John Aldridge: Liverpool must show no fear when Cristiano Ronaldo tries to intimidate them
CRISTIANO Ronaldo has the ability to win the Champions League final on his own for Real Madrid tonight – and Liverpool have to make sure they stop him in his tracks.
I remember when Ronaldo first came to Manchester United and most of us wrote him off as a show-pony who would never make it to the top, but he quickly banished those first impressions.
While I remain on Lionel Messi’s side in the debate over which of these two great players are the best of this generation, Ronaldo’s achievements at United and Real Madrid are just incredible and any time you feel like he is on the wane, he comes up with a performance to remind you how great he is.
Between them, Messi and Ronaldo have scored close to 1200 goals and in an era of the game where defences are so well drilled and in most of their matches, the opposition have set out with plans to stop these icons every week.
When you consider all those factors, the consistency of their brilliance for a decade and more has been quite amazing.
Real Madrid have relied on Ronaldo to get them through big games for as long as any of us can remember and that is why I expect their coach Zinedine Zidane to encourage his star man to attack young Trent Alexander-Arnold and put him under real pressure.
A master like Ronaldo has a real presence that can intimidate opponents and they he will look at a teenage full-back and fancy his chances of getting at him, but Liverpool should be ready for that and young Trent has to be able to deal with it.
He has come out in the media and suggested he is excited about the prospect of playing against one of the best players of all-time in this Champions League final and that is the right attitude to have.
In fact, that is the attitude all the Liverpool players should have tomorrow evening.
Don’t fear the prospect of a Champions League final and instead look at it as a night when your career can be defined, the one game that can turn you into a hero forever more.
I would love to have played in a European Cup final during my time at Liverpool and the great First Division title winning team we had in the 1987/88 season would have had a real chance of winning the ultimate prize in club football were it not for the ban on English clubs denying us our chance to compete.
Klopp’s players are lucky to be at the club at a time when a team have gelled together wonderfully well and there is no reason why they can’t now be crowned as champions of Europe.
Liverpool are wonderful to watch, score goals against anyone and have an X Factor all winning teams need, yet I know from personal experience that you can never predict what might happen in a final.
My memories of the 1988 FA Cup final against Wimbledon are painful reminder of how things can go horribly wrong when you least expect it, with the sands of time only slightly dulling my pain after that horrible defeat.
I didn’t see any way that a bang average Wimbledon team could trouble us going into that game at Wembley 30 years ago, but they were clever with their tactics that stopped us from playing and got the little bit of luck they needed to grind out a 1-0 win. Then I look at the 2005 Champions League final in Istanbul, when Liverpool came from 3-0 down at half-time against AC Milan to pull off the most incredible win we will ever see in a final of that magnitude.
Once again, Liverpool needed more than a few strokes of luck to come through that game with a win and Klopp’s side will require more of the same if they are to add to the wonderful history of the club with a sixth European Cup win.
Liverpool are good enough to win this final, but the best teams don’t always win the big cup finals, so Klopp and his players have to do all they can to make their own luck as they prepare for a night that will define their careers.