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.
The Reds defender will be banned for the first leg at Anfield but will be back for the return leg at the Allianz Arena three weeks later as the Reds look to reach the quarter-finals.
Robben, meanwhile, is currently sidelined with a thigh injury and has not played since bagging a brace in Bayern’s 5-1 Champions League win over Benfica back in November – although he is expected to be back in action over the next few weeks.
But when quizzed about the man who took over from him as Holland captain, Robben had mixed views on the former Southampton star.
“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.”
As for the tie itself, Robben is dreading facing Liverpool again, having been knocked out of the competition by the Reds with Chelsea in the semi-finals in 2005 and 2007 andwith Real Madrid in the round-of-16 in 2009.
He added: “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 as 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.”
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