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Champions League Final Preview: Barcelona v Manchester United

For the second time in three years Barcelona and Manchester United will meet in the Champions League Final, with both clubs looking to win their fourth Champions League trophy.

This is the 11th meeting between these two clubs and the record so far is three wins each and four draws; neither side has won consecutive games. The teams have contested two major finals, Barcelona winning two years ago in Rome, while United won their 1991 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup decider in Rotterdam

Team News
Barcelona

Barcelona’s main selection dilemma will concern their defence where Eric Abidal, Adriano and Maxwell are all available again after injury or illness. However, Pep Guardiola may opt to play the also fit-again Carles Puyol at left-back with Javier Mascherano filling in alongside Gerard Pique.

Expected Team
Barcelona (4-3-3): Valdes; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Puyol; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta; Pedro, Messi, Villa.

Manchester United
Man United have no injury problems, which means that Sir Alex Ferguson has some big decisions to make, particularly over who gets the nod at right-back, and in center midfield.

Expected Team
Manchester United (4-4-1-1): Van der Sar; Fabio Da Silva, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Giggs, Park; Rooney; Hernandez.

Match Facts

  • Barcelona have contested six finals, winning three and losing three. However, the Spanish champions have won their last two, both against English opposition, beating Arsenal in 2006 and Manchester United in 2009.
  • The club’s first European Cup triumph was at Wembley in 1992 when they overcame Sampdoria 1-0. Manager Pep Guardiola, then just 21, featured in the match for the Catalans.
  • Lionel Messi has 11 goals in 12 European appearances this season and one more will see him equal Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record for goals in a Champions League season with 12.
  • If he plays, defender Carles Puyol will be making his 101st Champions League appearance for the Spanish champions.
  • Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson is chasing a hat-trick of Champions League wins and should he claim the European Cup for a third time on Saturday he will equal Bob Paisley’s record with Liverpool.
  • Edwin van der Sar will retire after the final but if United win he will become the oldest player to claim the Champions League, beating Paolo Maldini’s current record. The Italian was 38 years and 332 days when AC Milan beat Liverpool in 2007.
  • Like Barcelona, the first of Manchester United’s European Cup wins came at Wembley, back in 1968. The Red Devils beat Benfica 4-1, scoring three in extra-time with Bobby Charlton, George Best and Brian Kidd all on the scoresheet.
  • The Premier League champions have not conceded a goal away from home in the Champions League all season and have let in just four goals throughout the entire tournament.

Prediction
Barcelona are heavy favourites to be crowned European champions. The way some of the pundits are talking, United have no chance of winning.

Sir Alex Ferguson has said for two years that he had a game plan to beat Barcelona, but the players never executed it. On Saturday we will see what he has learnt from the defeat in Rome.

Barcelona will boss the game like they always do, and Messi and Villa will cause the United defence problems. It will be interesting to see how Barca cope with the pressure from Park and Valencia who will hassle and pressure Xaxi and Iniesta for the full 90 minutes.

But if Barca does have a problem it is the speed of its central defenders and I expect Hernandez’s speed to cause them problems and create a couple of good scoring opportunities for himself and Rooney.

I think this will be a much tighter game than most pundits expect, and I would not be surprised if the game goes to extra time.

Score: Barcelona 2 Man United 1 AET

What do you think the score will be?

 

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