Juventus FC and AC Milan meet in tonight's UEFA Champions League final proving that Italian football is as powerful as ever.
The city of Manchester will have its own little Italy as Juventus FC and AC Milan meet in the UEFA Champions League final at Old Trafford where such players as Alessandro Del Piero, Rui Costa, Andriy Shevchenko and David Trezeguet will grace the stage, a list that surely makes a mockery of last season's ill-founded derision of 'Calcio'. Italian clubs, remember, have made the most appearances in the European Champion Clubs' Cup final (23) ahead of Spain (20).
However, it is fair to say that the example set in recent years by the likes of Real Madrid CF and Manchester United FC has encouraged sides across the continent to win games by relying on their attacking ability. Juventus and Milan have successfully balanced defence and attack this season, allowing Juve to defeat Madrid's all-stars in the semi-final while Milan edged past city rivals Internazionale FC on away goals.
The abundance of defensive experience in tonight's final, which kicks off at 20.45CET, is notable. Paolo Maldini, who plays his sixth European final, marshals the Milan back line alongside Alessandro Nesta while at the other end Paolo Montero and the 36-year-old Ciro Ferrara, a Champions League winner in 1996, form an uncompromising pair at the heart of the Juventus rearguard.
Despite such defensive nous, however, Juventus will hope the unique skill of their talisman Del Piero and the predatory instincts of Trezeguet can break down the Milan defence while the Rossoneri will look to Shevchenko's pace and Rui Costa's guile. The only sad note is the suspension of the influential Juventus midfield player Pavel Nedved.
Powerful as ever
Whether it is Juventus who claim their third European Cup or Milan who take their sixth, tonight's match promises to be a fascinating duel proving that the game in Italy is as strong as ever.
uefa.com will provide comprehensive coverage of tonight's final, with minute-by-minute text updates as well as audio commentary on Matchpass from 20.00CET. After the final whistle, there will be a detailed match report and review along with match photos, video highlights and reaction from each team's press conference.