By Simon Evans
LIVERPOOL, England (Reuters) – Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren is ready for the challenge of stopping Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo in Saturday’s Champions League final but says that task will have to be a team effort.
Ronaldo scored twice in last season’s final, a 4-1 victory over Juventus, and the prolific Portuguese forward is the only player to have scored in three Champions League finals.
Lovren believes Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, who has scored 44 goals in all competitions, can be placed in the world’s top three players alongside Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
“Ronaldo, Salah, Messi, you need to respect these players a lot and (Ronaldo) is already (proven) in this kind of game, 12-15 years, every year he scores more than 30 goals, even if he has a bad season he scores 30 goals,” Lovren told reporters.
“But we play in the Premier League against the best strikers in the world and we know how to defend like a team. We will stop him together. In some parts of the game it will be one against one and it will be tough but it is a challenge that I will be ready for,” the Croatian said.
Ronaldo has scored 15 goals in the Champions League this season and became the first player to net in all six group games. He also struck in each leg of both the last 16 and the quarter-final, although he failed to find the target in the semis.
Lovren has quietly established himself as the main central defensive partner for Virgil van Dijk, who joined the club from Southampton in January and the pair have added much-needed solidity.
It will be the 28-year-old Croat’s first Champions League final.
“It is a dream come true for everyone. I always dreamed to be in the Champions League final and I dreamed one day to lift the trophy,” he said.
“We have the biggest chance in our lives. For some of us, maybe it’s the only one, for some of us many more hopefully, but we need to be proud of ourselves.
“We really deserve to be in the final, and hopefully in many years we can say to our kids and family that we did our best and won the trophy. We have nothing to lose. We will give our best, everyone is fit and ready and we can’t wait to start.”
(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond)