Every week, football fans pass each other in the office hallways, gather on the factory floor and around the water coolers at gym. We discuss the games to come, the potential outcomes and how those results will determine the fates and fortunes of our favourite clubs and players. That’s what makes the UEFA Champions League Final the immensely magnetic event that it is.
There are NO more league games left. No more bouts of football that offer log position changing results or reputation creating moments for the hungriest of players. All but one is done. One final battle that all fans will be focused on, and if the club you support isn’t involved in this massive spectacle, then you’re inevitably picking a side.
Saturday, 28th May 2011. Not only is it the biggest annual club match in the world, but this years final also sported two of the biggest clubs in the world. Both sides last featured in a Champions League Final in 2009, when Barcelona claimed a comfortable 2-0 victory over Manchester United at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
In the red corner: Manchester United have sported a less convincing side this past season than what we’ve become accustomed to seeing, yet Fergie‘s men showed a top-shelf level of discipline and consistency that overshadowed teams that seemed bigger challengers on paper. This proved to be key in their haul of a record 19th Premier League title and their climb to the Champions League final.
In the blue corner: FC Barcelona have had a tremendous 2010-2011 La Liga campaign, not only winning the Spanish league for the 3rd consecutive season, but beating Jose Mourinho’s superstar-studded Real Madrid side in what was a two horse race for the title.
Barcelona dominated the match with their slick passing game which stunted anything Arsenal tried to create, and two goals from Lionel Messi and one from Xavi won the game for the Catalans with Sergio Busquets scoring an own goal for Arsenal’s consolation. However it was the controversial sending off of Robin van Persie that helped swing the game in Barcelona’s favour after the Gunners’ fortuitous equaliser.
Arsenal were given a huge boost before kick off as both Van Persie and Cesc Fabregas were declared fit and named in the starting line-up. The Dutchman had been substituted in the League Cup final with a knee problem and Fabregas injured his hamstring against Stoke City a month ago, but both men recovered quicker than expected.
The Argentine, like last season, treated Europe’s blue riband club competition as his personal playground, scoring two classy goals before missing a penalty as Barca recovered from an early shock to thrash visiting Panathinaikos 5-1 in Group D.
Inter took the lead but then had to come from behind to draw 2-2 at Dutch debutants Twente Enschede in Group A with the Italians losing forward Goran Pandev to a knee injury.
A much-changed Manchester United could find no way past obdurate Scottish visitors Rangers in Group C, drawing 0-0 in a game overshadowed by a serious ankle injury to Antonio Valencia.
You know a player is very good when the opposition’s manager hits world headline praising him. Arsene Wenger, Arsenal’s manger is singing Lionel Messi’s praises at the top of his voice this morning in spite of the fact that the Argentinian national wiped his team out of the Champions league single handedly with a crushing 4 -1 victory.
The night started off OK for Arsenal when Nicklas Bendtner fired the Gunners into a shock lead on 18 minutes. But their joy was short-lived as Messi struck a brilliant 21-minute hat-trick, before compounding Arsenal’s misery with a fourth late on.
Barcelona beat Stuttgart 4 – 0 to cruise into the Champions League last eight with Lionel Messi scoring two magic goals.
Messi struck a brilliant opener after just 12 minutes to put Barca 2-1 ahead in the last-16 tie, and he played a key role soon after as Pedro Rodriguez made it 2-0 on the night in the Nou Camp.
Messi, who was a constant menace, added a third on the hour mark to take his tally to eight goals in the last four games before Bojan Krkic completed the romp late on as Barca became Spain’s only representative to make it into the last eight.
Real Madrid, whose Bernabeu stadium will stage this year’s final, and Sevilla were both dumped out in the last week while Atletico Madrid bade farewell to the competition in the group stages.
Messi’s entourage “knows that Barca want the player to feel good here… We are proud to have him in the team because he is the best player in the world.”
The negotiations are continuing “at a good pace,” he said.
The 22-year-old is under contract with Barca until 2010. His salary is estimated at eight million euros per year.
Coach Pep Guardiola said meanwhile said that the arrival of Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic will help keep Messi on his toes, and that’s what he needs.
“If Leo isn’t under pressure, he gets bored,” he said.