Liverpool’s home Champion’s League quarter-final first leg tie against Juventus is to be played at Anfield tonight. A banner with the words, "in memoria e amicizia" (in memory and friendship) is to be paraded, the Kop will hold up a mosaic showing both clubs colours and the word "amicizia" – friendship, and supporters will be given a wristband inscribed with the words: “amicizia-friendship” .
This is the first time the two clubs have met in twenty years. The last time they met was on a night that should have been a celebration of football. The night was the occasion of the European Cup Final of 1985, a night that went on to be remembered for the 39 people that were killed when a wall collapsed at the Heysel Stadium.
Much has been said about the causes of what went on that night. So many reasons for what led to the tragedy have been put forward. All of these reasons played at least some part in the tragic events that took place that night.
What is important 20 years on is that football has learned from the many mistakes of that night.
A lot of bridges have been built, and over the two legs we hope that the links between the two clubs are improved still further. It’s also hoped that there are no efforts on the part of the national media to be insensitive or to stir up fresh trouble.
There’s been a lot of comment from those involved in tonight’s match. Liverpool’s Spanish manager Rafael Benitez feels that it’s right to play the game in the right spirit, but ultimately that the football should do the talking: "It is our idea that we can help to offer some closure to the families of those who died, that we can help them in their grief somehow. No words I can say can help that, but what maybe can help is if we show the right spirit in the game.
"Sometimes it is difficult because of course you want to win the game, and if the pulse is racing it is difficult to find the right spirit, but it is clear what we must do. We have to try and play good football and produce a fantastic match. We have a responsibility to do that."
Those that lost their lives in 1985 had gone hoping to see a great contest. Benitez feels that the two teams tonight should try and produce a great contest: "I don’t want to tell the families how to feel. It is a matter for them. But we can talk about playing a great game, and maybe that will help. When you have a tragedy it is important to provide good things, to offer some hope for the future. You have to show respect and responsibility, and you offer hope. If we can produce a game that is special, then maybe that will help a little. This is the friendship game."
Fabio Capello is now the coach of Juvents, but was a reporter at the game 20 years ago. He said: "It is a very nice thing indeed to have these two important teams playing a very important game. I am proud to be the coach of Juventus and to be meeting Liverpool again in remembrance of that sad event."
Allesandro Del Piero, Juve striker, said: "I hope this game means everyone can close a chapter and their bad memories, but we will always remember what happened. I hope we will play in the right spirit and that everyone, players and fans, will have the true spirit of football at Anfield."
Events tonight take on an added poignancy – Juventus, along with all the other Italian Serie A teams, did not play their scheduled game at the weekend. This was as a mark of respect to the late Pope John Paul II, and UEFA have announced that a minute’s silence will be held as a mark of respect to the Pope at all UEFA matches this week.
UEFA’s Chief Executive, Lars-Christer Olsson, said: "Pope John Paul II was a great worldwide leader of people and a firm believer in peace. His work and efforts in this area commanded enormous respect and recognition from people all over the world, no matter their religious beliefs or persuasion.He led the Roman Catholic Church for a period of 26 years during a time of great change and upheaval in the world, and he was clearly a very special man. His loss will be felt by millions and it is right that we pay our respects appropriately."