and Roberto Firmino are set to return to the team for the Anfield clash.   

As someone who has struggled with injuries throughout his career, Owen said it was emotional to see Thiago sidelined ahead of Liverpool’s Carabao Cup final against Chelsea. 

The former Liverpool star says their 2-0 advantage over Inter may cause Klopp tactical issues

The former Liverpool star says their 2-0 advantage over Inter may cause Klopp tactical issues

The 30-year-old was due to start the fixture at Wembley but sustained an injury in the warm-up. As a result, Klopp was forced to make a last minute change. 

Thiago – who has not won a trophy since joining Liverpool in 2020 – was visibly upset. He was seen seen crying on the sidelines as Alisson consoled him. 

However, Thiago is set to return to the squad for Liverpool’s second leg tie against Inter. Owen admits it would be great to have such a ‘world class’ player back in the team but said Klopp can not ‘justify’ bringing him back unless he is 100 per cent fit. 

Speaking about Thiago’s potential return, Owen said: ‘It was really disappointing for Thiago during the first leg and you saw what it meant for him as well. 

‘The beauty for Jurgen Klopp at the moment is that he has virtually everyone fully fit. It’s an amazing thing to have especially when you have one trophy in your pocket already. 

‘To be in March and have a chance in all the rest of the competitions and more importantly than anything, you have all of your squad available to pick from. It’s an incredible position to be in and it’s a position that means he doesn’t have to risk anything. 

Owen said it was emotional seeing Thiago sidelined ahead of Liverpool's Carabao Cup final

Owen said it was emotional seeing Thiago sidelined ahead of Liverpool’s Carabao Cup final

Owen was also amazed at how quickly Harvey Elliott returned from his horror ankle injury

Owen was also amazed at how quickly Harvey Elliott returned from his horror ankle injury

‘You’re 2-0 up, you’ve got loads of players fit in the position. There is no point pushing him to come back if he’s not 100 per cent fit. 

‘But, it’s a lovely dilemma to have for Jurgen Klopp. It’s great to have a world class player back and available if he is fit. But, it’s not justified risking him and him getting another injury. 

‘If you said to him [Klopp] before the season that he would be in this position with all his players fit he would have been like yes please! It’s absolutely perfect but the big stuff starts now.’ 

Owen went on to praise Liverpool’s medical team for getting Harvey Elliott back on the pitch so quickly after the 18-year-old midfielder dislocated and fractured his ankle following a challenge from Pascal Struijk in the second half of Liverpool’s 3-0 win at Elland Road in September. 

He said: ‘I was shocked that Elliott got back so quickly. That was a really bad and nasty injury that he had. Now, of course, when you are young you heal very quickly. 

‘But it is amazing to see him back so soon. The Liverpool medical team and him himself need huge credit. 

The incident came in the second half of Liverpool's 3-0 win at Elland Road in September

The incident came in the second half of Liverpool’s 3-0 win at Elland Road in September

Owen was plagued by muscle injuries and retired from the game at just the age of 33

Owen was plagued by muscle injuries and retired from the game at just the age of 33

‘You think about the big injuries Liverpool have had to the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Elliott and they’ve got them back in really good time. That’s a huge feather in the cap of the Liverpool medical team.’ 

Owen also said he was excited to see what was to come of the young starlet. He told Sportsmail: ‘It’s good to see him back. His career was just beginning to fly before he got injured.

‘It was a really cruel time. But, he is back now and you couldn’t pick a more perfect time to come back with all the big games on the horizon.’    

Reflecting on his own injury dilemmas, Owen previously said: ‘Of course I had injuries and no way am I going to sit back and say I didn’t. 

‘I saw a stat a couple of years ago when they wrote down a stat that had myself, Rooney, Scholes, Gerrard and all these players of that generation. 

‘By the time I was about 22 I had played double the amount of games as all of them. Yet everyone always say I was always injured. 

‘I played loads when I was younger. Problem with my career was that I got injured late on and I was average later on in my career. So, people tend to remember that. 

Owen said he was always been compared to the like of Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney

Owen said he was always been compared to the like of Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney

‘Once I did my hamstring once it was gone. I changed my game. I was someone who scored goals like I did against Argentina, who beat players, used my pace, crossed the ball. That’s who I was. 

‘However, for the final seven years of my career I turned into the only thing I could. I was petrified of sprinting. I knew I was going to tear a muscle.  

‘The worst thing about it all, your instinct says what you’ve always done, I was bred to be a footballer. Worst thing ever, Macca (Steve McManaman) gets the ball and then I think “oh no, you can’t, don’t, come off short”.  

‘You have lost everything. All I did at the end of my career for six or seven years, I hated it. I couldn’t wait to retire at the back end of my career because I wasn’t me.’  

Nevertheless, Owen is excited to see what comes of this current Liverpool team. He believes they are a ‘once in a life time squad’ that are currently ‘on top of the world’. 

‘You have a team that is on top of the world. They’re collecting trophies, they’re a once in a life-time kind of team. 

‘For a 40-year-old, this is it. You’ve heard of the teams of the past, now this is it. You are living your absolute dream for the last few years and you’re hoping it’s going to last for a few more years. 

Owen is excited to see what comes of this current 'world class' Liverpool team

Owen is excited to see what comes of this current ‘world class’ Liverpool team

He says the fact they already have one trophy in their pocket this season is a promising sign

He says the fact they already have one trophy in their pocket this season is a promising sign 

‘We’ve all seen teams in cycles and this might be it for a while. You never know. Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp have got to make it last for another two, three, four, five years and continue this dominance.

‘They need to collect as many trophies in this period of time as this isn’t the norm. This as a Liverpool fan, this isn’t a once in a life-time chance but this is close to it. It’s one of the best teams I have ever seen in my life.’     

The Champions League trophy eluded Owen during his time at Liverpool. He left the club in 2004 to join Real Madrid in pursuit of the European silverware. 

However, just 12 months after he departed Anfield… Liverpool claimed the Champions League honours after beating AC Milan at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium. 

When asked whether he held any resentment against Liverpool because of that, Owen chuckled.

He said: ‘Thanks for reminding me of that! It’s great, but don’t get me wrong – I sit in a strange position. I am a former player and a supporter now but I also work in the game now and cover every single game they play. 

‘You turn into a little bit of a fan yourself, so obviously I am delighted to see my team – who I supported for a lot of my youth and obviously went on to play for – do so well.’ 

Owen missed out on the Champions League title in 2005 when he moved to Real Madrid

Owen missed out on the Champions League title in 2005 when he moved to Real Madrid 

However, Owen thinks it is too early to speak about winning a historic quadruple – something no English team has ever managed. 

Manchester United came close in 1999, with a unprecedented Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League treble, but were knocked out of the quarter-finals of the League Cup. 

When asked whether he thought Liverpool had what it takes to make history and claim all four awards, Owen said: ‘I personally think it is still bit early.

‘I am the first one to get excited about things that could happen in the future, but when I heard people talking about winning all four I thought wow that’s a bit early. 

‘It’s going to be a real challenge to catch Manchester City. Listen, it’s on and it’s a possibility. 

‘Klopp’s got a full squad as I mentioned and he couldn’t be in a better position to do it and he’s already got one trophy in his pocket but I still want three more weeks until I starting talking to my friends about it in the pub.’

Owen says he wants manager Jurgen Klopp (above) to stay at Liverpool for as long as possible

Owen says he wants manager Jurgen Klopp (above) to stay at Liverpool for as long as possible

He then hopes Steven Gerrard (above) seamlessly takes over from the German manager

He then hopes Steven Gerrard (above) seamlessly takes over from the German manager 

Owen credited Klopp for Liverpool’s rise to success over the last couple of years. He believes the German manager is responsible for getting the club into a position that allows people to talk about the historic quadruple. 

He would like Klopp to remain as the manager for the next 10 years to ensure Liverpool pick up ‘as many trophies’ as possible. However, just like all Liverpool fans, Owen is worried Klopp may bow out in 2024.  

Klopp recently confirmed his plans to leave the Premier League giants in 2024 and said he would only extend his contract if he had ‘the energy’ to take on the challenge.   

Sportsmail asked Owen who he would like to see stepping into Klopp’s shoes. Answering with a smile on his face, Owen said: ‘The obvious successor is Steven Gerrard isn’t it. 

‘I think every Liverpool fan wants Jurgen Klopp to stay as long as possible. Then in an ideal world that’s another five or 10 years and by that time Gerrard will be ready to take over. 

‘That is simply what 99.9 per cent of Liverpool fans want to see happen. I am pretty sure of it. 

‘Hopefully Jurgen stays for as long as possible and I mean as long as possible and hopefully Stevie does a great job at Aston Villa and it is a seamless transition that he takes over. Five, six, even eight years is probably what Liverpool fans want.’  

BT Sport is the exclusive home of UEFA Champions League football. Watch Liverpool v Inter Milan on Tuesday 8th March from 7pm live on BT Sport 2, online and on the BT Sport app. For more info, visit btsport.com 

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