Pope Benedict XVI is apparently in rude health and Britain's Prince Charles seems unlikely to wed again any time soon but there is no mistaking the momentum behind Liverpool FC as they progress towards a possible sixth European Champion Clubs' Cup. Their expectedly facile completion of a 4-0 aggregate UEFA Champions League quarter-final win over PSV Eindhoven has left the 2005 champions just two games away from a second final in three years.
Their dramatic 2005 triumph was accompanied by much talk of omens such as the Pope dying in 1978 and 2005 and Prince Charles marrying in 1981 and 2005. No such portents have yet been found to accompany this season's run in the competition but Liverpool's supporters are already looking to Athens. They seemed more up for this game than either set of players - Peter Crouch's acrobatic effort and Heurelho Gomes's equally athletic save offering the first half's only highlight - and their familiar refrain of "We've won it five times" had a telling new coda of "It's only on loan", referring to the European Cup lifted by FC Barcelona last term.
Certainly the complexion of this season's tournament is becoming remarkably similar to that won in 2005 by Liverpool. AC Milan's victory against FC Bayern München means that three of the 2005 semi-finalists are back in the last four this time around. Liverpool were installed as favourites after their first-leg success in Eindhoven although expectations outside Anfield have since dimmed in the wake of Manchester United FC's demolition of AS Roma and Chelsea FC's impressive conquest of Valencia CF at their Mestalla fortress.
But while tonight's match told us nothing new, there is a potent argument that the Liverpool of 2007 are better than the 2005 vintage. Even with the totemic Jamie Carragher and the understated Steve Finnan rested, Liverpool's defence was in complete control against PSV. Indeed the addition of José Reina, Daniel Agger and versatile new recruit Álvaro Arbeloa means their back line is probably stronger than it was two campaigns ago.
Liverpool similarly have an abundance of riches in midfield. Talisman Steven Gerrard and Javier Mascherano, the Argentinian international who has impressed in his short Liverpool stay to date, both enjoyed an evening off. In their absence, Mohamed Sissoko and Xabi Alonso quietly dictated while Jermaine Pennant was the most creative player on view; in him and Mark González, the Merseysiders have the genuine width they lacked two years ago.
Crouch in form
And where their Istanbul coronation came despite none of their strikers scoring more than twice, Liverpool now have a genuine goalscorer in the competition. The inimitable Crouch hit his sixth goal in the 2006/07 tournament to finish off PSV and the rangy forward is in the best form of his Liverpool career. Even if the ingredients are in place, Liverpool do not have destiny entirely in their hands: the deadly Didier Drogba, the classy Kaká and the bewitching Cristiano Ronaldo are all capable of wrecking their dreams. Ultimately, this team will only be proved better than their 2005 predecessors if they prevail in Athens on 23 May.
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