FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC each won their first European Champion Clubs’ Cup at the old Wembley and both are seeking a fourth title at the new Wembley on 28 May
Manchester United and Barcelona will be in search of their fourth European Championship when they meet in the UEFA Champions League final. Saturday’s final at Wembley will mark the second time in three years the sides have met in the final of Europe’s most prestigious club competition, after the Catalan giants prevailed 2-0 in Rome in 2009.
Pep Guardiola’s team, champions in Spain for the third straight time, lost only twice in their successful La Liga campaign.
United, who won the European crown in 2007-08 with a penalty shoot-out victory over Chelsea, are also coming off a successful domestic campaign that saw them claim a record 19th Premiership in England.
Some claim it was an unconvincing title win, yet Sir Alex Ferguson had his team playing consistent football and clinching points late in games to finish nine points clear at season’s end. His team lost just four games all campaign, twice as good as the next best in Arsenal and Tottenham, who both lost eight.
Built on a strong defence featuring captain Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand and well supported by the retiring Edwin van der Sar in goal, United have one of the best defensive trios in the world.
They will need to be in form against some of the world’s best attacking players – including Lionel Messi, David Villa and Andres Iniesta – who have the ability to take a game away from the opposition teams in moments of brilliance.
Xavi will pull the strings in midfield and Sergio Busquets will also have an impact across the middle of the park, but all the talk in the lead-up from the United camp has been focused on Messi.
The dynamic Argentine scored the second goal in the Rome final in 2009 and his form this European campaign has been even better.
Messi has found the net 11 times in 12 appearances this time around, improving his record of nine scored in 12 games two years ago.
Barca dominated that final and United cannot afford to give up a 10th-minute goal like they did at the Stadio Olimpico. Guardiola’s team was happy to keep possession after taking the lead and they will do similar if United allow the opener.
Whether Ferguson will be willing to give up the ball to his counterparts remains unknown, but his side will need to keep their attacking wits about them if they do.
Wayne Rooney and his ability to produce in critical moments will be decisive, while Javier Hernandez has scored four times in the Champions League this season and could cap off what has already been a memorable debut season with the Red Devils, should he get his name on the score sheet.
A mouth-watering battle out wide between Dani Alves and the evergreen Ryan Giggs could also be on the cards.
Barcelona have the chance to etch themselves in history as one of the great teams, while this United side will be out to prove they are better than the pundits are willing to give them credit for.
Way To Champions League Final
Filed Under: Europa League