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DURACELL BUNNY

Liverpool’s full-backs have been brilliant but Jordi Alba is the king of his realm

Will the Reds get a taste of their own medicine at the Nou Camp?

Liverpool are not short of standout performers.

Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah are in contention for the Premier League Golden Boot while Virgil van Dijk debates the best placement for his PFA Player of the Year award.

But you could argue the Reds’ full-backs have been the most important component to their approach this season.

Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold have provided 24 assists between them in all club competitions in 2018/19 — NUMBERS, as the kids say.


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Worthy of their places in Team of the Year

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Worthy of their places in Team of the Year

Both have exhibited their outstanding crossing consistently and their eagerness to get forward has allowed Jurgen Klopp’s side to overwhelm opposition.

As a pair, they are unmatched.

But let’s not forget the standalone king of unadulterated full-back ambition — Jordi Alba.

Much has been made of Robertson’s impressive tally of 13 assists in all competitions, but the Scotsman is trailing in the Spaniard’s wake.

His best season yet?

Reuters
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His best season yet?

Alba has provided 14 assists this season and 25 since the start of 2017/18 — more than Luka Modric, David Silva, James Rodriguez, Paul Pogba and plenty more creators will global reputations.

Plenty for Lionel Messi, with whom he shares a telepathic connection.

Barcelona’s legendary No10 knows that if he drops the ball in behind the opposition’s right-back, Alba will invariably be there.

Just as Alba knows if he pulls the ball back to the penalty spot from the byline, Messi will be there to convert.

Simultaneously, Alba is a key member of Barca’s back four, who have improved defensively under Ernesto Valverde.

His freakish stamina is reminiscent of Cafu, who Sir Alex Ferguson once described as having ‘two hearts’ after witnessing the Brazilian sprint up and down the length of the pitch for 90 minutes against his Man United side.

Understanding

Getty - Contributor
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Understanding

It’s no wonder Alba sleeps so often.

In 2016, he revealed: “I sleep 12 to 13 at night. Then I nap for two, three or four hours more.”

He expends so much energy being omnipresent down Barca’s left flank, his body shuts down when he’s not on the field or the training to recharge.

Barcelona’s durable left-back has little regard for the archaic full-back.

For him, attack is the best form of defence, and his average position is higher than the majority of La Liga’s midfielders.

Liverpool will get a taste of their own medicine at the Nou Camp and it will be interesting to see how Alexander-Arnold copes with Alba’s unrelenting threat — he will surely need help from Geoginio Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson, or whoever plays furthest right of Liverpool’s three-man midfield.

TAA will once again be required to show maturity beyond his years

Getty - Contributor
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TAA will once again be required to show maturity beyond his years

The hosts’ advantage may also cause them problems.

Salah will wave Alba on by and wait to exploit the space (of which there is plenty at the Nou Camp) vacated by the Spaniard on the counter.

Similarly, Klopp and Robertson will have decide whether to leave Messi lurking when the Argentine’s free role takes him to the Scotsman’s territory.

Rarely do we see two pairs of attacking full-backs (auxiliary wingers) in direct competition.

Add in three free-scoring wide forwards (Salah, Messi and Mane) and the dynamics of tonight’s game are mouthwatering.

For Klopp and Valverde, it is a question of risk vs reward, or more aptly, a matter of courage.


NEXT: Mohamed Salah’s awards snub proves he’s the latest to suffer from Messi Syndrome™