Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah have a Real Madrid revenge mission to fulfill
Mohamed Salah has been talking revenge lately. His Liverpool side are set to take on Real Madrid this weekend to determine this season’s Champions League winners, and the Egyptian looks keen to claim victory this time around.
After losing to the Spanish giants in Kyiv in 2017/18, Salah wants to right past wrongs and one of his team-mates could do the same. In Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool have a player who will surely be tested on Saturday evening.
In the semi-finals, Manchester City offered a preview of what the Scouse defender will face. Pep Guardiola’s outfit seemed destined to progress, but then everything changed.
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After 90 minutes of football, the Etihad side looked comfortable. The only threat posed by the Spanish champions appeared to come from Vinicius Junior, who regularly engaged in one-on-one battles whenever he gained possession down the left flank.
In six minutes of utter chaos, Madrid managed to score three times. Two Rodrygo goals and a Karim Benzema penalty secured victory, meaning they took the place to face Jurgen Klopp’s men in Paris at the weekend.
Liverpool’s recent performances suggest they are the better team heading into the fight, but the danger from Vinicius in particular will need to be considered if the Reds are to claim their seventh Champions League crown.
Throughout Madrid’s first leg at the Etihad, Vinicius has been a thorn in Guardiola’s side. With Kyle Walker unable to play and John Stones out with an injury, the Brazilian striker faced Fernandinho for most of the match.
Now 37, the defensive midfielder struggled as a right-back and simply wasn’t mobile enough to handle the quick Vinicius, who scored in the 55th minute.
Guardiola was happy to have Walker back for the second leg, but even he ran into trouble in his attempts to contain his direct opponent, leaving the field with an injury in the 72nd minute.
The 21-year-old striker received 11 progressive passes, more than double the amount posted by any of his teammates, and he also featured 10 progressive runs, ahead of second-placed Fede Valverde in seven.
These numbers show what an outlet Vinicius was for his team as a wide receiver, and he played similarly under Carlo Ancelotti all year.
In Europe’s top five leagues this season, no player has made more runs into the penalty area than him, and only two have made more dribbles: Allan Saint-Maximin and Kylian Mbappe.
Given his preferred position on the left, it’s reasonable to suggest Alexander-Arnold will have a job to do in Paris.
He has faced the Madrid trickster before. Last season, the pair met in two Champions League matches without fans in the stadiums, with Vinicius causing big problems in Spain by scoring two of his side’s three goals.
Regularly, Madrid seemed to target Alexander-Arnold by playing aerial balls in his direction, often behind Klopp’s defensive line to take advantage of the pace Vinicius was setting.
The Reds full-back’s performance was much better in the second leg at Anfield, but Liverpool failed to score and ended up being knocked out of the competition.
This time around, Alexander-Arnold will have Joel Matip or Ibrahima Konate at his side rather than Nat Phillips. Jordan Henderson will likely support him from midfield and the battle will take place in a neutral venue.
If Klopp can find a way to keep the Madrid talisman quiet at the Stade de France, Liverpool may well lift their favorite silverware once again.