In a repeat of the 2018 Champions League final, Liverpool go head to head with Real Madrid on Saturday night with ‘ol big ears’ on the line. There will be several intriguing battles out on the pitch, with both sides boasting some of the best talents in the world. Here’s a look at six key battles.

Trent Alexander-Arnold vs Vinicius Junior

This is the battle most neutrals are looking forward to. There is a lazy misconception around Trent’s defensive abilities. This was majorly fuelled by a trip to the Bernabeu last season for a quarter final tie, with the Reds struggling with a centre half injury crisis.

Vinicius got the better of Trent on the night and ruthlessly exposed the space in behind the fullback, and the lack of pace on the cover from the right sided centre back (Nat Phillips in this case). It was a true coming of age moment for the winger as he netted a brace to help Los Blancos to a 3-1 win.

Before that night, Vini was a frustrating player to watch, he had all the skill and ability but was desperately inconsistent with his end product. He’s been a man transformed since then and has been truly tremendous this season.

The 21 year old has been involved in 37 goals in 50 appearances (21 goals, 16 assists) and has developed a devastating partnership with Benzema. He is in the form of his life and will be confident of causing Trent problems again.

Trent will also look to cause damage going the other way. The 23 year old created the most chances (90) in the Premier League and will be looking to add to his astonishing tally of 20 goal contributions (2 goals, 18 assists) for the season.

He was defensively sound in previous Champions League finals when up against Ronaldo (2018) and Son (2019), so he can draw inspiration from those displays, not to mention keeping Vini quiet in the second leg last season. The winner of this battle could well win his side the trophy.

Luis Diaz vs Dani Carvajal

One matchup that isn’t generating as much talk is the one on Madrid’s right flank. In Luis Diaz, Liverpool have a player very similar to Vinicius Junior. The Colombian is a tricky customer, with his pace, trickery and dribbling ability making him a handful.

He showcased this ability when he came on at halftime against Villarreal to turn the game on its head. Juan Foyth and the Villarreal backline couldn’t live with him. He was named Man of the Match that night and was at it again in the FA Cup final against Chelsea.

He was once again the best player on the pitch as he did everything but score. He will be up against an experienced pro in Carvajal. The 30 year old has overcome some terrible injuries over the past few years to remain lol Madrid’s go to man in the right back position.

This battle could be as crucial as the one down the opposite side of the pitch. If Díaz is left one on one with the Spaniard international, he could find some joy down that side. He will have to be more clinical than he’s been in recent weeks however, and must also track Carvajal going the other way.

Virgil Van Dijk vs Karim Benzema

This is another huge showdown as the best centre back in the world comes up against the best centre forward. Virgil has enjoyed another outstanding season after recovering from the ACL injury that put him out for almost a year.

He was named Man of the Match in the 2019 final and will have to be at his best to keep Benzema under wraps. The Frenchman has been unstoppable all season long and is widely regarded as the favourite for this year’s Ballon d’Or award.

He won his first Pichichi this season with 27 goals in La Liga, and has netted a scarcely believable 15 goals in just 11 Champions League appearances. He’s in red hot form and is absolutely crucial to Madrid’s hopes of lifting number 14.

Sadio Mané vs Eder Militao

Since a switch to a more central role, Sadio Mané looks reborn. He is in great shape, having directly contributed to 10 goals in his last 12 starts (9 goals, 1 assist). He combines strength with excellent control in tight spaces when he drops deep as a false nine.

His pace and predatory instincts in and around the box need no mention. The man tasked with keeping him quiet is Brazilian Eder Militao. He’s got the pace and strength to match Sadio and will have to be on alert, especially if Alaba isn’t fit enough to start.

• Thiago Alcantara vs Luka Modric

The battle of the technicians. Should he be passed fit, Thiago will be up against the magnificent Croat. Both players approach the game with a certain grace and flair only the very best possess. Whether it’s an outside of the boot flick, or an eye of a needle pass, they’ve got it in their locker.

They aren’t slouches without the ball either. They can roll their sleeves up and hunt the ball down when they have to. You can’t help but feel the game could be won or lost in the middle of the park. These two are the best in the engine room for either side and will seek to dictate the game.

Mohamed Salah vs Ferland Mendy

Ever since Villarreal were seen off, Mohamed Salah has been calling out Real Madrid. He’s made it clear he has a score to settle, mainly due to how the last final against the Spanish champions went. Forced off with a dislocated shoulder, Salah had to watch on as his team lost 3-1.

It is tough talk for a player who has not been at his rip roaring best in recent months. You can never underestimate the Egyptian though, and he is coming into the final off the back of a Golden Boot clinching goal against Wolves (his first goal in over a month).

Salah has enjoyed another fantastic season, with his 13 league assists seeing him win the Playmaker award. He is confident he can be the match winner if his pre-match press conference is anything to go by.

He will be up against Ferland Mendy. The left back loves to bomb forward but will have to be watchful of Salah’s runs in behind. He has the pace to keep up and will have to make sure his concentration doesn’t drop for even a second.

Mo has heaped pressure on himself to perform on Saturday night. He is a big game player even if his personal record in finals isn’t great. This particular battle is another which could go a long way in deciding who ends the night victorious.



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