Milan's tainted season could end in a blaze of glory
AC Milan, whose participation in the Champions League was in serious doubt at the beginning of the season, could finish the campaign as European Cup winners for the seventh time on Wednesday.india Updated: May 23, 2007 14:40 IST
AC Milan, whose participation in the Champions League was in serious doubt at the beginning of the season, could finish the campaign as European Cup winners for the seventh time on Wednesday.
Victory over Liverpool at the Olympic Stadium would not only avenge their defeat to the English club in the 2005 final but also bring their season to a glorious finale after such a tainted start.
Milan were embroiled in the Italian match-fixing scandal of last year and punished by the authorities with a points deduction that cost them their automatic Champions League place after finishing second in the Serie A table.
UEFA were reluctant to allow them entry into the Champions League qualifying round last July but eventually agreed to their participation after deciding they had no legal grounds on which to ban them.
Milan have taken full advantage of their reprieve, advancing from the third qualifying round to the final -- and at times playing some superb football along the way.
They are now just one match away from bringing the biggest prize in European club soccer back to Italy, who lifted the World Cup in Germany last July.
Liverpool, though, will have other ideas and are bidding to win the European Cup for the sixth time after their epic penalty shootout victory over Milan in Istanbul in 2005.
That final is regarded as one of the greatest matches ever played with Liverpool coming back from a 3-0 halftime deficit to draw 3-3 and win the match on penalties, but their coach Rafael Benitez warned fans not to expect another six-goal thriller.
He foresees a tight, closely fought game, but joked on Tuesday that he expected that in 2005 and was completely wrong.
Many of the players involved two years ago will be playing again on Wednesday with Paolo Maldini, Milan's captain, expected to become the oldest outfield player ever to appear in the final at the age of 38.
A veteran of seven previous finals he will equal the all-time record of eight final appearances established by Francisco Gento of Real Madrid in 1966 if he plays in what would be a record-extending 168th European match for his club.