After Liverpool's systematic dismantling of Real Madrid, many are understandably tipping the Merseysiders for Champions League glory this year.It's written in the stars, they say.
Liverpool won their first European Cup in Rome in 1977, and triumphed there again seven years later when Bruce Grobbelaar's spaghetti legs spooked AS Roma in their own backyard.
Spaghetti-legs Bruce helps seal '77 success
And with hated rivals Manchester United on course to equal the Reds' record of 18 top-flight titles, it would certainly ease the pain if the Anfield outfit secured their sixth European Cup to United's three.
But if you know your history, LiverpoolÃ¢ÂÂs name isn't on the Cup*.It's not because Rafa Benitez will be distracted by domestic affairs, be they chasing United's tails in the Premier League or interviewing prospective LFC owners to ensure they're pliable. It's not because his squad rotation Ã¢ÂÂ a phrase strangely absent from the reaction to the Madrid massacre Ã¢ÂÂ will go accidentally awry and leave him fielding a half-dead, half-useless team in the final (although things eventually sorted themselves out in Istanbul).It's not even because Torres and Gerrard will be bundled into the back of a car by a mysterious man with a Scottish accent.No, Liverpool have cooked their own goose by beating Real Madrid.
Because for the last six seasons, whoever boots the Bernabeu boys out of the Champions League has then been defeated by the eventual champions. Last year, Roma knocked out the Spaniards in the last 16 and were promptly dispatched with aplomb by a Manchester United side bound for triumph in Moscow.
2006: Arsenal beat Real, then lose to winners Barca...
The year before, Bayern Munich knocked Madrid out at the same stage and were swiftly dismissed by AC Milan, who beat Liverpool in the Athens final.
That was the second successive time an English club had lost the final, Arsenal having succumbed to Barcelona in Paris.
Why? Because they'd beaten Real Madrid in the last 16, thanks to Thierry Henry's brilliant individual goal at the Bernabeu.
The year before that there had been English glory, thanks to Liverpool's heroic Istanbul comeback Ã¢ÂÂ which was surely founded on their sudden realisation that they had previously beaten Juventus, conquerors of you-know-who in the last 16.Juve should have known better. They got as close as anyone to beating the ju-ju in 2003 when they shared a penalty shootout with AC Milan, before the footballing gods extracted revenge for the Old Lady's semi-final dismissal of Los Merengues.The Curse of Madrid is partly responsible for the Cult of Mourinho, too.
Much of his reputation is founded on winning the Champions League with Porto, who easily overcame an oddly dispirited Monaco when the Monegasques paid the price of their Morientes-inspired win over Madrid.
2004: Monaco beat Real, then lose to winners Porto...
That's six successive seasons in which those who have eliminated Real Madrid have been beaten by the eventual winners. The year before that, the trophy was won by Madrid themselves, powered along by all-action Steve McManaman.
Man, that seems a long time ago...*Well, it is, because they've won it before and have thus been engraved on the trophy.