AT 32, Liverpool captain John Barnes is very much the Leader of the Pack - of Anfield's Brat Pack that is. With the experienced England international now settled into a deeper midfield role, the new generation of Liverpool heroes are all around him in the likes of Robbie Fowler (21), Steve McManaman (24) and Jamie Redknapp (23). Liverpool won the last of their record 18 league championships in 1989-90, when it was called the First Division, but many feel this could be the season when the Merseyside club move back to the top. After six matches, they lead the Premiership and tomorrow take on Ruud Gullit's Chelsea at Anfield in the Match of the Day. In an exclusive interview with Premier Soccer, Barnes said: 'It's nice to be top but it doesn't mean too much at this stage of the season. 'We've only played six games and haven't found any consistency yet, although we played very well in the second half at Leicester last Sunday to win 3-0. 'If we can maintain that kind of form we should be up there challenging for the rest of the season. 'Chelsea are an attractive team . . . so it has all the makings of a good, open, attacking game. 'Glenn Hoddle began the Chelsea revolution by signing Ruud Gullit and Gullit has been given the financial backing to build on that by signing the likes of Vialli, Di Matteo and Leboeuf. 'They have a good team but seem to lack a bit of strength in depth.' Barnes was a key figure in Liverpool's most recent championship success in a line-up which also included Bruce Grobbelaar, Alan Hansen, Ian Rush, Peter Beardsley, Steve Nicol, Steve McMahon and Ronnie Whelan. Although the new Liverpool side is also packed with talent, Barnes said it was impossible to compare the two squads. 'In 1990 we won the league with a group of very experienced players,' he continued. 'With experience comes consistency - and this team is possibly four years away from fulfilling its potential . . . now we are still coming out of a period of transition. 'Potentially, though, this squad can be as good as the 1990 championship-winning team.' Barnes gave a rundown on the three young players who are making such an impact on the Premiership. 'Robbie Fowler - He is the new Ian Rush, one of the best goal-scorers around and with a big future. If he keeps his head down and keeps fit, there is no reason why he cannot go on and break the club's scoring record. 'Steve McManaman - Anyone who saw Euro '96 knows why he is regarded as the best dribbler in the country. He has great awareness and is an excellent crosser of the ball . . . the Stanley Matthews of his generation. 'Jamie Redknapp - He is fit again now and is a very consistent performer. He is a natural leader and has the potential to be a future England captain. I would liken him to Bryan Robson, up and down in the midfield.' Although Barnes is happy to talk about his Anfield Brat Pack, he is quick to emphasise the team comes first. 'I am much more interested in a team point of view because it's the team that wins, not individual players. 'I have learned a lot from Ajax, who have achieved great success as a team without the spotlight falling on one or two star players. 'It's inevitable that some players get more glory than others but the most important thing is the team. That is how football works - and I am happy to be just a cog in the wheel.' Barnes, born in Jamaica, began his career with Watford in 1981 and had six seasons at Vicarage Road before moving to Anfield in 1987. He made his name as an elegant left-winger - earning the nickname of 'Tarmac' (the black Heighway) on the Kop - but is now the team's elder statesman, captain and conductor of the new Mersey beat. His current contract has two years to run and, despite the fact he turns 33 on November 7, he feels he has another three or four years of Premiership football left in him. 'Ray Wilkins was still playing at 38,' he added. By then - and by Barnes' reckoning - the current Liverpool team will be just reaching fruition.