AC Milan, Liverpool gear up for Champions Final

On the eve of the 2005 Champions League final, players from AC Milan and Liverpool FC made their first appearance at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium

updated: February 25, 2007 10:52 IST
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On the eve of the 2005 Champions League final, players from AC Milan and Liverpool FC made their first appearance at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul. Having surrendered the Serie A title to Juventus, AC Milan will be looking to finish their season on a high with victory in the Champions League. Defensive lynchpin Paolo Maldini is hoping to win Europe's premier club title for a fifth time. If Milan are victorious in the Turkish capital then Milan's left back would become only the fourth player to do so. Carlo Ancelotti's side, who won the Champions League in 2003, will be looking for a solid performance from their defence. With Ukrainian Andriy Shevchenko in the side, Milan will be more than capable of grabbing what could be a vital goal. The European footballer of the year has scored 108 times in 179 Serie A matches and his accuracy could prove to be the difference between the two sides. Wednesday's final will be the tenth time that the Milan have competed for the European Cup. Having already overcome rivals Inter, Manchester United and PSV Eindhoven in the knockout stages, Milan will have little to fear on the night. Brazilian international Kaka may have to produce a magic trick or two in his first major European final if Milan are to break down a resilient Liverpool defence, though, and the Rossoneri will be without the services of Massimo Ambrosini, who scored the vital away goal in the semi-final win over PSV. Nothing to lose With a disappointing domestic campaign now behind them, Liverpool have nothing to lose as they contest the European Cup for a sixth time. Rafael Benitez's shrewd tactics have taken the Reds to the brink of another European success, but captain Steven Gerrard will have to put in a commanding performance if Liverpool are to get the better of their illustrious opponents. Liverpool go into the game as underdogs, but they have flourished from a similar position in the knockout stages, with Juventus and Chelsea both struggling to breach Jerzy Dudek's goal. The Reds are likely to play with a single striker up front, so either Djibril Cisse or Euro 2004 golden boot winner Milan Baros are going to be left on the bench. With Sami Hyypia lining up alongside Jamie Carragher, Liverpool's defence are more than capable of repelling Milan's strike force. But it is in midfield that Liverpool will have to make their mark and with Xavi Alonso prompting their attacks, Benitez's side will hope to be able to match Milan in the centre of the pitch. With both sides comfortable in defence, goals may come at a premium and the prospect of a goalless draw is a realistic one. Milan's last Champions League victory came after a successful penalty shootout win over Juventus, and it wouldn't be a great surprise if Wednesday's final was also decided on spot kicks. (AP)