Liverpool vs Napoli: Dries Mertens mocks iconic ‘This is Anfield’ tunnel sign ahead of Champions League decider

The Belgian admits he was underwhelmed by his last visit to Anfield but knows it will be louder this time around

Tuesday 11 December 2018 14:30
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Napoli star Dries Mertens has risked riling Liverpool supporters by mocking the club’s iconic ‘This is Anfield’ tunnel sign ahead of Tuesday’s vital Champions League showdown between the teams.

Liverpool must beat Napoli 1-0 or by two clear goals at home to be sure of progressing to the tournament’s knockout stage, and the high stakes surrounding the match have led many to predict another classic European night at Anfield.

Mertens, however, is not intimidated by the stadium’s fabled atmosphere, having been underwhelmed by it on his previous visit for a meaningless Europa League group stage match against Liverpool when he was a promising youngster with Dutch side Utrecht in 2010.

“My strongest memory is that they have a sign saying ‘This is Anfield’ and everyone was talking about it, so I was thinking it’s very big, you know,” he said in an interview with The Times. “I came through the tunnel and I asked, ‘Where is the thing?’ and they said you missed it and I hadn’t noticed it. So, in the second half, I’m looking at this small thing and asking, ‘Is this so special?’”

Mertens knows Tuesday’s match will be very different, given that Champions League progress is in the balance for both teams, but insists that his experience in Naples – a city every bit as passionate about football – has left him well prepared to shine in a cauldron of noise and pressure.

Mertens has blossomed into one of Europe's most dangerous finishers at Napoli

“Football in Italy is crazy and the people are very crazy too so I think we are used to it,” he added. “For me, it will push me to a different level, these are the nights we want to play.”

Napoli lie second in Serie A after 15 matches, eight points adrift of leaders Juventus, with Mertens registering seven goals and four assists in 14 appearances under new coach Carlo Ancelotti.

After playing as a winger for the majority of his career, Mertens was deployed as a striker by Ancelotti’s predecessor Maurizio Sarri and blossomed into one of the most dangerous finishers in European football, netting 46 goals in 73 Serie A appearances in the Italian’s final two seasons before leaving to take over at Chelsea.

“Sarri does not have an off button,” the Belgian added. “I think he sleeps one hour a night and he is always thinking about football. Maybe because he had less time because he arrived late in the game and he is playing catch-up? I learnt a lot from him.

“I love it here [at Napoli] but maybe in one year, I’m free [from my contract], so maybe you never know, maybe Sarri is going to call me. We will see.”

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