Six months ago, no one would have expected Liverpool and AC Milan to be meeting Wednesday in Athens in a remake of their 2005 UEFA Champions
League final thriller. Liverpool and Milan had gone so far as to schedule a friendly game in Milan for their respective reserve teams. That game, of course, has been canceled as their "A" teams
square off in the 2007 UEFA Champions League final.
(TV: ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, live, Wednesday, 2:25 pm ET/11:25 am PT.)
AC Milan began the
2006-07 season in crisis as it was slapped with an eight-point penalty for the 2006-07 Serie A season because of its role in the widespread Italian match-fixing scandal. Liverpool, for its part,
was never in the hunt for the English Premier League title. But as has so often been the case in recent years, the finalists were allowed to concentrate on Europe's top competition without the
distraction of a domestic title race.
Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti
says the Rossoneri have used the controversy to its advantage.
we've done this time has been seen by a lot of people, including us, as something extraordinary -- to have got here after all the difficulties we've had to face," he said. "From a psychological
point of view, we are certainly very determined. We've done great things up to now -- and we want to finish this season in real style."
Milan has added incentive: revenge for its loss to
Liverpool two years ago on penalty kicks after blowing a 3-0 halftime lead.
"It still hurts, but I'm sure Liverpool know that they will never win a match like that again," said captain
, who is aiming to win his fifth European crown with Milan. "Now we've got a chance to write another great page in our history."
Milan's dominating performance against EPL champion Manchester United again gives it the edge going into Wednesday's final, according to Liverpool manager Rafa
"I would say they will be more difficult to beat this time," he said. "They have more balance, they have good, experienced defenders and are really strong in
midfield." Probable lineups: Liverpool:
25-Reina; 3-Finnan, 5-Agger, 23-Carragher, 6-Riise;
8-Gerrard, 20-Mascherano, 14-Xabi Alonso (or 16-Pennant), 32-Zenden; 15-Crouch, 18-Kuyt. AC Milan:
1-Dida; 44-Oddo, 13-Nesta, 3-Maldini, 18-Jankulovski;
8-Gattuso, 21-Pirlo, 23-Ambrosini, 10-Seedorf; 22-Kaka, 11-Gilardino. Referee:
Herbert Fandel (Germany).