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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Champions League final: Alexander-Arnold up to the challenge of trying to stop 'one of the best players ever' in Ronaldo

Liverpool defender, 19, says he will try and exploit weaknesses in Real Madrid's 450-goal forward

Trent Alexander-Arnold of Liverpool looks on during a training session at Anfield. Jan Kruger / Getty Images
Trent Alexander-Arnold of Liverpool looks on during a training session at Anfield. Jan Kruger / Getty Images

Trent Alexander-Arnold declared that Liverpool would try and exploit Cristiano Ronaldo’s weaknesses as he pronounced himself undaunted by the challenge of stopping one of the greatest footballers ever.

The 19-year-old defender made his Liverpool debut only 19 months ago but now finds himself marking the five-time Ballon d’Or winner and Real Madrid’s 450-goal record scorer in Saturday’s Uefa Champions League final in Kiev.

Ronaldo has scored in three Champions League finals – only Alfredo di Stefano, who found the net in five, can beat that – and is the competition’s leading scorer both in its history, with 120 goals, and in each of the past six seasons, with 15 so far this campaign.

And Alexander-Arnold accepted that facing him will be one of the biggest challenges of his fledgling career. “Yeah, I would say obviously it will be,” he said. “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 and stop him from scoring.”

The teenager admitted he is yet to pinpoint what Ronaldo’s weaknesses are, adding: “I'll watch videos of him and we'll see how we can get the better of Real Madrid all together.”

Alexander-Arnold earned rave reviews for his performance against Manchester City’s Leroy Sane in both legs of Liverpool’s quarter-final win, with an attack-minded player surprising many with his defensive excellence.

While he endured a tougher game in the second leg of the semi-final against Roma, he has ruled out copying other right-backs who have flourished against Ronaldo.

“No, I'm different to everyone else,” he said. “Everyone is different as a player. The only person I need to look at is him [Ronaldo]. To be able to know what he does and when he does it. To be able to know what he's going to do is the difficult thing. But it’s not just a one-man team. Everyone will have a direct opponent who is world class. It will be tough, but we’re excited for it.”

But Alexander-Arnold will be reassured by the presence of Virgil van Dijk in the back four, hailing the £75 million (Dh368m) man for his ability to organise the defence since his record-breaking move from Southampton in January.

“He's a leader, he takes control,” he explained. “He's really got authority. He always wants us to do better. He's a hard worker in the gym and on the training pitch and he tries to get better every day. On Saturday hopefully he does what he has done since he came in and has a really good game.”

But Alexander-Arnold’s breakthrough season will not end in Ukraine. The uncapped defender has forced his way into England’s World Cup squad, with Klopp breaking the news of his selection to him.

“It's exciting times,” he said. “It's down to my teammates and everyone who has helped me get better, the manager, everyone in the background that's helped me. We've all pushed forward as a group and got better over the course of the season.”

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More Champions League final coverage:

Ian Hawkey: History-chasers Real Madrid must be wary of pitfalls of winning three in a row

Zidane and Klopp: Cut from a different cloth as players and now as managers

Jurgen Klopp: What Liverpool lack in experience they will make up for in desire

Dejan Lovren: Mohamed Salah belongs in same company as Messi and Ronaldo

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