Trent Alexander-Arnold’s battle with Vinicius Jr. could decide the 2021/22 Champions League

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Can Trent Alexander-Arnold cope with flying winger Vinicius Jnr? Will Mo Salah light up a big final at last? and is there any stopping Karim Benzema in front of goal? Six burning issues that will decide the Champions League final

  • Here, Sportsmail looks at the key battles ahead of the Champions League final
  • Trent Alexander-Arnold’s duty of marking Vinicius Jr promises to be exciting
  • Mo Salah has said he seeks vengeance and could look to light up another final
  • Number nine Karim Benzema has been superb this season for Real Madrid

Liverpool and Real Madrid meet once again in tonight’s final and it is a classic match-up.

With the two sides knowing each other well from their previous encounter in the 2017/18 Champions League final, and their meeting last season, the fixture promises to be an exciting affair.

Here, Sportsmail looks at the key issues and decisive battles that will decide the contest at the Stade de France.

Liverpool and Real Madrid will meet in the Champions League final on Saturday night

Liverpool and Real Madrid will meet in the Champions League final on Saturday night

Madrid’s fresh legs to give reds the runaround?

Real Madrid have not played a competitive match of significance for three and a half weeks. Liverpool have been foot to the floor in pursuit of four trophies. Real clinched La Liga with a 4-0 win over Espanyol on April 30. They then beat Manchester City in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final a few days later.

Carlo Ancelotti has been using his stars in dead rubbers since then but it remains to be seen whether they can get their competitive juices flowing again against a Liverpool team who have been at full tilt in every game.

Liverpool left back Andy Robertson said yesterday: ‘They have had a relaxed preparation and have been able to play at a lesser tempo. We wanted to fight for everything and it’s been hard on our bodies but we are in the best shape. ‘

Real Madrid could have an advantage over Liverpool having rested in recent weeks

Real Madrid could have an advantage over Liverpool having rested in recent weeks

Will Salah light up a big final at last?

Without a doubt, Salah remains Liverpool’s most dangerous player. Despite the contributions of Luis Diaz, Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota this season, the Egyptian is the forward in the Liverpool ranks who Real will worry about the most.

Having left the field injured in the 2018 loss to Real, Salah scored an early penalty against Spurs a year later. But he was not able to hit his peak in either game and comes into this one short of form.

Watching Salah come on as a substitute last Sunday against Wolves was to see a snapshot of his recent issues. For once in his career, Salah seems to lack a little confidence. But he still managed to score…

Can Trent cope with the Flying Brazilian?

Of all the problems Real caused City in their incredible semi-final, nobody presented more than winger Vinicius Jnr. Only 21, the Brazilian is raw but his speed and directness make him a dangerous weapon.

Tonight the marking job falls to Trent Alexander-Arnold. Questions have been asked of Alexander-Arnold’s defending and Vinicius troubled him when Liverpool lost in Madrid in last season’s quarter-final.

Trent Alexander-Arnold (L) and Vinicius Jr (R) pictured battling for possession last season

Trent Alexander-Arnold (L) and Vinicius Jr (R) pictured battling for possession last season

Former Liverpool and Real winger Steve McManaman said this week: ‘It’s an area Real can exploit because Trent likes to go forward. Liverpool will have to watch that ball into space. ‘

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Alexander-Arnold said: ‘There will be battles all over the pitch. We have a game plan. ‘

Will Benzema keep his prolific run going?

The Frenchman will play in front of a home crowd who continue to be split over him. What is not in doubt is the impact he has had on this competition.

The Real striker has scored 15 goals in the Champions League this season, including hat-tricks against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea and two in that see-saw first leg game against City at the Etihad.

So Benzema’s form is sensational but whether he can carry that threat when up against a central defender of the caliber of Virgil van Dijk is another matter. Benzema, 34, can run hot and cold and Van Dijk’s regular defensive partner Joel Matip said this week: ‘We have faced a lot of good players in the past and we will try to defend him as a team. It is nothing to be afraid of. We are prepared. ‘

Karim Benzema is the leading goal scorer in the Champions League this year - with 15 goals

Karim Benzema is the leading goal scorer in the Champions League this year – with 15 goals

Is Bayern’s move for Mane a distraction?

Jurgen Klopp was sanguine about this yesterday. ‘It’s not the first time before a deciding game for me that Bayern Munich have come up,’ he said with a raised eyebrow.

‘I am not sure why that happens but no problem at all. Wherever Sadio plays next season he will be a big player. Definitely. ‘ Mane has been cryptic about his future in the past few days and we can be sure Klopp is not as relaxed about the intentions of one of his star players as he makes out.

But the thing about footballers is that they are capable of putting things like this to the backs of their minds and playing as though their lives depend on it.

Mane is a free and natural footballer and also a ferocious competitor. It would be a huge surprise if he did not bring his best to this game.

Are Liverpool better than when Real beat them in 2017/18?

Mo Salah was forced off through injury in the CL final against Madrid back in 2018

Mo Salah was forced off through injury in the CL final against Madrid back in 2018

Yes, without a doubt. There was a telling comment from Klopp this week when talking about Salah, injured in that game. ‘We could not replace him that night,’ he said.

In Kyiv, Adam Lallana came on for the Egyptian while the other substitute that night as they chased the game was Emre Can for James Milner. These days, Liverpool’s attacking reserves are much deeper.

Jota, Diaz and Roberto Firmino would be certain starters in most teams in Europe. ‘You have to learn to win,’ said Klopp last night. ‘But the boys have developed enormously in the last years.’

It is hard to disagree.

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