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Last Updated: Monday, 23 May, 2005, 10:01 GMT 11:01 UK
European aristocrats draw pistols
By John May

The Champions League is the big prize
The Champions League final will be a duel between two European footballing aristocrats.

While Liverpool are looking to revive a proud heritage, AC Milan are more intent on establishing a dynastic rule over Europe's clubs.

Between them, the two clubs boast a total of 10 European Champions titles, justifying their title of true giants.

Their meeting in Istanbul represents a restoration of European football's Old Order, blue-bloods in red shirts.

PEDIGREE

Only Real Madrid have a better record in the competition than Milan.

Former AC Milan star Gianni Rivera
Gianni Rivera was Italian football's original golden boy

The Rossoneri have reached the final nine times and won the trophy on six occasions and their triumphs span the ages from the early 1960s to the present.

Liverpool were an integral part of the English domination of the European Cup in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Finalists five times, Liverpool have lifted the trophy on four occasions.

PAST MASTERS

Gianni Rivera was the original 'golden boy' of European football and inspired Milan to their first two triumphs in 1963 and 1969.

MILAN'S VICTORIES
1962-63 (beat Benfica 2-1)
1968-69 (beat Ajax 4-1)
1988-89 (beat St Buch'est 4-0)
1989-90 (beat Benfica 1-0)
1993-94 (beat Barcelona 4-0)
2002-03 (beat Juve 3-2, pens)
Rivera was an elegant midfield artiste who flourished in an era of domestic Italian football strangled by catenaccio defence.

That 1963 team also included Cesare Maldini, father of Paolo.

There was a 20-year gap between finals for Milan, by which time manager Arrigo Sacchi had decided to go Dutch.

Milan's four visits to the final between 1989 and 1995 were inspired by the Dutch trio of Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard and the peerless Marco van Basten.

They tended to overshadow the fact that Milan boasted other world-class players in Franco Baresi and Roberto Donadoni.

Kevin Keegan inspired Liverpool's first triumph in 1977, when he ran his marker Berti Vogts ragged.

When Keegan left for Hamburg his replacement Kenny Dalglish became an even bigger Kop idol.

The thread running through Liverpool's success was a string of top-class midfield players.

Graeme Souness, Kenny Dalglish and Alan Hansen
Souness, Dalglish and Hansen celebrate victory

Jimmy Case provided the steel and power in the first two triumphs, while Graeme Souness oozed class as an iron fist in a velvet glove.

Providing the lungs of the team were Ray Kennedy and Terry McDermott.

Liverpool were always built on solid defensive foundations.

Whether it was Tommy Smith and Emlyn Hughes, or Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson, along with the rock-steady Phil Neal, they always ensured Liverpool kept things tight.

CURRENT KEY MEN

Milan boast arguably the world's best defender and striker in Paolo Maldini and Andriy Shevchenko.

At 38, the incomparable Maldini has lost some of his pace but more than compensates with his anticipation and positional sense.

Shevchenko has everything you look for in a striker; pace, touch and ice water in his veins in front of goal.

Milan unearthed another Brazilian gem in Kaka, who is still only 23, while Gennaro Gattuso is a beast for work in midfield.

LIVERPOOL'S TRIUMPHS
1976-77 (beat B M'g'bach 3-1)
1977-78 (beat FC Bruges 1-0)
1980-81 (beat Real Madrid 1-0)
1983-84 (beat Roma 4-2 pens)
But Andrea Pirlo is the key in Milan's midfield. He is the heartbeat who keeps things ticking over and his dead-ball delivery is a potent weapon.

Liverpool's chances probably hinge on Steven Gerrard's performance.

Gerrard is a true midfield giant, Liverpool's inspiration and leader, a driving force.

But Jamie Carragher has grown into Liverpool's Champions League campaign and emerged as a pivotal player. He will play a key role in keeping Shevchenko in check.

Luis Garcia's skills and trickery will be vital to unpicking Milan, while in Milan Baros and Djibril Cisse Livepool have two strikers with the pace to trouble a back line that is not exactly jet-heeled.

DOMESTIC SITUATION

Unlike Liverpool, Milan at least take their place in the final of the Champions League having qualified as Champions.

AC Milan defender Paolo Maldini
Paolo Maldini is still among the world's best defenders

And unlike Liverpool, Milan will be guaranteed a place in next year's competition.

While Liverpool have missed out on automatic qualification for the Champions League this season by finishing fifth in the Premiership, Milan will end the Serie A campaign as runners-up to Juventus, who clinched a record 28th title last week.

However, if Liverpool were to triumph in the Champions League final, Uefa may yet decide to give them a place in next season's competition as the holders.

Neither Liverpool nor Milan have been dominant kings of their own backyards in recent years.

Last year's Serie A title was Milan's first Scudetto since 1999, while Liverpool won their last domestic title in 1989-90.


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