Between them, Milan and Real Madrid have lifted the European Cup in its various guises no fewer than 16 times. Don’t expect that joint tally to be increased this season.
In years previous, the meeting of two of Europe’s most decorated institutions could have given a strong indicator as to the eventual victor of the competition. Last night’s match-up, following on from the reverse fixture a fortnight ago, only served to highlight how far the mighty have fallen. The names still demand respect, the product does not.
The Rossoneri’s 3-2 win in Madrid on Matchday 3 stirred the neutral audience and delighted the UEFA high command in equal measure. The five goals shared amidst the backdrop of the glistening Santiago Bernabeu was delivered by a cast of A-list names with Hollywood reputations. The entertainment value produced deserved the UEFA red carpet treatment it was granted, but after the audience had gone home, the actors had retreated to their plush pads, and the floodlights dimmed at the set, there was an amateurish feel to the production – littered with dropped lines, stumbles and fumbles. The cut throat nature of the Champions League means there is no scope for a re-take.
Last night, with Milan hosting, the error-strewn goal-feast from the Bernabeu was not re-enacted, and a 1-1 draw meant status quo was maintained in Group C. Il Diavolo head los Meringues by goal difference, both on seven points, both ahead of Marseille who trail by a point with two games left to play. Having negotiated each other, the duo should progress at the expense of the French and FC Zurich.
They should progress, but beneath the grandiose fa