Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Champions League Final Preview, Prediction

Champions League Final
AC Milan-Liverpool
Athens, Greece
11.45 a.m. PST, ESPN2

What a difference a year makes. Last year was dubbed "The People's Final", as two generally well liked teams known for playing stylish, attacking, Joga Bonito football, Arsenal and Barcelona, battled for the trophy with the big ears. A year later and for many fans this is bit like a political election, where they are choosing who to root for based on which team they dislike less. At least it's not as bad a last weekend's FA Cup final, which was contested by the two most hated clubs in England, and hell, probably the world.

The fact that Milan are even in the competition, let alone here in the final, is a major problem for many, myself included, which would make me want Liverpool to win, since way back in the quarterfinals I noted that while I was basically neutral about them I disliked the other 7 teams with varying levels of intensity. The trick is that Milan, when on song, play much prettier football than do Liverpool, and in Kaka they have one of the top 5 players in the world who also is very hard not to like and pull for. So it's a bit tricky.

So on general principle I suppose I want Liverpool to win their 6th European Cup and prevent Milan from winning their 7th. So there it is: "Come on you thieving scousers, beat those cheating Italians!"

My prediction, however, is different. I'm thinking 2-0 to Mee-lan will be the result.

The focus of most will be on each team's best player, Liverpool's Gerrard and Milan's Kaka, and their ability to assert their will and boss the game. I think that the game will be won or lost in central midfield, specifically who will win the battle between Milan's Gattuso/Pirlo, and whomever Liverpool goes with from Gerrard/Alonso/Sissoko/Mascherano. Gerrard will probably be deployed wide right, a position he really dislikes and rarely bosses matches from, so it should be very interesting. Note also that both goalkeepers are very good but also prone to blunders...

Whatever happens, I just hope that the match is entertaining for us neutrals, unlike the horrid display put on in the FA Cup final by Chel$ea & ManUtd.


Michael said...

You're calling Milan cheaters and then link an article in which the evidence against Milan is described as follows:

"Milan had a consultant who made idle boasts to linesmen."

"It seems commonly accepted that in Milan’s case there was no systematic attempt to influence games on an on-going basis. In fact, their 'attempt' was a bit comical given that the focus was on an assistant referee."

A little overwrought, no?

Kanu said...

A fair point, although Bobbeh does go on to say:

"I do not believe they should have been reinstated to the Champions League and I hope that UEFA refuse to accept their nomination." {although as we later learned UEFA did not have the power to refuse a CL nomination}.

But still a fair point, so allow me to add:

It has been a bit of an open secret the throughout history Italy's 2 biggest clubs, AC Milan and Juve, have not only enjoyed massive success but also been the fortunate beneficiaries of referee decisions thought to be caused by bribes, and it is generally accepted that this is the case. The times are few and far between that hard evidence comes about, and I would speculate that this is due to pervasive cultural/societal attitudes in Italy that damn near condone cheating as well as the avoidance of any accountability of one's untoward actions.

Specifically, AC Milan were one of 2 main players in the last huge bribery/corruption/match fixing in Italian soccer in 1980 and were relegated to Serie B:

Then you have their owner & president, one Silvio Berlusconi, whose history of bribery and corruption is so vast that in addition to his Wikipedia article, there is an entirely seperate Wikipedia article that covers only "Trials Involving Silvio Berlusconi", most of which involve bribery and corruption:

Do any of those involve AC Milan? Nope. But that is the man who has owned and run the club since 1986, which should tell you something.

Additionally, AC Milan's vice president and CEO, Adriano Galliani, also serves as president of Serie A, which is a horribly compromised conflict of interest. At best.

I was also lumping into "Italian cheaters" the Italian soccer authorities who kept reducing the penalties until Milan could get in- I wonder if they were influenced by Berlusconi and Galliani? For more on this see Marcotti's article:

My original laziness may have been overwrought, but this certainly is not.

Thanks for forcing me to be more thorough.