Liverpool tie evokes tragic memories

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Something unusual happened at the House of Football in Nyon yesterday. Chelsea found themselves relegated to the chorus line.

The Premiership leaders were given an intriguing Champions' League quarter-final tie against Bayern Munich, Arsenal's conquerors, but attention was drawn elsewhere.

The San Siro derby between Milan and Internazionale was eye-catching but the most evocative fixture pitted Liverpool against Juventus. The match will be the first meeting between the clubs since the 1985 European Cup final when 39 fans, most of them Italian, the rest Belgian, died at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels. The deaths followed a charge by Liverpool supporters which resulted in a wall collapsing. Juventus went on to win the final 1-0 through a Michel Platini penalty.

Both clubs yesterday sought to look forward without neglecting the sensitivities of the past. "It is 20 years since Heysel and as clubs we had already mentioned some sort of commemoration," said Rick Parry, Liverpool's chief executive. "I am confident we will get that side of things right. We will talk to our supporters and I know Juventus are doing the same."

"It is a case of finding the most appropriate manner," he added. "It is a chance for both sets of supporters to show we have come a long way. In the past we have talked about pre-season friendlies or matches to mark the occasion. For whatever reason they have not happened but I'd say there's a great relationship between the clubs and supporters now."

Romi Gai, the marketing and communications director at Juventus, whose father was at Heysel, said: "I think it will be a great sporting occasion carried out in a positive spirit. We are now great friends and co-operate together in many things."

Even without the tragic history it is an alluring fixture. Liverpool have won the competition four times, Juventus twice. The latter will start favourites having dismissed Real Madrid in the last round, especially as Fernando Morientes is cup-tied. However, Fabio Capello, the Juventus coach, will recall his controversial defeat to Liverpool in the 2001 Uefa Cup, when he was at Roma.

Rafael Benitez, the Liverpool, manager, was optimistic. "I am confident we can do well," he said, "even though Italian teams are always tough to play against. We're at home in the first leg and our idea will be to be careful and not to concede any goals. Then we will see what we can do. Over two legs anything is possible."

The winners are scheduled to meet the victors of Chelsea against Bayern in the semi-final. Liverpool, beaten three times by Chelsea this season, may be rooting for Bayern.

The Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, said: "I think it's a difficult draw for Chelsea as Bayern Munich are a robust team physically, with a culture inside the club of winning the Champions' League. They are not frightened of facing the big clubs. They are used to it and know how to deal with it."

Felix Magath, the Bayern coach, said: "We saw how Chelsea played Barcelona and I'm sure we can beat them. I'm pleased we must play the away leg first. That should help us."

Chelsea were typically bullish, with their chief executive Peter Kenyon dismissing that advantage. "I think Jose is quite indifferent to which leg is played at home," he said.

Kenyon went on to insist his club had come out of the Anders Frisk affair untarnished, although Uefa's chief executive Lars-Christer Olsson preceded the draw with a warning to clubs about their "responsibilities".

He said: "With the news of the retirement of Anders Frisk, following personal threats, I would like to stress here to all clubs, coaches, players and managers that they have a responsibility to protect our competitions and the game through their acts and comments."

Kenyon responded: "You would rather not have (the events of the last week) but it is the nature of the game today."

In the other half of the draw the Milan clubs meet for the right to play Lyon or PSV Eindhoven. Milan are the only team to defeat Inter in any match this season and beat them in the 2003 semi-final. Even though they share the same stadium, they did so on away goals.

In the Uefa Cup, Newcastle United were paired with Sporting Lisbon. The Portuguese team knocked Middlesbrough out in Lisbon on Thursday and drew at St James' Park in a group stage match earlier in the competition.

The Newcastle chairman, Freddy Shepherd, rejected a request from Sporting for the on-loan midfielder Hugo Viana to play against the Magpies.

UEFA Cup quarter-finals (First leg 7 April, second leg 14 Apr): Newcastle United v Sporting Lisbon; Austria Vienna v Parma, CSKA Moscow v Auxerre, AZ Alkmaar v Steaua Bucharest or Villarreal.

Semi-finals (28 April and 5 May): Newcastle United/Sporting Lisbon v AZ Alkmaar/Steaua Bucharest/Villarreal, Austria Vienna/Parma v CSKA Moscow/Auxerre.

Comments