Bengaluru, January 10: Former Dutch winger Arjen Robben has played down suggestions Virgil van Dijk is the best defender in the world ahead of Liverpool’s Champions League round-of-16 clash with Bayern Munich next month, but he believes Jurgen Klopp’s side are one of the favourites to win the competition this year.
The Reds defender is suspended for the first leg at Anfield on February 19, but will be available to lock horns with his compatriot in the second leg three weeks later when the two sides meet at the Allianz Arena.
Meanwhile, Robben is currently sidelined with a thigh injury and hasn’t played since scoring a brace in Bayern’s 5-1 Champions League win over Benfica back in November, but is expected to return to fitness in the coming weeks.
Robben, who is a compatriot to Dutch national team skipper van Dijk, offered something of a backhanded compliment when quizzed about the centre-back.
The 34-year-old admitted he remains wary of lining up against the man who replaced him as Netherlands skipper.
And having lost out to Liverpool in Europe before, with Chelsea in the semi-finals in 2005 and 2007 and Real Madrid in the round-of-16 in 2009, Robben dreads facing the Reds again, labelling them as favourites to win the competition this season.
“I do not know if he is the best defender in the world,” Robben said at a recent press conference.
“Other people are allowed to judge that, but I’m happy for him. He has made big strides lately, just look where he comes from.
“He has grown as a player, but also as a personality, I am happy for him, where he is at the moment. He is a key player at a gigantic club, and he is the captain of the Dutch national team. He deserves all the compliments.”
He continued: “Liverpool is doing well again, just like last year when they made it to the final, and I also see them as a favourite for the Champions League victory this season.
”For us, it was perhaps the worst possible draw, but it’s going to be a great challenge, we have to look at ourselves, keep working hard and improve ourselves. If we have a good day and play the way we want, I’m sure we’ll make it very difficult for Liverpool.”