Bayern Munich defender Mats Hummels has played down Liverpool’s “favourites” tag and is relishing the chance to play at Anfield.
The Bavarians will lock horns with Liverpool in the Champions League Round of 16 first leg at Anfield on Tuesday.
Are Liverpool favourites? Five key things to know…
- Liverpool reached the Champions League final last season and are looking even stronger this campaign.
- Jurgen Klopp has strengthened his defence, midfield and goalkeeper over the summer and the Reds sit joint-top in the Premier League.
- Meanwhile Bayern are in transition under Niko Kovac and have looked unconvincing at times.
- Bayern scored more goals (15) and conceded less (5) than Liverpool (9 and 7) in the group stages, albeit against weaker opposition.
- The Bavarians have welcomed back Manuel Neuer from injury while the Reds will be without Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez.
Klopp is facing an injury crisis ahead of the blockbuster clash, with Van Dijk suspended for one match due to picking up three booking in the group stages, while Gomez has failed to recover in time after fracturing his leg in December.
Elsewhere Dejan Lovren was absent from Liverpool’s recent warm-weather training camp in Marbella on Spain’s Costa del Sol, while the versatile Fabinho has a minor muscle problem.
However, Hummels believes the match on Tuesday night will be an “awesome challenge” and insists – despite injury concern – Liverpool are a “top team”, and is unconcerned with their “favourites” tag.
Speaking on FC Bayern TV he said: “Liverpool are an absolute top team. I don’t care if anyone says they’re the favourites.
Subscribe to Squawka’s Youtube channel: sqwk.at/Squawka-Sub
“There is no benefit from being the favourite and no advantage going into the game as underdogs either.
“Liverpool is a truly amazing team. There’s a reason they made it to last season’s final and that they’re top of the Premier League right now.
“You have to fight hard [at Anfield] for 90 minutes our you lose. It’s an awesome challenge.”
Hummels’ centre-back partner Niklas Sule also spoke of his excitement towards the prospect of taking on the five-time European champions at one of the most iconic grounds in world football.
He said: “We’re very excited about the game. It’s an incredible chance for us to show what kind of team we are.
“This season we’ve gone through plenty of highs and lows already and this duel offers us the opportunity to prove to everyone that we’re a force to be reckoned with.”
Robben: ‘Anfield the worst stadium for me’
Ahead of the match Arjen Robben was giving his thoughts on the mouthwatering fixture on Merseyside, but unlike Hummels and Sule, who are chomping at the bit to play at Anfield, Robben made clear he has less than fond memories of the stadium.
During his formative years as a Chelsea winger, the Dutchman was on the wrong end of a Champions League semi-final defeat against eventual winners Liverpool in the 2004/05 season, while he was part of the same result at the same stage of the competition in 2006/07.
Speaking to The Guardian, he said: “I think, if you ask [about] the worst stadium for me, it’s probably Liverpool.
“You always have your favourite opponent and there always has to be a negative one.”