Milan's Vengeance Is Liverpool's Danger
And so it has come to pass. The Champions League final brings us Chelsea and Manchester United, the two great forces currently in Engl....ehhh...Manchester United and Liverpool, the two greatest names in the history of Engl...huh? Oh, right...Liverpool and... AC Milan? Ok then...ah yes! Revenge for Istanbul, the Playback of the Comeback...ah, it'll do.
So plucky little Milan have battled their way amongst the English giants to grab a chance of glory, their up-and-at-'em Crazy Gang spirit carrying them all the way from the backwaters of Serie A to a place among Europe's big boys. See how they battle, the lovable rogue Gattuso, the heart-on-his-sleeve Nesta, the doe-eyed Kaka; what a story!
Okay, stop being a smart-arse. In the hours after Liverpool's victory over Chelsea on Tuesday night, the thought occurred about how little of the pre-semi-final ruminations and hypotheses took much notice of the strong chance of a Liverpool-Milan final, and the reprise of That Night In Istanbul Which Your Liverpool-Supporting Friends Can Work Into Any Conversation, Like, For Example, One About Your Favourite Sandwich, Which Would Go "Oh Yes Ham And Cheese, I Had One Of Those The Night Of The 2005 Champions League Final".
Obviously the nuclear cloud of hype surrounding the fact that three English sides were at the semi-final stage obliterated most reasoned consideration of much else (there's been a General Election called here you know. Yeah really. Bertie supports United doesn't he....you see how it works?).
Now that all other permutations are discounted, however, we can actually look at Liverpool v Milan, the 2007 version, and how it will be affected by That Night In Istanbul Which Your Liverpool-Supporting Friends Can Work Into Any Conversation, Like, For Example, One About Your Favourite Chocolate Bar, Which Would Go "Oh Yes Turkish Delight, That's What Liverpool Experienced After That Incredible Night In Istanbul".
Funniest thing - I heard a Liverpool supporter remark this morning that "he wouldn't mind losing to Milan." Now to say that sentence in the way he meant it, you must put the stress on the mind rather than the losing, and also place it in the context of making a comparison with the now-averted possibility of losing in the final to Manchester United (an occurence which would, of course, have led to a mass fleeing of Kopites in the direction of remote hermitages).
But still, where does the balance of motivation lie here? Milan, humiliated in 2005, can be personified by the rich, powerful man whose beautiful wife absconded with the gardener. Presented with the opportunity of visiting revenge on the randy horticulturalist, they can be forgiven for reaching for the pliers.
Liverpool have no such psychological fuel to burn in Athens on May 23rd. Indeed, subconsciously, if presented with the scenario in the previous paragraph, they might find themselves unzipping graciously.
This is not to suggest that Liverpool pilfered the coveted trophy on That Night In Istanbul Which etc., etc.,. On the contrary, although Milan left the windows open and the door unlocked, it wasn't burglary when Liverpool made off with the family silver, m'lud. Liverpool's comeback belongs to the ages because of the tactical adjustments made by their manager, the seizing of the moment by their captain and the rare presence of sport's magic spirits that evening.
All the same, you wouldn't be properly reared if you didn't feel a little guilty about what Milan endured two years ago, the magnitude of which you can calculate by simply inverting the joy Liverpool and their supporters experienced. Eeeek. So could Istanbul-guilt be Liverpool's downfall come Three Weeks Time In Athens?
Clearly Liverpool need to mine a new seam of motivational inspiration, like the abundant source that Jose Mourinho's disdain provided. What they need is some ill-timed, intemperate words from someone within the Milan camp.
Over to you Silvio...