As hearts start to beat faster and the Champions League kick-off
grows nearer the fans aren't the only ones with that unique feeling you get before
a big game. It's a mixture of nerves and excitement that forces the body to
produce all manner of substances ending in "ine".
Confidence one hour about all the qualities in your team and
the weaknesses of your opponents are replaced shortly after with a long list of
concerns about the weaknesses in your team and the strengths in theirs.
And that's without the mind games the media persuade the
coaches and players to get drawn into.
Is Peter Crouch really worried about Milan as much as he
implies? Or is this just a psychological attempt to lull the other side into a
false sense of security?
He says he was impressed with their performance against
Manchester United in the semi-final. Maybe it's also an opportunity to rub
things in for the Mancs. Maybe he's nervous too. It's hard to tell at this
stage. "They were fantastic. I've not seen too many of their games this season
but against United they were different class. I know they're a class side, a
fantastic side, but United have been so consistent and the best team in England,
so for Milan to take them apart in the way they did at the San Siro was
eye-opening and made me more aware of what a good side they are."
Crouch then explains that what he means is that Liverpool
know it won't be an easy game, but they also know that some of the other
matches they played to get here weren't easy either: "We're certainly not
taking anything for granted. We know we're playing a top-class side and will
have our work cut out. But we've overturned Barcelona and Chelsea to get here
so why not Milan?"
The win over United for Milan may have impressed many
onlookers, but so did Liverpool's win over Barcelona, who were favourites to
retain the trophy they'd won in 2006: "I think it said a lot about the players.
It was a real test for us; Barcelona looked like the best team in Europe at
that time and we beat them over two legs. I don't think many people saw us
winning in the Nou Camp so it was a fantastic achievement to do that job."
He went on: "And if anybody thought that was lucky, then we
beat Chelsea as well, another fantastic side, to get to the final." Liverpool
had been underdogs in both games.
In the last final between these two sides Liverpool went 3-0
down in the first half. Crouch is hopeful that the current side are capable of
keeping their opponents out: "The starting point of our success is our
resilience. We are difficult to beat. We have a fantastic defence and all work
hard for each other to keep clean sheets, and that will always be the main
objective. But when we attack, we do attack. We went to Barcelona to win the
game and that proved to be the case."
The fact Rafa is looking for new strikers to add to the
squad says a lot about how Liverpool have squandered chances over the season,
but they have shown they can put those chances away: "We work for each other
but when we go forward we can score. We got three at PSV Eindhoven and two in
the Nou Camp. We've scored goals in this competition and we can do it when we
The quality of the defence might be making the attack look less
capable: "Maybe we don't get as much credit as we deserve attacking-wise
because our defence is so solid. But of course we were trying to beat Chelsea
at home after we'd scored. We had chances and could've scored a few times. Yes,
we try to keep a tight shape and work to keep a clean sheet, but we don't go
for 0-0. We try to score goals and win games and that's been the case
throughout the European campaign."
With everyone expecting another 3-3 thriller, this game has
all the signs of ending goalless at full time. But it won't be through a lack
of trying from Liverpool. They just need to make sure those butterflies in the stomach
don't put them off their game.