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  1. And so onto the final Champions League group game. We’re already through with a 100% record from the first five games so can afford to take it easy in this one. It’s not quite a dead rubber as Milan could still join us in the knockouts if they beat us and Porto and Atletico cancel one another out. I can only imagine the level of shithousery likely to be on display in that one. Porto, like Wolves, regularly tried to disrupt our rhythm at Anfield with their players hitting the deck and needing treatment for bugger all. And Atletico are Atletico. It’s a bit weird to think that the two coaches Conceicao and Simeone were both key figures in the Lazio team that won Serie A under Eriksson in 2000. Anyway (and I realise it’s odd to ask for these): Tactical know-how. Heart. Effort. Luck. Accuracy. Skill. Tenacity. Supremacy. Urgency. Poise. Purpose. Effervescence. Resolve. I don’t ask for much. We’ve only faced the Italian giants on 3 previous occasions, all in this competition, and 2 of which were in the biggest club game on the planet. The group game at Anfield back in September was, barring a mad last 10 minutes of the first half, a comfortably dominant performance from the Reds. The 3-2 scoreline didn’t reflect the gulf between the sides. A closer game was the Champions League final in Athens in May 2007. Unlike in Istanbul two years earlier, we were the better side for the most part. However, we lacked a cutting edge and Milan’s centre back pairing of Nesta and Maldini coped pretty comfortably whenever we got anywhere near the penalty area. I think Rafa made a mistake starting with Zenden and Pennant as part of the 3 alongside Gerrard in our 4-2-3-1. We needed something more unorthodox to get Gerrard more involved in the final third. Crouchie up top would have been a handful, especially with Dirk’s workrate and knack for getting into goalscoring positions alongside him. Maybe even the pace and ability to drag defenders away that Bellamy possessed could have proved fruitful. Pennant didn’t have a bad game, but he was ultimately ineffective because our set up was totally unsuited to what brought the best out of him back then. Milan seemed to have learned from their Istanbul and were much cagier in both set-up and approach. Instead of 2 strikers (Shevchenko and Crespo in 2005) and 2 attacking midfielders (Seedorf and Kaka), he opted to start with Inzaghi up front with Kaka just behind, and Seedorf playing more of a ‘Gini’ role. The midfield was shored up with the defensive-minded Ambrosini. A first half of very few chances ended with Milan going in at half time a goal to the good. A mistimed challenge by Xabi on Kaka on the edge of the area presented Pirlo with a chance to have a shot at Pepe Reina’s goal. The free kick wasn’t great but it took a hefty deflection off Inzaghi’s arm to wrong-foot the Spaniard. Stevie had a very good chance early in the second half but his low effort was well saved by Dida. As the half wore on and Milan’s defence remained stubborn, Rafa decided to go for broke and replaced Masch who up to then had shackled Kaka pretty well. Soon afterwards, the Brazilian found space and played a pass into Inzaghi’s run. The Italian rounded the keeper and rolled the ball into the net from a narrow angle for 2-0. With only minutes to go, Dirk buried a header past Dida and suddenly as the game entered stoppage time, Milan were twitching. Crouchie hammered an effort at goal that Dida did well to save. Any chance of completing the comeback was killed off by the ref who decided not to play the allotted stoppage time and blew early. Twat. Milan had got their revenge. It’s doubly galling because they’d initially been booted out of the competition for their part in the Calciopoli scandal of 2006. Rafa’s post-game frustration spilled over as he went on and on about the need to act quickly and decisively when negotiating transfers. It was obvious that he was frustrated at being unable to bring in his first choice players because we had a habit of faffing about and low-balling. That summer he would grow a goatee and take on a more divisive persona, moving away from the friendlier figure of his first couple of years at Anfield. May 2007 saw Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow return for the third instalment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. At World’s End saw the main characters return alongside him for another high seas adventure. A bit like the Austin Powers series, the POTC sequels were heavy on cameos but failed to capture what made the original so brilliant. It’s a trend with loads of films where the original worked brilliantly but everything was overblown when they decided to do sequels. Curse of the Black Pearl had been somewhat of a surprise hit in 2003 but it got everything right and had something for everyone. Depp had always played quirky characters in more low-key fare but that was when he went mainstream. It remains hugely entertaining nearly 20 years on. At World’s End is merely alright like the rest of the series, and not a patch on the first film. It’s not even close. I don’t imagine Klopp will want to take the game at the San Siro lightly, but at the same time even he must know that there isn’t much reward for winning millions of pounds after a Champions League group game win when you’ve already topped your group, if there is a distinct possibility that key players will pick up an injury that affects the team’s chances of success. It seems obvious to go with a second string for this one, and give game time to the likes of Keeva, Big Nat, Tsimi, Tyler and Taki. If Bobby is able to take the field, he might be worth a go too. If not, then Div should certainly be involved. Whatever the line-up, use it as an opportunity to show the boss you should be considered for a regular place. Whatever the circumstances, at least try to get the job done.
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