SPORTS

Athens final’s bosses temper hopes of a topsy-turvy affair

Liverpool and AC Milan’s managers tried yesterday to temper hopes that tonight’s Champions League final will be as thrilling as the one two years ago when the Premiership side came back from 3-0 down to win on penalties. Liverpool’s Rafa Benitez encouraged his players to put the 2005 game out of their minds. «I don’t think we will see a game like this,» he said. «I don’t think we will see a lot of goals.» Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti was also keen for people to stop mentioning the Istanbul final, but he suggested that the Italians are contemplating revenge. «The game we played two years ago has nothing to do with this game,» he said. «But we are strongly motivated.» One player likely to be more motivated than most is Milan’s 38-year-old captain, Paolo Maldini, who looks likely to overcome injury problems to play tonight. Maldini said he was «proud» and «impatient» for the game to start. Milan will be hoping for a performance similar to their 3-0 win over Manchester United in the semifinal second leg on May 2. «If we can play like we did against Manchester in the first half, it will be very difficult for Liverpool,» said Milan’s midfield general Kaka. Liverpool will certainly need to work hard if they are going to pick up their fifth European Cup in Athens tonight. Both managers have at least one crucial decision to make before they name their squads. Benitez has to choose who will play on the left-hand side of his midfield. The Dutchman Boudewijn Zenden is carrying an injury and Australian winger Harry Kewell has hardly featured for the Premiership side this season. The Spanish coach may be forced to move his left-sided defender John Arne Riise into midfield with Alvaro Arbeloa slotting into the defense. For Ancelotti, the choice is a little more straightforward. He has to decide whether to allow 33-year-old Filippo Inzaghi to lead his attack or give the role to the younger, but also inconsistent, Alberto Gilardino.