Thursday, May 26, 2011

The All Important Champions League Final

You can use all the superlatives in the world still the significance and all the hype surrounding this showpiece at The Wembley will remain unassailable. Quite simply, it is the pinnacle of European football. Man Utd locking horns yet again with Barca. The recently crowned champions of England against once again crowned champions of Spain. Gaffa against Pep. 4-4-1-1 against 4-3-3. The impregnable defense versus the tikki takka passing game of the Catalans. Manchester United squaring off against Barcelona for the Champions League crown. The stage is set, only waiting for its heroes. And battle lines have been drawn up. 
 Having a look at the stats clearly tells you how consistent both the teams have been. Man Yoo are the only unbeaten team left in this season’s competition. Their defense has only leaked 4 goals in Europe this season. With 9 wins and only 3 draws out of the 12 games played there is no doubt that Man United are the team to beat this season. On the other side , Barca have created some history of their own as well.They have scored 27 goals in Europe ‘s premium club competition this campaign, which is the most among other teams involved . They have scored in every single European game this term. So one could easily guess what is coming our way. At Wembley, irresistible force in shape of Barca‘s attacking prowess meets the immovable object in the form of United‘s unbreachable defense.

As far as United are concerned, lessons must have been learned from the debacle of Rome. That night, two years ago Barca trio of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta teared the United midfield apart at will. Very few teams dominate United the way Barca did on the biggest stage of them all. But Sir Alex was quick to point out that this is a different United team now. Ronaldo is off to Madrid which means players are gelling together and are not relying on an individual . It’s a collective team effort nowadays at United and the rewards are for everyone to be seen. For me Park Ji Sung will be the most influential player for United. The outcome of the match would depend a lot on how well Park plays. Still remember , SAF describing it as the toughest decision of his professional career to leave park out of their 2008 final against Chelsea. Park will be employed on United ‘s left hand side probably. His main objectives will be to stop Dani Alves from making those runs behind full backs as well as keeping half an eye on Leo Messi. Player like Park is invaluable to United ‘s aspirations of winning a 4th European Cup. Over the years United have relied heavily on wing players. They always use the full width of the pitch. How often have we  seen Van Der Sar rolling the ball out to either Vidic or Ferdinand who are at some distance from one another. Also encouraging full backs to move forward and help the wing players. Chicharito ‘s agility and Rooney ‘s robust appetite to track all the way back should help United in this big match.

 While there are no intricacies involved on how Barcelona will set up. They will keep the ball , they always do. But unlike other free flowing teams e.g Arsenal, their possession is met with purpose. Barca’s midfield overpowers United when it comes to vision, an eye for the pass and to top them all to keep the ball. But one can rest assure that Gaffa will have a plan or two up his sleeve to break that stranglehold because possession is indispensable  at least when you are playing against Barcelona.
No matter how teams line up , we should have a fascinating and scrumptious game on our hands. One cannot expect a free flowing , you attack we attack kind of game. European finals are never like that. But there will be a plethora of drama and individual brilliance. With the talent on show this promises to be one heck of a season ending finale. The final of Rome would be forgotten if you are a United fan. After that final I personally felt as if there was no cure for the pain and no end to the grief that we suffered.
Even with 19 th title in the bag , you can expect that Sir Alex ‘s thirst is far from being quenched & As the saying goes ‘’ A hungry man is an angry man’’ Sir Alex will do anything in his grasp to ensure that the debacle of Rome never occurs again.

By Hanzla Ahmed Khan