Tonight is the night. It’s just hours until kick-off. The biggest night in a long time. At least that’s the case for Liverpool FC. Fans are already in Turkey, singing songs including, "We all want 11 Carraghers" and more that we best not publish. Istanbul is already a mass of Red and White, and Liverpool are rumoured to be likely to have most fans in the stadiums – Reds fans more willing to pay the extortionate tout prices.
It’s a big night for the English press too. An extension to the season effectively. Instead of reporting solely on a USA citizen’s purchase of an English club, and English national players visiting the USA, they can write all kinds about Liverpool, Milan and Istanbul. Even Martin O’Neill announcing his resignation from the job of Celtic coach is only getting a limited amount of coverage.
We’re not going to bother repeating some of the negative stories that have come out in the last 24 hours. Once the season’s over – which it will be by the end of tonight – we can look at those stories.
We recommend Liverpool fans also concentrate only on the positives. We’re not fans of Uri Gellar or anything, but there’s no harm in being extremely positive.
When they’ve finished being negative, the press find time to guess at the teams. Nobody knows the teams other than the two coaches – even then there’s a chance that they may changes their minds.
Fernando Morientes, Liverpool’s cup-tied striker, predicted that Cisse would start when asked by Sky Sports News.
The general buzz about the likely Liverpool team is that Benitez will play a 4-4-1-1 formation. Dudek is expected to start with the same defence in front of him that kept Chelsea at bay last time out in this competition – Finnan and Traore either side of the impressive Carragher and Hyypia. In midfield everyone expects Riise and Luis Garcia to play wide, with who else but Alonso in Gerrard playing centrally.
Those nine players are agreed on by just about everyone – but the other two starting places are still open. If Benitez wants solidity he’s likely to start with Didi Hamann protecting the back four, allowing Alonso and Gerrard to use both the defensive and creative sides of their games.
On the other hand, if Benitez wants a little more creativity from the outset than Gerrard and Alonso will have Harry Kewell in front of them in "the hole".
So it’s between Kewell and Hamann for the tenth name on the team-sheet – but who will complete the eleven? Nobody expects Liverpool to start with both their available strikers – Milan Baros is the player most likely to play from a fitness point of view, but Djibril Cisse is certainly capable of playing the majority of the game – and scored twice on his last game for the Reds.
Meanwhile the predictions over the AC Milan team don’t differ from one place to the next.
If you can’t beat them, join them. Here’s our predictions for tonight’s teams:
AC Milan: Dida; Cafu, Stam, Nesta, Maldini; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf; Kaká; Shevchenko, Crespo.
Liverpool: Dudek; Finnan, Carragher, Hyypiä, Traoré; Hamann, Alonso, García, Gerrard, Riise; Baroš.
We won’t be making any predictions on the result.