Liverpool: At just 19 years of age, Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold faces a daunting task of stopping five-time World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo in Saturday’s Champions League final in Kiev.
But the fresh-faced right back isn’t overawed by the prospect and believes he can even expose Ronaldo’s own weaknesses.
A whirlwind season for Alexander-Arnold was capped by a call-up to England’s World Cup squad despite not having yet made his debut for the senior national side.
He has been just one of a number of success stories of Jurgen Klopp’s management to end an 11-year wait for Liverpool to reach a Champions League final.
The gulf in experience couldn’t be greater in the Ukranian capital, though, as Real aim for a fourth European Cup in five seasons. Ronaldo is going for his fifth Champions League winner’s medal having also lifted the trophy with Manchester United in 2008.
Yet, despite classing the competition’s all-time leading scorer as “one of the best players ever”, Alexander-Arnold is still confident the Portuguese can be shut down by an improving Liverpool defence.
“Obviously it will be,” he said when asked if facing Ronaldo is the biggest challenge of his young career.
“He’s one of the best players ever. He’s done unbelievable things in the game, but he’s got weaknesses as well, as every player has.
“On Saturday we’ll try to exploit them and stop him from doing what he does best, to stop him from scoring.”
World class reserves
Alexander-Arnold is likely to have his hands full with Madrid left-back Marcelo also marauding forward down his flank.
The Brazilian scored in Madrid’s first leg semi-final win over Bayern Munich and set up Real’s opening goal scored by Karim Benzema in the second leg against the Germans.
However, Marcelo is also often exposed defensively with Bayern right back Joshua Kimmich scoring in both legs of the semi-final and could leave space to be exploited by Liverpool’s own 44-goal marksman Mohammad Salah.
“It is not just a one man team either,” added Alexander-Arnold. “They’ve got other threats too and unbelievable squad depth.
“Even coming off the bench they’ve got world class players so it will be tough for everyone on the pitch and everyone will have the task of a direct opponent who is world class. It will be tough, but we’re excited for it.”
Born in West Derby, a stone’s throw from Liverpool’s Melwood training ground, Alexander-Arnold is living the dream having graduated from the club’s academy to break through into the first team.
He also scored the first of Liverpool’s 46 goals in the Champions League this season way back in August in a playoff against Hoffenheim just to make the group stages.
Alexander-Arnold hailed the role Klopp has had in his development, and insists he isn’t distracted by the fact he will be headed to Russia with England hot on the heels of Saturday’s final.
“It’s down to my teammates and everyone who has helped me get better, the manager, everyone in the background that’s helped me,” he added.
“We’ve all pushed forward as a group and got better over the course of the season. It’s exciting times over the next few weeks, but the focus is on Saturday.”