Football: Juventus chase unique hat-trick

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Juventus, who have just secured the Italian title to add to the World Club Cup and European Supercup, could crown their centenary year with the most sought-after club prize of all tonight by winning the European Cup in Munich.

No Italian team has won a similar grand slam in one season, and for Marcello Lippi's side to do that against Borussia Dortmund would simply confirm what is already beyond any doubt - that Juventus are currently the best club side in the world.

Victory would totally vindicate Lippi's decision last year to jettison the heart of the team which had beaten Ajax on penalties to become European champions for the first time in 11 years only a few weeks previously.

Within a week of that final Gianluca Vialli had left for Chelsea, and soon afterwards Fabrizio Ravanelli had followed him to England and a season of unstinting drama at Middlesbrough. The defenders Pietro Vierchowod and Paulo Sousa - ironically sold to Borussia - were gone soon after that. In their place came the Croat Alen Boksic, Uruguay's Paolo Montero, the Frenchman Zinedine Zidane and two Italians, Christian Vieri and Nicola Amoruso.

A real indication of how far Juventus have progressed came in the semi- final of this season's competition against Ajax. In last season's final Juventus outplayed Ajax but could only draw 1-1 and had to settle for an unsatisfying victory on penalties. Last month Juventus beat Ajax 2- 1 away and 4-1 at home, a defeat that prompted the Ajax defender Frank de Boer to say: "I have no doubt Juventus will win in Munich. They are like a team from another planet."

There have been other examples of Juve's devastating criss-cross attacking play this season. At the start of the year they demolished Paris St-Germain 9-2 on aggregate in the European Supercup, which included a 6-1 away win in Paris. Then on 6 April came an unprecedented 6-1 win over Milan - in Milan. It was Milan's heaviest defeat in their 98-year history and, if nothing else had been achieved this season, that result would have been enough.

But although Lippi's side start as overwhelming favourites to defeat Dortmund and retain the trophy, they are taking absolutely nothing for granted against a squad containing five former Juve players.

Dortmund have made steady if unspectacular progress to the final but, with players such as the European Footballer of the Year Matthias Sammer and experienced internationals Jurgen Kohler, Stefan Reuter, Andreas Moller, Stephane Chapuisat of Switzerland and Karlheinz Riedle in their squad, they will be no pushovers.

Juventus (from): Peruzzi; Ferrara, Torricelli, Montero, Porrini, Iuliano, Pessotto; Di Livio, Conte, Deschamps, Jugovic, Lombardo, Tacchinardi, Zidane; Boksic, Del Piero, Padovano, Vieri, Amoruso, Trotta.

Borussia Dortmund (from): Klos; Schneider, Sammer, Kohler, Kree, Feiersinger, Pedersen; Reinhardt, Freund, Zorc, Reuter, Moller, Lambert, Heinrich, Paulo Sousa, Tretschok, Chapuisat, Herrlich, Riedle, Ricken, Tanko.

Manchester United will be represented at the European Cup final tomorrow night by the eight survivors of the Munich air crash in 1958. Bobby Charlton, Jackie Blanchflower, Bill Foulkes, Harry Gregg, Kenny Morgan, Albert Scanlon, Dennis Viollet and Ray Wood will attend at Uefa's invitation.

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