Trent Alexander-Arnold has been impressed by Vinicius Junior in Real Madrid’s run to the Champions League final, but says Liverpool have a plan to deal with the Brazilian.
Vinicius has been directly involved in 37 goals for Madrid in all competitions this season, a tally that includes three goals and six assists in the Champions League.
With those nine goal contributions, Vinicius is one short of becoming the first South American player 21 or under to be involved in 10 or more since Lionel Messi in the 2008-09 campaign.
While it may be Karim Benzema who is at the centre of much of the pre-match focus in Paris, Alexander-Arnold will be tasked with dealing directly with Vinicius down Madrid’s left.
Asked ahead of Saturday’s showpiece at the Stade de France how he intends to go about stopping Vinicius, Alexander-Arnold said: “You expect to come up against the best.
“There will be battles all over the pitch; we have game plans for everyone we face.
“As for Vinicius, he’s an exciting player to watch, but we have a job to do as a collective and as individuals. There are individual battles, but it’s the team that wins.”
Alexander-Arnold is set to start his third Champions League final, which would see him surpass the record for the youngest to do so, held by Bayern Munich’s Thomas Muller (23y, 245d). Alexander-Arnold will be 23 years and 233 days old on Saturday.
The England international has started 46 games for Liverpool this season – only Virgil van Dijk (50) and Alisson (53) have been used from the beginning more often.
The most recent of Alexander-Arnold’s starts came in last Sunday’s 3-1 win against Wolves, which was not enough to prevent Manchester City from pipping the Reds to the Premier League title.
Despite the dream of a quadruple being ended, Alexander-Arnold insists that loss will not linger over Liverpool in the French capital.
“Not at all. We’ve put that behind us,” he said. “We have the experience this season to focus on the competition we have ahead of us.
“For us, we’ve found it useful to ignore other competitions. Whatever has happened before last week, yes it was disappointing and hard to take, but you put it behind you.
“We have a Champions League final to prepare for and what better way to make up for it by coming to Paris and an amazing venue to win the best competition in the world.”
Andy Robertson will almost certainly be selected on the opposite flank to Alexander-Arnold, with the left-back himself playing a huge part in the Reds’ latest European run.
Liverpool are playing their 63rd game of the season – no side in Europe’s top five leagues will have played more – having gone all the way in winning the FA Cup and EFL Cup.
Indeed, the last side from across the Premier League, LaLiga, Ligue 1, Serie A and Bundesliga to play more times in all competitions were Manchester United in 2016-17 (64 games).
Madrid have played 55 matches, meanwhile, and sealed the LaLiga title with four matches to spare, allowing Carlo Ancelotti to heavily rotate in recent weeks.
A message from one of our European Cup winning captains pic.twitter.com/wUphNI1eDg
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 27, 2022
But Robertson is adamant that fatigue will not be an issue for his side against the Spanish champions.
“They’ve obviously had a bit more relaxed preparation and wrapped up their league two or three weeks ago,” Robertson said.
“They’ve maybe not played as many games and at a high tempo. We knew how hard our run was going to be on our bodies, but we’re in the best possible shape.
“We’ve come through a lot and yes we’ve had injuries and problems, but the lads are fully fit. It’s important we take the competitive nature of a tough season into the last game.
“Real have had a fantastic season winning the league and being in incredible games in the Champions League, they’ve been a joy to watch.
“We have to stand in their way. Our fans demand a lot this season and we want to win it for them.”