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Jordan predicts close contest

Former AC Milan striker Joe Jordan believes the final will be an intriguing affair.

By Trevor Haylett

Joe Jordan forged a reputation as a player who led the attack for both Manchester United FC and AC Milan with skill and bravery and now, as a close observer of the Italian scene, he has great interest in the UEFA Champions League final between Milan and Juventus FC.

Great occasion
The Scottish striker is predicting a great occasion tonight - because of the Old Trafford setting and the history of the two teams involved - but says spectators should be prepared for a tight game, not necessarily because of the perceived Italian mentality for caution but because there is so little between the teams.

'Milan can win'
"I know that Juventus won the Italian league convincingly but when they have met in recent games Milan have not been inhibited," Jordan said. "They are quite capable of winning this game just as they did in the last fixture between the teams earlier this year."

'Too much respect'
"It won't be an open game with lots of goals and I certainly don't expect there to be a repeat of the 4-0 Milan - [FC] Barcelona final of a few years back," Jordan continued. "Both teams have too much respect for each other to allow their opponents to play so chances will be at a premium."

Rui Costa crucial
Jordan believes that the creative edge in a high-quality midfield contest will be held by Milan playmaker Rui Costa. He is a great admirer of the industry of Edgar Davids, Alessio Tacchinardi and Clarence Seedorf, but says the Portuguese international will bring an extra dimension to the game. "As good as the Juventus midfield are, they do not have somebody like Rui Costa who will float behind the attack, link up with Filippo Inzaghi, and with the ability to beat a player. Juve are bound to miss Pavel Nedved because he can always pop in a goal."

'Top bracket'
There is even less to separate the two opposing attacks. "All four strikers are in the very top bracket," said Jordan. "Each can win a game on their own and it might come down to which gets the break on the night."

'Good marriage'
Inzaghi initially set the competition on fire, scoring eight goals in Milan's first four Champions League fixtures. "He has benefited from playing for Milan, and it has been a good marriage" said Jordon. "He is also facing his old team and that might prove an extra spur. There has been talk that he and Andriy Shevchenko are too similar to be an effective partnership. They are selfish and when they see the goals the blinkers come on, but all good strikers have this mentality and I have seen them lay on opportunities for each other to prove that they can dovetail as a pair."

'Juventus are winners'
Asked to explain how Juventus were able to edge past Real Madrid CF, Jordan replied: "They're winners. You look at players like Ciro Ferrara who I remember winning the UEFA Cup for SSC Napoli way back in 1989. He has seven Italian championships to his name, so is definitely a winner. Players like Lilian Thuram and Davids are the same.

'Youth and experience'
"Then you look at similar personalities in the Milan team, like Paolo Maldini who can go back almost as far as Ferrara. Both teams have introduced players at the back to give them a good mix of youth and experience. Juventus have Gianluigi Buffon and Igor Tudor while Milan brought in Alessandro Nesta to play alongside Maldini."

'I hope for Milan'
A forecast? "My head says it could go to extra-time but in my heart I'm hoping for a Milan win."