Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Champions League Finals...back to the future...sort of

Two years after the epic Liverpool come back after being down 3-0 at half time, the same two squads meet tomorrow for the Champions League finals. This match up gives me a little bit of a bitter taste...why?

First, this is the Champions League, for European teams that have won their domestic leagues (at least the spirit is....which has long been squashed), and when is the last time Liverpool won the Premiership title? Anyone? Bueller?

1990! That was the last millennium....Gerrard was 10 years old.....Arsene Wenger was still managing Monaco......the fact that Liverpool has been so horrid in their domestic league and yet might win another champions league disgusts me a bit.

The second - AC Milan should not even be in the tournament! They were caught red handed in the match fixing that tarnished Italy last summer...yet after some last minute begging, pleading, and crying they were allowed back in and now are in the finals.

But enough of my rantings. Here are some thoughts on the game:

Goalkeepers: Recently Dida has shown why Brazil is know for producing offensive and creative players, not keepers. He is very shaky, did not look too good against Manchester United. Pepe has been quietly playing well for Liverpool, especially if they go to a shoot out.
Advantage - Liverpool

Defenders: Both teams are a little long in the tooth - Riise, Hyypia for Liverpool - Maldini, Cafu, Nesta for AC Milan. But both are loaded with experience. The key is Carragher and how well he controls the Milan strikers.
Advantage - Push (maybe a slight edge to Liverpool)

Midfield: This is where, no surprise, the game will be decided. Gerrard will have to contend with Gattuso, Kaka will have to contend with Mascherano. Which ever offensive midfielder gets the upper hand will hold the key. If Sissoko gets the green light this will tip the balance to Liverpool, however Seedorf will be a handful for Liverpool to handle. Assuming Sissoko is not 100% and Zenden is the man for Liverpool...AC Milan has the advantage
Advantage - AC Milan (unless Sissoko plays and is close to 100% in which case, Push)

Strikers: AC Milan has Inzaghi and Gilardino to play up front, both are deadly finishers. Liverpool has Kuyt, Bellamy and Crouch.....I have always been clear on my feelings for Crouch....I think that Inzaghi and Gilardino will give Liverpool more problems than the merry band from Liverpool. With Kaka and Seedorf feeding the strike force balls, Liverpool will be put in trouble, much like what happened when Arsenal trounced Liverpool earlier in the season. As for Liverpool, I know Crouch scores....still not sure how, but against a veteran defense he will be forced to play out of position and asked to beat defenders one on one. Kuyt is good, but more of a plodding striker and Bellamy is just as likely to get a red card for smacking a defender with a golf club as he is to score a brace....
Advantage - AC Milan

Bench: Much depends on who is healthy for Liverpool. But currently I give the advantage to AC Milan...barely. Neither team has tremendous depth. Liverpool may be able to look to Kewell for 20 minutes, but he has been shelved for so long this season not sure what to expect. AC Milan can turn to the youngster Gourcuff.
Advantage - Push

Manager: Both have experience at this level of the competition. Benetiz somehow knows how to win tournaments more than leagues.
Advantage - Push

Prediction: I think that we might see a cautious match between the two. Liverpool will look to play the counter attacking style that does well in single game formats. The one player that could change the game is Kaka, I don't think Gerrard is that style of player, especially if Sissoko is not available. Mascherano will give Kaka some difficulty, and the Liverpool defense is veteran. Neither team has strikers that instill too much fear in my heart. Finally, I have little faith in Dida and think he will cost his team....having said that -

Liverpool 2 - AC Milan 1 . . .

Crouch with a brace, just to spite me
Gattuso scores for Milan

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