Such a beautiful horizon…
Well, we’re all tremendously excited about this, I can tell. I can’t remember this much hype before a football match since England last got knocked out of the World Cup.
I suppose the hype is warranted. Not since Milan tonked Barca 4-0 in 1994 have we been treated to a Champions League final between the two best teams on the planet. And of course there are so many sub-plots to enjoy, most notably the whole “Messi v Ronaldo” debate, which amounts to little more than “My dad’s harder than your dad”. They’re both amazing players, let’s leave it at that.
I’m no ABU, and so I wil be supporting the English team tonight. However, if Barcelona win, I won’t be too upset. I am Spurs, after all.
What I want, above anything, is a decent match, rather than a repeat of 2008’s dreary semi final. That was Frank Rijkaard’s Barcelona though; this is very much Pep Guardiola’s team, which means we could be in for a thrilling 90+ minutes, at least if United choose to play ball; I’m not sure they will though. Fergie will have seen how well Chelsea did against Barca.
Throughout the day, I’ve been working like a dog to post up head-to-head match-ups of all 11 players who are set to start the final. This is how the likely teams stack up against each other:
Edwin van der Sar (8/10) v Victor Valdes (7/10): Man Utd wins (at time of posting, you voted the same way)
John O’Shea (7) v Carles Puyol (7): Tie (you voted for Puyol)
Rio Ferdinand (9) v Gerard PiquÃ© (8): Man Utd (you voted the same)
Nemanja Vidic (9) v Yaya TourÃ© (7): Man Utd (you voted the same)
Patrice Evra (8) v Sylvinho (6): Man Utd (you voted the same)
Michael Carrick (8) v Sergi Busquets (6): Man Utd (you voted the same)
Anderson (7) v Andres Iniesta (9): Barcelona (you voted the same)
Ryan Giggs (7) v Xavi (9): Barcelona (you voted the same)
Park Ji-Sung (7) v Lionel Messi (9): Barcelona (you voted the same)
Wayne Rooney (9) v Thierry Henry (7): Man Utd (you voted the same)
Cristiano Ronaldo (9) v Samuel Eto’o (7): Man Utd (you voted the same)
TOTALS: Man Utd 88/100, Barcelona 82/100 (United’s bench is much stronger too)
VERDICT: With United at full strength (bar Darren Fletcher’s suspension) and Barcelona missing a couple of key players (notably their first-choice full-backs), everything points to a comfortable United win. And yet…Â all those pundits who think United will win 2-0 or 3-0 are forgetting a couple of things: 1) Barcelona have Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Henry, Eto’o. No matter how good United are, with forwards and creative midfielders of that quality, Barca has a fighting chance. 2) United haven’t always looked unstoppable this season. They’re not invincible, by any means; as good as John O’Shea is, he’s still John O’Shea. So the result is not a done deal, by any means. However, you only have to look to the unmatched balance and depth of Ferguson’s squad to realise that United deserve to be favourites. I tip them to become the first club to retain the Champions League, but not by much. I also predict a low-scoring, tactical clash, rather than an open, seven-goal thriller.
PREDICTION: Barcelona 0-1 Man Utd
Who do you think will win? Vote below:
And who do you think will be voted man of the match?