Trent Alexander-Arnold faces his foe Vinicius Jr once again, as Liverpool take on Real Madrid in the Champion League | The Sun

TRENT Alexander-Arnold can be forgiven if he suffers an attack of pre-match nerves before the Champions League clash at home to Real Madrid. It’s that man again.

Once more he has to pit his defensive skills – not the strongest part of his game – against the attacking threat of Vinicius Junior.

Alexander-Arnold will need no reminding of how things turned out in both of the last two seasons.

In April of 2021 Liverpool travelled to Spain to meet Real in the first leg of the quarter final. Wonderfully supplied by Tony Kroos, Vinicius ran riot, scoring twice in the 3-1 win which Liverpool proved unable to peg back at Anfield.

And then last year in Paris they met again, this time in the final. Liverpool had the better of the game.

But at one end Thibaut Courtois was in magnificent form in goal for Real, while at the other it was Vinicius who proved the difference, scoring the only goal of the match.

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Six years ago it seemed like madness when Real paid over £40 million for a 16 year old Brazilian winger who had yet to make his senior professional debut.

Looking back, it now comes across as a bargain. Of course it was a gamble.

No one can predict with precision how such a youngster will develop as a player and as a person – especially when, after the age of 18, he has to go through a potentially awkward transition into adulthood in a different culture on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

But it has proved to be a move that has changed the market, making European clubs even keener to sign up South American adolescents.

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Real have already snapped up Endrick of Palmeiras, another 16 year old sensation, who will be making his way to Spain in the middle of next year when he hits the 18 mark.

In the case of Vinicius it clearly helps that he comes across as so calm and mature.

He has found himself at the centre of disgraceful scenes of racism, and in the face of inexcusable scenes – rival fans went as far as to depict a large Vinicius doll being lynched – he has retained his focus and his dignity.

It helps, of course, that he is so well able to give his answer on the field. His displays have been outstanding. He has been given a task – to get behind the opposing defence down the left flank and both set up and score goals.

The relationship with centre forward Karim Benzema has not always been straightforward. But the experience and quality of the French striker have clearly eased his progress, and Vinicius has also done remarkably well to come up with the combination of precision at pace.

It is no easy task to be accurate at the speed he is moving, especially as his strongest foot is the right one. But his crossing and his finishing keep getting better.

Liverpool will hope to protect Alexander-Arnold by winning the battle higher up the pitch.

Jurgen Klopp’s midfield has shown signs of rejuvenation, and will seek to deny the likes of Kroos and Luka Modric the time on the ball to bring Vinicius into the game – hence the importance of Uruguayan midfielder Federico Valverde as the most dynamic force that Real possess – and Valverde is increasingly a target for pulled back crosses from Vinicius as he bursts into the box.

If Liverpool’s gameplan works out and they are able to impose themselves on proceedings, then Alexander-Arnold should be able to show off his outstanding attacking quality.

But however effective the Liverpool press, there will surely be some point in the game when Vinicius gets away, and Alexander-Arnold will have to strive to catch him.

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A yellow card will be bad news for the Liverpool right back – perhaps tinged with just the slightest bit of relief.

It will mean that Alexander-Arnold is suspended for the second leg in the Bernabeu.

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