Arsenal youngster vows he’s ready for toughest test yet ahead of Haaland clash

Daniel Ballard is preparing to face one of the hottest strikers in Europe on Monday – despite never having played for club side Arsenal.

The Gunners youngster, 19, made his international debut for Northern Ireland on Friday in their 1-1 draw with Romania.

And he is set to follow that up with another appearance for his country in a tough showdown with Borussia Dortmund's Norwegian hotshot Erling Haaland.

Should the centre-back feature in the Nations League clash it will be only his fifth senior competitive appearance, but he is relishing the chance to test his wits against one of football's brightest prospects.

"I will be looking forward to Monday now (against Norway)," Ballard told reporters. "If I have to face the best players in the world I will be ready. I am up for the challenges."

He'll certainly have his work cut out against Haaland, who netted 44 times in 40 appearances last season.

But Ballard will no doubt have been buoyed by his own performance in the clash with Romania, where he helped Ireland to a well-earned point despite them being down to 10 men.

"It was probably one of the proudest moments of my life so far, definitely," Ballard said. "I was quite nervous going into the game. I knew the occasion and what it means to play for Northern Ireland.

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"I just tried to settle into the game and do the simple things. We wanted the three points, but the circumstances made it difficult.

"But I am just so proud to get something out of the game. It was a tough game and I really enjoyed it."

Ballard's only other senior appearances came on loan at Swindon Town before a knee injury cut his time their short.

Arsenal are yet to make a decision on whether to send him out on loan again, but for now Ballard's thoughts are focused on the task at hand with Haaaland.

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