In a repeat of the 2005 and 2007 finals, Liverpool and Milan go head to head on Wednesday night in their first match each of the Champions League this season. It promises to be an exciting clash between two European heavyweights in a competitive group.
Liverpool beat Milan in unforgettable circumstances to win the competition in 2005. However, they suffered heartbreak in the final two years later. Since then, though, both clubs have endured a whole range of ups and downs.
It is Liverpool who have been stronger in the more recent past. Since Milan last played in the Champions League (in 2013-14), Jurgen Klopp’s side have reached the final on two further occasions, losing in 2018 and winning in 2019.
Therefore, despite their stature as one of Europe’s biggest clubs, Milan may be something of an unknown quantity at the elite level again.
There are, of course, some familiar faces among their ranks, including ex-Chelsea trio Fikayo Tomori, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Olivier Giroud. Their talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic is unavailable, though.
Even so, they have plenty of players capable of causing problems for Liverpool. However, one former Premier League striker has explained why Milan may be playing into their opponents’ hands.
Chris Sutton told the Daily Mail the battle between the two defences is the most intriguing aspect of the game. But the way Milan approach it could be exactly what Liverpool want.
He said: “AC Milan have kept seven clean sheets since the start of May — the most of any club in Europe’s elite leagues. Liverpool have kept six — the second most.
“These are two airtight defences that meet at Anfield on Wednesday. At Liverpool there’s competition now to be Virgil van Dijk’s partner. Joel Matip has started every game this season, but Joe Gomez and Ibrahima Konate are keen and waiting for their chances to make that position their own.
“Defensively that confidence is coming back for Jurgen Klopp’s side. It cost them last season when Van Dijk was out. But now he is back and so is that ‘thou shalt not pass’ belief.
“Milan’s Alessio Romagnoli and Fikayo Tomori didn’t give Serie A top scorer Ciro Immobile an inch in their 2-0 win over Lazio on Sunday. But Romagnoli said afterwards that playing a very high line was key to that victory. That would play into Liverpool’s hands if they apply the same strategy tonight.
“Klopp’s attackers love it when opponents leave them space in behind. Mohamed Salah looked like he was loving his football against Leeds, and Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota are huge threats when hanging on opponents’ shoulders all the same.”
Milan danger men named
Sutton listed Sandro Tonali, Franck Kessie, Ismael Bennacer, Alexis Saelemaekers, Samu Castillejo and Bakayoko as players who can help Milan in possession.
But it is further forward where they will be really looking to hurt Liverpool and test a defence that has answered many challenges so far.
The pundit added: “We all know what a handful Olivier Giroud can be, with the Frenchman now available again after testing positive for Covid, and so too the rapid Ante Rebic.
“Liverpool should beware these visitors. Milan are a talented bunch and they know it. So let’s see if they can back up the talk at Anfield and go toe to toe.”
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