Champions League: Trent Alexander-Arnold confident Liverpool will cope with pressure of being holders

Alam Khan - Reporter 01:40 17/09/2019
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Trent Alexander-Arnold insists Liverpool can handle the pressure of being European champions as they set about trying to retain the trophy.

The right-back knows the Reds have a target on their back after their Champions League triumph in June against Tottenham.

Liverpool open their defence on Tuesday night in Italy against Napoli, a side they also faced in last season’s group stage.

“We’ve probably got a big target on our backs now because we are European champions,” said Alexander-Arnold, whose side lead the Premier League by five points with five wins from the first five games.

“Everyone wants to beat us. We’re the team to beat right now so it’s exciting for us.

“We need to try and defend the honour as much as possible and try and retain it if we can.

“A lot of the players that we have are world-class players, they know what it takes to win things, what it takes to be successful, so I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to embrace that as a team. I think we have so far this season in the Premier League.

“We obviously know that last season we did so well so this season we’re up there again. But we need to be ready for all types of tests.”

Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli will certainly pose a tough test. The Serie A side beat them 1-0, through a late Lorenzo Insigne goal, in this corresponding fixture last season.

It was a below-par performance that Kop manager Jurgen Klopp described as their “worst” in Europe.

“It was a tough game,” recalled Alexander-Arnold. “We were really stretched as a side, we weren’t defending properly. We just weren’t organised at all.

“We really struggled to get to grips with the game and we were punished late doors. We probably thought that we’d done enough to get the point.

“With the last five minutes to go, you’re probably thinking ‘we’ve got away with one here’ and then you switch off for a minute, and they creep in with a last-minute goal and you’re gutted you’re going home with no points.

“It’s one of those we’ll learn from it, we’ll push forward and hopefully go there and be able to get a better result than we did last year.

“We know that being able to keep clean sheets and being able to win games away from home are massively important – especially in the Champions League when you’ve probably only got one or two chances to beat teams and get results.

“You’re playing in Europe’s elite, you’re going to get less chances than what you do in the Premier League so it’s about maximising those chances and minimalising the opposition.”

Napoli also beat the Reds 3-0 in a pre-season friendly in Edinburgh where Insigne shone and Alexander-Arnold, 20, knows they have to beware the industrious and inventive Italian frontman.

“He’s a great player, probably a little bit underrated in terms of the respect and the plaudits that he gets,” said the England international.

“But he’s a real fantastic player. I think his team-mates will say the same and the people that come up against him will say how tricky he is to actually nullify. He’s a good player, they’ve got many a good player and we need to be ready for that.

“He’s someone who really helps them play football, understands the way that they want to play, really encourages the team to play out, able to hit [it to] him and he’ll be able to hold the ball up.

“He’s a really tricky player, really strong, fast, quite agile. He’s kind of like Eden Hazard I’d say, that type of player who is tricky to get hold of and mark. Coming up against him’s always a tough test, but they’re the things that you expect in the Champions League.”

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