While the words "Dream Final" often get tossed around, Wednesday's UEFA Champions League final in Rome comes as close to fitting the bill as any. Manchester United vs. Barcelona represents the two best teams from the two best national leagues in the world, boasting a cavalcade of stars, including arguably the two greatest players in the world (Man U's Cristiano Ronaldo and Barca's Lionel Messi). It is quite possible that Wednesday will see Ronaldo, Messi, Wayne Rooney, Samuel Eto'o, Thierry Henry, Dimitir Berbatov, and Carlos Tevez all on the field at the same time.
Naturally, the game will likely never live up to the hype.
After scouring the soccer internet mediasphere (real word?), the general consensus is that everyone is pulling for Barcelona, but that Man United just have too many weapons.
Barcelona reached the Final in dramatic fashion.
Down a goal, down to 10 men, on the road, and with second-half stoppage time ticking away against Chelsea, the Blaugrana looked finished. The West London crowd was already singing "We're going to Rome!" and were making plans for a holiday in the Eternal City. Then Barca scored to level the game at 1-1 and go through on the away goals tiebreaker. It was possibly the most dramatic finish to a European game I had seen since Man United's come-from-behind victory in the 1999 Champions League Final.
Man United reached the Final thanks to a rout of Arsenal in the Semifinal. The Red Devils are chasing their record-setting fourth trophy this season (Having already won the Carling Cup, English Premier League, and FIFA Club World Cup). Man United is also seeking to be the first team to retain the Champions League title since AC Milan pulled the feat in 1989 and 1990. If United walk out of the Stadio Olimpico with the trophy, they will be the first English team to repeat in this competition since Nottingham Forest in 1979 and 1980. Their lineup is a veritable gattling gun of firepower. I can't see Man U getting shut out in this final. Starting from that assumption, that means Barca is going to have to get at least 2 goals to win (or luck out on PKs).
However, if any team can pull that off, it is Barca. Their 1-1 scoreline over 180 minutes in the semifinals was the product of a number of factors Most notably the injury bug, and a Chelsea team that never dreamed of playing attacking football in the whole series, and reduced the game to a streetfight. Barca is the kind of team that would rather win a game 5-4 than 1-0. Their 104 goals scored leads the Spanish league, but their backline is more than capable as well. Their meager 34 goals surrendered also leads La Liga. However, Chelsea (despite not winning the series), gave Man United the playbook on how to neutralize Barca's attack. Foul Foul Foul.
I'm going to pick Man United to take the game. 2-1.