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Bradley: Sterling my toughest opponent

At the age of 20 Conor Bradley is living his dream.

The boyhood Liverpool fan has made a stunning impact in the first team this season, scoring a first senior goal, winning a trophy and producing a series of excellent displays when Trent Alexander-Arnold has been injured.

Sunday was a rare setback, a last gasp extra-time defeat against Manchester United in the FA Cup the only disappointment in an otherwise faultless breakthrough campaign.

Bradley has not left Manchester. After the game on Sunday he met up with Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland side as they trained at Manchester City – surely the only Liverpool player allowed to set foot in the backyard of their title rivals! Club football can take a back seat for the time being as he looks to add to his 13 caps.

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Liverpool youngsters Bobby Clark and Bradley explain the impact that Jurgen Klopp has had on them in their short careers.

“It’s probably good to have the international break,” Bradley told Sky Sports News from the team hotel.

“It was obviously a good game and just unfortunate that we lost. The break has come at a good time.

“All the boys can go their separate ways and hopefully most of us get a couple of wins – apart from Scotland,” he joked.

Scotland is the second of an away friendly double-header for Northern Ireland. Bradley will first face Romania in Bucharest on Friday before going directly up against one of his mentors, Andy Robertson, at Hampden Park.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League clash between Liverpool and Manchester City.

“We’re both looking forward to it,” he said. “Hopefully it’ll be a good battle and I’ll get the better of it!

“Andy has been brilliant with me since I came into the Liverpool squad. He’s helped me through it and has given me little tips before games that help settle any nerves. I think we’ll both do 13 or 14 kilometres,” he adds when it’s pointed out it could be quite an energetic head-to-head!

The best bit of advice from Robertson?

Liverpool's Conor Bradley, left, is challenged by Manchester United's Alejandro Garnacho
Image: Bradley, left, is challenged by Manchester United’s Alejandro Garnacho

“He keeps battering me about consistency. Keep doing the same things every day and every game. I’ve been trying to do that. I want to have as many good games as I can. I think I’ve been doing that pretty well recently but I need to keep it going.”

The grounded young player has impressed with his energy and attacking qualities, but defensively he has also faced a number of experienced wingers and attacking players. So who is the toughest opponent he has faced in his senior career to date?

“Raheem Sterling,” Bradley says almost instantly.

Liverpool's Conor Bradley, foreground, controls the ball as Manchester City's Bernardo Silva tries to stop him
Image: Bradley up against Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva

“I also found Willian tough when I played against Fulham. At international level we played against Greece and Kostas Tsimikas gave me a tough night.”

Bradley is back with Northern Ireland where he first made his senior breakthrough. Jurgen Klopp once joked that only a few “nerds” had heard of him back then, but his Liverpool performances have propelled him to a different level. He’s taking it all in his stride.

“I live out of the way a bit so I haven’t seen too many Liverpool fans about. I’m sure the next time I go home (to Northern Ireland) it might be a bit different!

“I probably didn’t expect [to make this impact] to that extent. I dreamed of it but it’s been brilliant. Every game I go out there I just try to give my best for the team. If I can keep that up I’ll be doing alright.

Conor Bradley is embraced by Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp
Image: Bradley is embraced by Liverpool manager Klopp

“I think it’s hard [to sum up his impact]. We’ll see at the end of the season and see how many trophies we have. It was tough at the start because of my back injury in pre-season but the trophy was brilliant. I’m buzzing and hopefully it continues.”

So what about his international ambitions?

“To have 13 caps is quite special for me. I just want to keep going. Hopefully I can get my first goal for Northern Ireland.

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Klopp says he loved Bradley from the first time he saw him

“We’re desperate to get to a major tournament and it would be so special for us. We know how hard it’ll be to get there, especially as the last campaign didn’t go as we wanted, but I think we’ve a good group of players.

“It’s like a new campaign and these friendlies, along with June, are a good guide for us. We want to win more games, as the last campaign we didn’t win enough.

“Romania and Scotland will be a good test for us. They’re nations similar to us and they’ve done well to get to the Euros. Qualifying is something we’ll be looking to do in years to come.”

Northern Ireland beat Denmark 2-0 last time out to offer a glimpse of the potential in this young squad. For Bradley, achieving the consistency team-mate Robertson has mastered should ensure a bright future ahead for club and country.

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