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  1. And the Champions League is back. Anfield in midweek under the lights with a full house welcoming European royalty. Milan are a far cry from the star-studded outfits that represented them between the late-80s and the late-noughties, but they are still a historically huge club. We are just one European Cup behind them on the all time list, and only Real Madrid have won Big Ears more times than the red half of Lombardy's largest city. Incredibly, we have only played AC Milan competitively twice in our history. Veracity. Intelligence. Tactical flexibility. Resolve. Urgency. Vim. Impudence. Accuracy. Nous. Mettle. Avarice. Nerve. I don't ask for much. I don't think I need to mention which of the two past encounters I'm going to cover here. The date, the venue and the outcome are all enshrined in the brain of any Liverpool fan fortunate enough to experience one the most incredible nights in the club's long history. 25th May 2005. The Ataturk Olympic Stadium on the outskirts on Istanbul. The most improbable recovery from a 3-goal half time deficit to win No5 on penalties. We went into that match as definite underdogs and it wasn't hard to see why. Milan had won the Champions League 2 years earlier and reached the semis the following year. They more or less ended up repeating in the 2005 final what had happened to them in that 2004 semi final against Deportivo, much like Barcelona did when Roma and then ourselves overturned a hefty first-leg deficit two years running. Just look at that Milan starting line-up compared to ours; Dida or Jerzy? Cafu or Finnan? Nesta or Carra? Stam or Sami? Maldini or Djimi? Pirlo or Xabi? Gattuso or Stevie? Seedorf or Riise? Kaka or Lil Luis? Shevchenko or Kewell? Crespo or Baros? Being honest, Gerrard for Gattuso is just about the only swap that would have definitely made them stronger. You could argue between Stam and Sami, and Dida and Dudek could both be erratic and yet have moments where they were brilliant. The Pole in the goal absolutely showed this that night. Man for man, the rest were a cut above their Liverpool equivalents. Xabi was a few years away from becoming top class. Dudek could do nothing about the Milan goals. The game had barely begun when Maldini's volley bounced off the deck and put us on the ropes. Crespo tucked home Shevchenko's ball across the box following a swift break. The Argentinian then scored the goal of the night, running onto Kaka's brilliant dummy and inch-perfect through-ball to dink the ball over Dudek with the outside of his right foot. We hadn't been able to lay a glove on them and had already made one enforced change when Kewell came off for Vladi. Another was practically enforced upon us at half time when it emerged that Finnan was unable to shake off a knock. Rafa had to tweak the team into a back 3 with Stevie at wing back and Didi manning the fort just in front of the defence. It was really about damage limitation. The fans belted out the club's de facto anthem throughout the interval, but nobody thought any kind of comeback was on. Ancelotti's side were just far too good. For the first 10 minutes of the second half, Dudek had twice had to keep out Shevchenko, who would not have any luck in front of goal that evening. And then Stevie gets one back, rising to head home a cross by Riise. And then Vladi hits a piledriver from 25 yards that Dida sees too late (thanks to the Milan players and Milan Baros for getting out of the way!). And then Stevie is upended in the box by Gattuso. Bedlam. After a lengthy protest by Gattuso and co,finally we're awarded the spot kick and Xabi steps up. And sees it saved. And then buries the rebound. Bedlam on the pitch. Bedlam in the stands. Absolute pandemonium in homes and bars up and down the country and beyond. This was actually happening! We were flying and Riise hit a rocket a couple of minutes later that Dida had to deal with. All of a sudden, this brilliant Milan side looked truly vulnerable. The game did calm down with little of note happenng in normal time. Carra's groin cramp following last-ditch interceptions in extra time is about all I remember of extra time. The Lord of Frodsham coming on 6 months after a serious leg break as our third and final change was a surprise. Then the moment where it must have finally dawned on the Italians that this might not be their night. Serginho for once gets some space down the left and plays an inch-perfect ball in. Just begging for Shevchenko to bury the header. Dudek saves it but the rebound falls to the Ukrainian a couple of yards out and with the goal at his mercy. Surely he can't miss. Somehow the Pole in the goal stands up and the ball cannons off him and over the bar for a corner. Somehow we had dragged ourselves off the canvas and taken the match to penalties, where anything can happen. Dudek had the chance to make himself the hero, and he took it with both hands. Serginho panicked and blazed his effort over the bar. Pirlo lost his nerve. For us, Didi, Vladi and Djib found the net with aplomb, with Riise seeing his weak penalty saved. He should have just wellied it like he usually did. Tomasson and Kaka found the net with their spot kicks. It was down to Shevchenko to keep Milan in it. He'd taken their decisive penalt against Juventus two years earlier, wasthe club's regular penalty taker, and was the reigning European Footballer of the Year. He looked nervous as he waited - Dudek's practice of standing on the penalty spot and handing the ball to the penalty takers politely a much more effective psyche-out tactic that imitating Brucie's "spaghetti legs" routine from 1984. One of the worst attempts at a Panenka. One outstretched left hand. The ball staying out of the net. The rest is just a level of euphoria that I have never before experienced watching sport before or since. This ragtag squad cobbled together with the remnants of the Ged era and the question marks of the beginning of the Rafa era had well and truly upset the odds. This trophy was for keeps. It's incredible to think that this was just over 16 years ago now! The box office was dominated by a different sort of epic in late May 2005. George Lucas' Star Wars behemoth had delivered its third instalment of the prequels, which were about how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith proved to be closer to what the franchise's many fans had wanted from the sequels. Even if it still didn't recapture what had drawn them in in the first place, it was better than Episode II: Attack of the Clones, and a massive improvement on the hugely disappointing Episode I: The Phantom Menace. You wonder just how bad that one might have been if it had also starred Hayden Christensen and his whiny emo Anakin. It wasn't really a strong era for sequels because you had the problems of bringng another interesting story featuring characters that were now known to audiences, with the background of massive hype so typical of Hollywood in particular at the time. More money did not necessarily mean better. It's hard for me to write about Star Wars because I've never really got into it. The current Milan squad are not a patch on the great teams of years gone by - one might say their greats were from a galaxy far, far away! - but they still have enough players to cause us problems if we let them. The key is not to let them, to take the game by the scruff of the neck and, unlike Ancelotti's 2005 vintage, not to get complacent and think the job is done before it's done if we have them on the ropes. They had their best season in a decade last season, and it got them into Europe's premier club competition for the first time since then. If we approach the game with the right mindset and do all the right things, I'm certain we can get our European campaign off to a flying start. Make it so. (I know that's from a different sci-fi franchise!)