Jordan Henderson insists Liverpool are ready to embrace the pressure of needing to 'deliver each and every matchday' as they prepare to resume their Champions League campaign tonight.
The Reds welcome Bayern Munich to Anfield for the first leg of the last-16 encounter as they aim to seize an early advantage ahead of their journey to the Allianz Arena for the return in three weeks’ time.
Following the conclusion of this evening’s game, Liverpool’s attentions will return to domestic matters as they aim to return to the top of the Premier League table when they take on Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday.
And even though there is plenty at stake in the coming week – and indeed, the months to come – Henderson is adamant Jürgen Klopp’s side are ready to embrace it.
He wrote in his column for the official matchday programme: "If a fixture sums up why we want to be playing in the Champions League season after season, it’s one like tonight’s. Bayern Munich, coming to Anfield in the knockout stages, can’t help but get the juices flowing for the team and Liverpool supporters alike. I’m sure it’s the same for our visitors.
"It’s not about finding a game like this ‘exciting’ because as pros we view it differently to excitement. It’s about opportunity – it’s about loving pitching yourself against the very best. Bayern are a team of winners – winning is in their DNA as a club. They’re a club who are used to being successful domestically and more often than not are always involved in the Champions League’s very latter stages, so when this competition starts each season they’ll fancy themselves as potential winners of it.
"They’re a squad packed with experience and top-class quality, a club for whom we have the utmost respect. We know how tough a challenge they will pose us over the course of these two legs. But I think that we made a statement in the last campaign about what the European Cup means to us and how we don’t bend the knee to anyone else in it.
"We go into every round with only one outcome in our minds and that’s us getting through. People talk about us being ‘the surprise package’ last season, because when we started with the qualifiers most people wouldn’t have predicted we’d go all the way to the final.
"But in our dressing room we don’t put any cap on our own expectations. This season there has been external discussion about whether we should prioritise certain comps over others. Whether there is more pressure to deliver in certain comps over others. Again, one place that discussion has not happened is at Melwood. There’s no need to prioritise so we don’t.
"We need to have the attitude in each and every game that the priority is to win. It’s that simple: just go out there and give everything you have to win. If you start thinking ‘we’d sooner win this, or that’ then you’ll end up failing. If you give yourself an excuse you’ll end up with nothing. We look for and take no excuses. Ever.
"Personally speaking, I like the pressure of thinking we have to deliver each and every time we take to the pitch on a matchday. There are no free swings when you play for Liverpool and nor should there be. No-one here wants to be the underdog or the outsider – all of our team want expectation always because it means you’re performing at the highest level.
"The Champions League is a comp that brings the sharpest focus, because in club football terms it is the biggest stage. We’ve got loads of big games coming up domestically but they have zero impact on our thoughts or preparations for this one. We also know how much tonight means to our supporters, how European occasions at Anfield are part of the fabric of this club. We know as players that when we take to the field tonight, the atmosphere will be incredible and it never fails to give us all that bit extra. The home games and the atmospheres generated by Liverpool supporters were absolutely fundamental in us reaching the final last season and I’ve no doubt if we’re to achieve something in this tournament this season, then they will be yet again.
"We all saw the part the fans played in the win over Bournemouth. It was something we spoke about in our post-match interviews, within the dressing room afterwards and over the course of the days that followed. Your support helped make a difference and we know it’ll be the same again tonight. We, as a squad, genuinely see it as a collective effort. We know the power of Anfield."
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