Thursday, 19th May 2011
It is the final that most football fans around the world wanted. The most famous football club of all time taking on arguably the greatest club team of all time. Could we ask for much more?
Being greedy, we do hope that the match itself lives up to the hype. Too often in football we are let down by the entertainment on show on these big occasions. However, this one has all the makings of a classic.
Much could depend on the individual battles set to grace Wembley in this eagerly anticipated final. It may well be Manchester United v Barcelona overall, but the end result will be influenced by whether Rio Ferdinand can handle David Villa or whether Michael Carrick can get on the ball as much as Xavi.
More on the one-on-one contests shortly, but first letís take a look at each team specifically with reference to their domestic campaign.
Manchester United were crowned Premier League Champions following a draw at Blackburn Rovers in the penultimate game of the season. They were far from at their best at times, but they have been more efficient than ever and turned on the style exactly when they needed to.
They have proven that they are a team that performs extremely well under pressure. Defeat at Arsenal a few weeks ago let Chelsea back into the title race, but United didnít panic as they brushed aside Carlo Ancelottiís men at Old Trafford the following week. It was the performance of Champions.
Dramatic comebacks at Blackpool and West Ham United stick in the mind too as crucial moments in the Red Devilsí season. Quite simply, no matter what the situation, they never believe they are beaten.
As for Barcelona, much like their Champions League final opponents, they secured the league title with an away point, coming at Levante last week. It was the third season in a row they have finished in 1st position.
It has been a campaign that has enhanced their reputation as one of the best club sides to have played the game, thatís for sure. They secured victory by five goals or more on no less than six occasions, including a 5-0 hammering of Real Madrid back in November last year.
Arguably not at their best in recent weeks, they are still playing some excellent football. With the exception of the Copa del Rey final, they are getting the results they need.
This is an attribute similar to that of Sir Alex Fergusonís men, of course and it is set to be an extremely competitive final.
As mentioned earlier, one on one battles could be crucial. With regards to this, it has to be said that Barcelona probably have a more talented team. Taking nothing away from United, Pep Guardiolaís men probably outdo them if you were to pick a combined starting eleven.
What Manchester United have in abundance though is an incredible spirit and individual players like Ryan Giggs, Edwin van der Sar and Paul Scholes who have invaluable experience.
The English team have match-winners too in the shape of Wayne Rooney, Nani and new-sensation Javier Hernandez.
So, as much as Barcelona may be favourites and have a better side on paper, United have a fantastic chance of coming out on top.
Throw in the fact that the game is taking place at the extremely familiar (and historic) Wembley; this could be one of the greatest Champions League finals of all time.
Who are you backing?