Barcelona and Manchester United Vie for UEFA Champions League Title

2011 UEFA Champions League Final
Manchester United vs FC Barcelona
Wembley Stadium, London, England
Saturday, May 28, 2011, 2:45 pm Eastern, TV: Fox
Goal Line: Barcelona -1 (+160) / Man-U +1 (-210)
Three Way Money Line: FCB Even-MNU +275-Draw +250
Total: under 2 1/2 -160 / over 2 1/2 +125
Odds to win outright: FCB -225 / MNU +165 (includes overtime and shootout)

Manchester United and FC Barcelona meet for the second time in 3 years in the UEFA Champions League Final at Wembley Stadium in London.

These two teams are arguably the two most talented football teams in the world. Manchester United just won the English Premier League last week and Barcelona won the Spanish League, La Liga. Barcelona and Manchester United met in the UEFA Champions league final in 2009, with Barca coming out on top 2-0 in that contest. That game was in Rome, but this time Man U will be playing in their home country in nearby London.  This is the 11th time the two teams have played each other. Each has 3 wins and the two teams have 4 draws against each other.

This game will be a contrast of styles with United’s stingy defense against Barcelona’s explosive offense. The Red Devils have given up only 4 goals in 12 UEFA games, while Barca has scored 27 in their 12 games. Man U advanced to the knockout stage by beating Rangers, Bursaspor, and Valencia. Barcelona beat Rubin, Panathinaikos, and Kobenhavn in group D to get to the knockout stage. Barcelona drew a tough Arsenal team in the round of 16 and advanced 4-3 on aggregate in the two leg home and home. Arsenal actually gave Barcelona its only defeat of the tournament 2-1 in London. United drew Marseille and advanced 2-1 on aggregate. In the quarters, Manchester drew arch-rival Chelsea and advanced 3-1 on aggregate. Barcelona played Ukrainian team Shakhtar Donetsk and advanced 6-1 on aggregate. The Red Devils destroyed Schalke 6-1 in the semifinals while Barca drew arch-rival Real Madrid and advanced 3-1 on aggregate.

Manchester United is managed by Sir Alex Ferguson and he is trying to become the second manager to win 3 UEFA Champions titles. The Red Devils are playing in their third UEFA final in 4 years. Goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar has allowed only 3 goals in 9 UEFA matches, and made 34 saves. The Man U attack has scored 18 goals in 12 UEFA games. United Forward Javier Hernandez has scored 4 goals and an assist in the Champions league so far. Ironically, forward Dimitar Berbatov who scored 20 goals in the Barclay’s Premier League season to lead Man U hasn’t scored in UEFA this season. Forward Wayne Rooney has scored 3 goals in UEFA competition along with 2 assists. Midfielder Ryan Giggs lead the team with 4 assists in the Champions League. Forward Anderson has scored 3 goals for United, but no other Man U player has more than one goal in the competition.

FC Barcelona is managed by Josep Guardiola who has been with the team since 2008. As mentioned, Barcelona has scored 27 goals in the tournament so far but they have only given up 8. Barcelona is playing in their third final in 6 six years. Goalkeeper Victor Valdes has made 16 saves in 10 UEFA games, and conceded all 8 goals. The attack is led by dynamic forward Lionel Messi who has 11 goals and 3 assists in the tournament. The 23 year old from Argentina is widely considered to be the best offensive player in the world. Forward Pedro has 4 goals and an assist in the tournament. Forward David Villa has 3 goals and an assist. Defender Dani Alves has 2 goals and 3 assists, while midfielder Xavi has 2 goals and 2 assists. Midfielder Andres Iniesta leads the team in assists with 5.

This game should be a lot closer than two years ago as Manchester United. As talented as Manchester United is, they can’t get into an offensive shootout with Barcelona. It will be up to defender Nemanja Vidic to try and contain the explosive Messi. Vidic is by far the best defender in the Premier League so he could be up to the challenge. United Goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar will retire after this match. I think this match will be close. Barcelona wins 1-0 on a late goal.


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