Ex-AC Milan player Martin Laursen says that Liverpool could be in with a great chance of beating his former club next week – due to the tiredness of the Italian side.
Danish international Laursen was at Milan for three years prior to his £3million pound move to Aston Villa during the summer, and still keeps in touch with his former team-mates, including fellow Dane Jon Dahl Tomasson. Milan have been fighting to win the title in Italy, and this means they are playing big games right up until the final.
On Friday Milan play their final league game before the final, and if they don’t win then they will be handing the title to Juventus. Even if they win, Juventus can then take the title themselves on Sunday. Liverpool meanwhile played their last league game on Sunday, and Benitez was able to rest players with the game no longer having any significance.
Members of Carlo Ancelotti’s Milan side have told Laursen that the Serie A fight has proved a strain: "If Milan are a bit tired that can be their weakness. I have seen them the last couple of times and talked to some of their players and they are feeling a bit tired," said the Dane.
The Villa player continued: "They have been playing every three days and they cannot, like Liverpool, prepare solely for the match. Milan are playing in Serie A all the way to the final. They play Palermo before Liverpool and I think Liverpool have a better preparation for the final. You can always find energy for a final, but Liverpool’s preparation will be ideal."
Despite this tiredness, Laursen sees Liverpool as the underdog: "I personally have Milan as favourites, not because Liverpool weaker but because Milan are used to these big, big finals and have experienced them so many times. This will be Paolo Maldini’s seventh final and a lot of the players are still around from when we won the Champions League at Old Trafford two years ago. I think they are the favourites, but a final is always open."
Laursen was impressed with Djibril Cisse on Sunday, the Frenchman scored twice in the game at Anfield in his first start since breaking his leg last year. Laursen was tasked with trying to keep the striker in check, and felt Djibril did well: "A final is always open and Liverpool have done very well in the Champions League and they have a good chance of winning the final. Cisse did well – he was up against a tough opponent mind you – but he will be pleased with two goals obviously after the season he has had."
Many are talking about Milan’s weakness being a little bit lacking in pace in defence, but Laursen believes that Milan’s ability to defend as a team cancels this out. He said, "Milan’s strength comes from their defence, not just the four at the back but as a whole team they are defending very well. Carlo Ancelotti bases his ideas around being tough at the back. But Cisse can be a threat definitely. His pace is a big factor and he will be high on confidence. Baros did well with Cisse when he came on though and you could play the two together. They seemed to have a decent partnership."
Liverpool’s lack of strikers this season through injury, suspension or, in the case of Fernando Morientes, being cup-tied has left Benitez having to either play midfielders in a more advanced role or playing strikers up-front alone. It remains to be seen whether he’ll use both of his available strikers – Baros and Cisse – in Istanbul. Laursen however feels that whatever Liverpool’s boss decides to do with his strikers, AC Milan will be fielding the best one. Ukrainian striker Andrei Shevchenko is more than just a striker he says: "Shevchenko is so complete as a striker and a footballer. It is not that he has one thing you can pick out and say he is brilliant at that."
Whether Laursen has been told the truth or not about his former team’s tiredness remains to be seen, but Liverpool’s boss will be looking for other weakness to exploit – tired opponents will be just a bonus to his plans if it’s true.