All eyes will be on Wembley tonight as the Champions of England, Manchester United and the Champions of Spain, Barcelona go head-to-head to clinch the top prize in European club football in a repeat of the 2009 Champions League final.In the 2009 final in Rome, Barcelona outclassed Man United 2-0 with goals from Samuel Eto’o and Messi. Man United have defeated Barcelona once in the history of the competition, a 1-0 win at Old Trafford in the 2008 semi final.Barcelona has two wins over United,a 4-0 thrashing at Nou Camp in the 1994 Champions League in a game in which Giggs featured for United and Guardiola for Barca and the 2-0 win in the 2009 final. Both teams have three Champions League trophy and are gunning for their fourth. Also both teams won their first European Cup at Wembley, United won their first European Cup in 1966, while Barca won in 1992. Both sides have identical records in their respective group stages; four wins and two draws from six games.
Man United won their 19 league title surpassing Liverpool’s record of 18 titles and are aiming to win their second Champions League in four years. Many have criticised this United team as not being as good as the United team of the past, but against all odds, they made it to the final.They defeated Marseille in the round of 16, then beat Chelsea in an all English affair before crushing surprise semi finalist, Schalke to book a date with Barcelona.Even though United are without Ronaldo and Tevez from the 2009 squad, they play more like a team now and are strong as a collective unit. Chicharito has been an inspired buy this season as he has been one of United’s best players this season. Though Rooney started the season badly he has regained his form in the latter part of the season.United will probably go for a 4-4-2 formation with Rafeal,Ferdinand,Vidic and Evra at the back; Giggs,Carrick, Park and Nani in midfield with Rooney and Chicharito leading the attack. United are aware that, for them to beat Barcelona they have to defend well. They have the best defence in the Champions League this season conceding just four goals and are able to take their chances when the opportunity comes. In the 2009 final, United started strongly but lost control of the game and Barcelona dominated the game till the end. It was one of the most one sided finals.
Meanwhile, Manchester United Manager, Alex Ferguson is confident that United’s young offensive line will be the key against Barcelona as the Red Devils seek to avenge their 2-0 defeat in the Champions League final in Rome two years ago. “If you see the kind of players we have, you expect them to make an impact,” he told The Guardian.
“Rooney’s form has been good for the last two to three months, Valencia and Park are fresh, while Hernandez has been a breath of fresh air to everyone.
“We have fresh players and that is important.” He added: “Barcelona deserve to be favourites. Their form has been fantastic this season.
“They are a terrific side. We will have to pay attention to Messi and all their great players.
“They will try to get a passing routine in the middle of the pitch and keep the ball from us.
“The danger is that we pay them too much attention and that is why I make the point that we have to pay attention to our own game.
“We have got to make our impact on the match. We have enough players in the squad to do that; he said. Also Man United Captain, Nemanja Vidic has this to say, “We know we are facing a very good team and have to be physically and psychologically ready.”Against this Barcelona team you have to be intelligent. They have qualities but we will work on their weaknesses and expose them to try and win the game.”
Barcelona on the other hand, heads into this game as favourites. Barcelona wrapped up their third straight league title under Guardiola and are hoping on wining their second Champions League in three years. They dispatched Arsenal in the second round before beating Shakhtar Donesk then the heated, controversial game against rivals, Real Madrid in the semi final. Barcelona have the tournament top scorer Lionel Messi in their ranks with 11 goals, one goal shy of the all time record of 12 scored by Ruud Van Nistelrooy. Messi has been in inspired form this season scoring 52 goals in all competition. He has promised to play this game against United as if it is his last. Barcelona have seven starters from the 2009 squad that defeated United. Also Barca have seven players in their squad who won the World Cup in South Africa. Both Alves and Abidal were suspended from last final and are expected to feature in this tie. Barcelona will probably go for a 4-3-3 formation that has worked for them well in the past. with Alves, Pique, Puyol and Abidal leading the backline. In the midfield where their strength lies is expected to have Xavi and Iniesta pulling the strings alongside Busquet or Mascherano.Messi,Villa and Pedro will definitely lead the attack.Villa has been in poor form of late scoring just one goal in his last 15 games and will be hoping to break his duck against United.
Barcelona coach, Pep Guardiola has not lost a game to Alex Ferguson both as a player and manager and will be hoping to continue his good run against him.Guardiola described Manchester United as one of the best teams in the world , “We have been looking at the 2009 game and they were better than us in the first half,” Guardiola told the press.
“The level is equal, they are strong, competitive and they can play with four or five different formations and they stay competitive. They are one of the best teams in the world, and not just this year. We are proud to be playing them.
“We can win it all or lose it all. At this point we are playing to win. The important thing is the desire and the final leaves its mark such as what it is like to be European champions.
“The team will prepare to start off strongly from the outset. We have to go out strong for the whole game.”
“It will be hard to beat them. We are working on how to do it, how to attack in the best way possible.”
Also, Barcelona midfielder, Javier Mascherano said, in the final there are no favourites, “We will try to do everything we can to win, in the 90 minutes, or 120 minutes. We don’t know how long it will take but we have confidence in ourselves.” “They are a very good team, very strong,” said the 26-year-old midfielder.
“They have a fantastic manager. He has a lot of experience in Europe and in the Premier League. “They are one of the biggest teams in the world. We have to be careful because they know how to play finals. It will be really, really difficult,” he further stated.
While Barcelona are clear favourites on paper, Man United physical and direct play can cause Barcelona problems. The game will be won and lost in midfield, if anybody is going to beat Barcelona, they have to find a way to stop their passing game. Barcelona brand of attacking football is unmatched and their ability to keep possession is their greatest strength and the likes of Park and Carrick will be given the to task to break Barca’s play.United have played with a determination and tenacity this season and have the ability to produce result when needed, but if there is one team that can crush Man United, it is Barcelona. With Barca’s attacking trio of Messi,Xavi and Iniesta, it is going to be a hard nut to crack for United. We are in for an absolute cracker as these two sides have shown they are the two best sides in Europe for the past three seasons, we hope the final live up to the hype and expectation and be one of the greatest Champions league final ever due to the amount of talent available on both sides.