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Benitez warns fans not to expect another thriller

sports Updated: May 23, 2007 15:14 IST
Mike Collett
Mike Collett

Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez warned fans not to expect another six-goal thriller when his side face AC Milan in the Champions League final for the second time in three seasons on Wednesday.

Two years ago Milan raced into a 3-0 halftime lead before Liverpool fought back to draw 3-3 then win the European Cup 3-2 on penalties in Istanbul.

In his last news conference on Tuesday before his side meet Milan again, Benitez, 47, joked: "Before the last final I was asked what I thought the score was going to be and I said 1-0, so what do I know.

"For me, that was (2005) the best final in the history of the competition," he told reporters.

"But I prefer to think that tomorrow's match is going to be very tough, very close and with not many goals. We also do not want to concede a goal in the first minute as we did last time."

Benitez said all his squad were fit and only midfielders Boudewijn Zenden and Momo Sissoko were slightly doubtful although he expected both to be fully fit by Wednesday.

Australian forward Harry Kewell, who missed most of the season because of injury but appeared in the last two league matches as a substitute, was also fit "and ready to play the whole match", he added.

No man-marking

While giving nothing away about his team selection, he said Liverpool would not man-mark Milan's dangerous Brazilian Kaka, whose brilliant first-half display in Istanbul two years ago was a major factor in Milan's initial superiority.

It was only when Benitez brought on Dietmar Hamann to limit Kaka's options in the second half that Liverpool began to impose themselves on the game.

Benitez said: "We cannot just worry about Kaka. Milan are a very good team, in defence, in midfield. But we must concentrate on our own game.

"Compared to two years ago we are stronger and have more experience. We have a stronger squad and better players."

Norwegian John-Arne Riise, one of nine men still in the Liverpool squad who started against Milan two years ago, said: "Obviously they want revenge for what happened two years ago.

"But we have done everything right to get to the final and we know what we have to do - go ahead and play our own game.

"I don't think we have a psychological advantage from two years ago, we are just focused on Wednesday."