2009 Champions League final preview

by Dexy Longshot

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Barcelona V Manchester United. Stadio Olimpico, Rome. KO 7:45

At last, the final we’ve all been waiting for, excluding Gooners, Kopites and Blues fans. Poor old Chelsea, never mind, you’ve still got the FA Cup on Saturday.

Most neutrals would agree that this is the final the world has waited for and I’m counting down the hours till I can get in the boozer and cheer on England, even though I love Barca. It wasn’t so a couple of weeks back when Chelsea and in particular Drog pi88ed me off so much that I actually cheered when Barca scored (although i was fired up big time for that game, i would have cheered either way).

Anyway, most supporters have got the final they wanted with arguably the best two teams in the world, both are their respective League winners, something we haven’t seen for donkeys years in the final. I really think it could prove to be a classic & it will also bring up some serious European bragging rights for the winner. Italy, Spain and England are all tied on 11 European cups each. A Manc victory would see England as the best country to perform in the European/Champs League Cup since it began in the days when footy was black & white everyone on the box talked posh.

I tipped the Catalans earlier in the season to bring back the silverware to the Camp Nou but with a now seriously weakened team, I’m thinking Nou way Jose!

The Old Trafford squad do not possess a weakened team. The 11 who faced Hull on Saturday were the Red Devil’s 3rd string and they still did the business over Hull. Guardiolas 2nd string couldn’t even overcome Real Mallorca & Osasuna recently. These days, a brilliant 1st 11 doesn’t always bring home the bacon (sorry Arsene). What you now need to win the big prize is a big squad packed with quality and United simply boast the best in world football.

Fletcher is the only name missing who probably would have started, (I’m obviously discounting Hargreaves, Neville and Brown who haven’t figured this season). When you look to the other bench, it’s a different story. Due to recent injuries and suspensions, Rooney & Ronny will be licking their lips, they should be able to get through that below par back line like a knife through butter. Never mind what’s going on in the other half. If Rio is fit, he will slot back into the best defence in Europe and they should have enough to keep Barcas attacking options at bay (remember, the Catalans only had one shot on target against Chelsea).

I’m not saying it will be a walkover, I just feel that Fergie won’t have to be as defensive as Hiddink was. Barca will have the lions share possession in Rome especially if Henry and Iniesta play but Fergie will want to dispossess them as much as possible and raid the defence on the break.

Barcelona will probably play Puyol at right back, (note: Cavey has played there just once this season) Sylvinho whose best days are behind him will come in at left back and Caceres (who are ya??) will take the centre halve berth if Yaya stays in midfield. Even Keita might have to slot in somewhere. It is only Manc reject Pique who will be playing in his best position and respect due, he was in good form in the semis but he will have his work cut out keeping an eye on Ronaldo who will be itching to show up his nemesis Messi.

Against Chelsea, Busquets was the weak link in Guardiolas midfield armoury & Yaya may have to return there from centre-back duty. Carrick and Anderson have been shimmering diamonds recently and we may see the Spanish midfield in trouble, something Barcelona are not used to. Anderson & Carrick will be crucial in hunting down the midfield marvals in the middle and Rooney and Park will be tracking back on Messi and Henry. If it was Barcelona’s usual backline with Marquez, Pique, Alves & Abidal with Yaya back in midfield, it would be tighter but I think without them, the Barca attack as good as it is will be let down at the other end.

Oh yes followers of The Den, the trophy is coming home again to the same club in successive seasons, another Champions League first. I could rattle on for pages about this final but I’ve got to keep it short & sweet.
2-1 Man U. I’m even chucking a pony on it, I was spot on last time!

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  • Tef1on

    1-1 full time 3-1 Extra time to Barcelona

  • Darren

    Man United will win on pens after a very dull 0-0 draw. Jamie Redknapp will wee himself with excitement and Andy Grey will say that really annoying phrase ‘take bow son’ and ‘I’m brilliant’.

    Lets hope for a 4-4 draw, Messi vs Ronaldo who is the best? This is Messi’s chance, he is still to score against an English club in the Champions League, what a time to break his duck!

  • Matt Quinn

    Everyone keeps going on about Messi not scoring against an English team- but he was man of the match when he played Chelsea a few years ago, best player on pitch in both legs last year against United AND…. a fact, no one seems to quote….

    Ronaldo has never scored against Spanish opposition.

    You do the math.

  • dexylongshot

    I’d be just as worried about Iniesta pulling strings in the middle with Xavi. His fitness will be crucial. There was report earlier on Sky saying Ronaldo had is ankle heavily strapped, not sure if that is mind games by Fergie or just a safe guard for absorbing the grease rolling into his boots from that shiny Portu-mop.

  • Darren

    Messi once had 4 big macs before a junior game when he was 10, he scored 19 goals in a 27-0 victory.


  • Matt Quinn

    Heres a quiz question…..

    Who’s the only club to have been knocked out of a European competition but still went on to win the same competition in the same year?

  • Darren


  • Matt Quinn

    No. (Do i have to keep writing no for every guess?)

  • Darren

    clue please.

    AC Milan

  • Matt Quinn

    No. Clue…. They were knocked out by a team who played in their great rival’s traditional colours.

  • http://reassessthepress.wordpress.com Sam

    I couldn’t even hazard a guess there Matt, but as for the game tonight, I think Anderson’s role will be absolutely pivotal.

    If Fletcher was there then he would be chosen despite Scholes and Giggs’ expertise and experience. Barcelona aren’t happy when the midfield works hard and buzzes about them. They may have incredible close control and skill to find the gaps but in their league they are given hours to take a touch, look up and dance their way through the midfield.

    Anderson will have to do the job of Fletcher there as well, coz Carrick will be used more as an outlet and platform to build and Giggs will roam around looking for space behind their midfield. The little Brazilian ‘tank’ has the energy and ability, to keep both Xavi and Iniesta harried and if he nicks possession from those two maestros, he’ll have Giggs, Park, Rooney and Ronaldo ready to pounce on the counter…and you’ve seen at the Emirates how devestating that can be!

    This is gonna be the big one! 2-1 United

  • dexylongshot

    Great minds think alike Samual my son!!!

  • Stevie

    Iniesta, best player in the world! Sensational performance.

    United’s luck finally ran out, 4 trophies my arse, you weren’t good enough to even win one!

  • Tef1on

    To be fair… big shout out to Puyol tonight. Playing out of position and was a big candidate for MOTM.

    Xavi, Messi and Iniesta ran the game. They are simply a different class. United lacked composure and discipline which is why they lost. Kicking players in the last 20 minutes and diving into tackles they cant win! they were very very lucky to end the game with 11 players!

    Quality goals, quality play. What a step up from last seasons Barcelona (see link below)


  • http://www.ukfootballfinder.co.uk Darren

    getting rid of Ronaldinho was key. The new boss has been truly sensational, if ever there was a candidate for best new comer of all its him, the treble in his first season.

    Even though they are team of superstars they play for each other. Iniesta is quite simply the most underated player in world football. All you hear about is kaka this, Ronaldo that, blah, blah, blah. In the biggest games he has shone. He totally bossed that midfield and made United look very average. I think they are 2 players short of being a very good side. They need a Robbie Fowler at his peak, and a Gerrard in midfield, until then Barca will dominate the Champions League…

    Puyol was superb as well. All in all a great night for football!

  • Tef1on

    All being said Fergie got it horribly wrong last night. Anderson and Giggs were a huge gamble with leaving arguably one of United’s best players (Tevez) on the bench! Also an unfit Rio didn’t help things. Too many gambles in my opinion.

  • http://reassessthepress.wordpress.com Sam

    Suprisingly, his holyness Ronaldo hit the nail on the head: United just weren’t compact enough, and you can’t play open against Barca.

    Giggs’ role in the first half was very questionable, instead of tucking in next to Carrick he floated about ineffectively and quite simply didnt do a thing right in the first 45. United were too exposed at times but you must admit, that goal massively changed the complexion of the game. If Park had been able to follow up Ronnie’s free kick in the first couple of minutes, United could have concentrated on defence, Barca would have got stretched and we could easily be talking about a famous quadrouple!

  • dexylongshot

    Sam i was just saying that to big bossman, where was Giggs meant to be playing, in the Times it had his starting position just behind Ronaldo, no wonder the midfield was over-run. It just goes to show how much they missed Fletcher (Never thought i’d be saying that about the jock). Giggs player of the season??? Iniesta, best in the World.

  • http://www.ukfootballfinder.co.uk Darren

    I think the word arrogance springs to mind, United thought they could turn up with any team, defend like mad and get them on the break.

  • http://reassessthepress.wordpress.com Sam

    Wouldn’t call that arrogance. We were all over them in the first 10 minutes, but Giggs or Fergie or Joe Bloggs in row Z should have realised that he needed to tuck in and compact the midfield a bit more.

    It would have been arrogant to play with everyone gung ho at the top but instead we tried to stem their talents out wide with Rooney sacrificing himself – yet again – and no one took it upon themselves to break that mould and really go at their back four. Puyol was rightly saluted coz he gave a big performance. He was more of a threat than Wazza and that tells you everything.

    Wayne will be thinking the England qualifiers can’t come soon enough so he can get back to doing what he does best and be the focal point of the team!

  • Patrick

    Iniesta was quality – such good close control and brilliant awareness combined with a burst of pace that took him away from Anderson for the first goal – there’s no way he can be underrated by anyone now. Done it against Chelsea and again in the final. Superb.

    As for United, I don’t think it was arrogance but maybe, just maybe it was a little complacency. All the build up was about Barca missing key defenders and how United would take advantage of that but when it came down to it apart from the first 9 minutes United were totally outclassed. There was way too much space for Xavi and Iniesta to operate in and the simple fact is that Barca have better footballers who are comfotable with the ball at their feet than United. I though Busquets was decent as well considering he was a Barca B player at this time last year. Quite a step up for him with the treble in his first season (albeit as back up for Toure). Where can Barca and Guardiola go now? Score 200+ next year and win the title by 25 points?

    One more point, did Henry bottle it on the big stage again? Had his chancd early in the second half and though Van Der Sar closed the angle well, Henry could (should?) have dinked it over him for 2-0. I know he was coming back from injury but it’s often be said he goes missing in big games and that was a big chance at 1-0. Luckily for him Messi stepped up to the plate.

    Nice to see Scholes lose his composure with a shocking challenge on Busquets. Surely he should’ve seen red?

  • Matt Quinn

    Blowing my own trumpet for a minute… i said Iniesta was in top 3 players in the world over a year ago… before he won European Championships with Spain and treble with Barca.


    I also knew Messi was on a different planet to Ronaldo… and i dont think he was even at his best in the final.


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