The last time Liverpool took to the hallowed San Siro turf Rafa Benitez was at the helm, Steven Gerrard donned the captain’s armband and Fernando Torres was the one sinking the winning goal.
“Never mind the catwalks of Milan, Liverpool made their latest visit to Europe’s fashion capital look like a cakewalk.”
An emphatic statement from the watching media as the Reds pushed Inter out of Champions League reckoning in 2007/08, with the last 16 tie failing to see the Italians on the scoreboard.
Fast forward more than 13 years and it will be a completely different ball game when Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool arrive at San Siro.
AC Milan will instead occupy the home dressing room and this time around there is no jeopardy on the result, but there is certainly pride on the line and a piece of history.
The latter was not too dissimilar the last time Liverpool arrived at San Siro, with their last 16 tie pitting them against Inter.
The Italian side had controversially beaten Bill Shankly’s team in the European Cup semi-final in 1965, and some 43 years later, the result was, at last, avenged on the very same turf.
Benitez’s men had been given little hope outside of Anfield when their name was pulled out alongside Inter’s, despite their appearance in the Champions League final the season prior.
Yet, they descended on Italy, with 4,200 Liverpool fans in tow and a 2-0 advantage from the first leg, ensuring it was an uphill battle from the start for the reigning Serie A champions.
In the build-up, Gerrard had asked his side to “be heroes again” and not give the hosts, who had Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Patrick Vieira, Julio Cesar and Javier Zanetti in their ranks, an inch.
And with Pepe Reina, Jamie Carragher, Sami Hyypia and the effervescent Torres, who had scored 25 goals in all competitions prior to the March meeting, the Reds obeyed the captain’s orders.
They had to as Inter piled on the pressure in a bid to get back into the tie, but the force that was Reina swatted the efforts they did have to the side as his teammates acted as a human forcefield.
Inter did not help themselves with wasteful finishing but the Reds were never going to be easily outmuscled, even when they were 1,030 miles from home.
They instead lived up to Gerrard’s pre-match promise to “kill the tie,” Torres taking up the honour in the 68th-minute thanks to one swipe of his lethal right boot.
“With a swift touch, turn and drive into the bottom corner, Liverpool had dispatched formidable opponents with a minimum of fuss again,” was the Guardian‘s view, one that lived up to the billing as the travelling Kop indulged in “oles” as the tie met its end.
Benitez had once again seen his Liverpool side burst into life on the European stage and force doubters to eat their own words as the Reds progressed to the quarter-finals at Inter’s expense.
But the hope more than 13 years later is that Jurgen Klopp can couple a San Siro victory, potentially their third and final visit to the ground, with another appearance in the final and the second European Cup under his tutelage.
But after all these years, it remains the same that “When it comes to the Champions League, Liverpool have a seemingly innate ability to produce results.”