Champions League Final: The Pub Way

There are an awful lot of previews and so much media attention that you’ve probably already been smacked in the face by all the statistics imaginable, all the furore surrounding Giggs, the weight of history on everyone’s shoulders, Van der Sar’s last performance for the team, the brilliance of Messi and the prowess of Barcelona. Need I go on? To be honest, I was tempted to do the same, however having been to Wembley and the press conferences yesterday, courtesy of Heineken, I thought it would be best to boil this down to what everyone really wants – no not just another beer. The basic, need-to-know facts and points for discussion that can make your afternoon drinking in the pub prior to the game flow with excellent footballing chat.

So what exactly are the key points for discussion in relation to the game that you’ll need to know? Well, there are some basic things we need to get out of the way first, so please stick with me.

Firstly, we are talking about a game of champions. Not just because this is the Champions League, but two teams that have won their domestic titles in recent weeks and they did so resoundingly, but also arguably in the best two leagues in the world. This really should, by all account, prove to be a classic game. But therein lies our first question – will this prove to be the game we are all expecting?

If you’ve watched many finals involving Manchester United in the past, you may doubt whether or not they are going to play their usual open game we have come to expect in the league. Are they going to attempt to park the bus and score on the counter? Will the game pass by with little cause for excitement like their last encounter with Barcelona? Similarly, they managed the same dull performance against Chelsea in their last Champions League final win, played in Russia. Barcelona will undoubtedly try to play their unique passing and dribbling game, as this is the only game they seem to know, but will that be possible against a Man U line up that is likely to include more defensive players than you would have thought likely? Well, this remains to be seen – but still a point for discussion if you ask me.

Who is going to be the stand out player? Or is there even going to be one? We all know what can be achieved by the likes of Giggs, Messi, Villa, Rooney, Xavi, Iniesta and to a lesser extent, Pedro. However are any of them going to be the shining light in the game, or decide the match? Hell, are they all even going to be starting? These are all attacking players who will shape the game should it be open, however if things are closed down, the midfield congested and tackles flying in left, right and centre, then it’s possible we may find unlikely heroes in the more defensive minded players on the pitch. Will Man U captain Vidic be their hero of the day, or perhaps it’ll be previous captain Rio reaffirming his place in Man U history? Or could we see Pique doing the deed on the other side? I don’t know, nobody knows yet. It’s definitely something well worth talking about if you ask me.

Man U training

Tactics need to be given a brief nod as something to worth bringing up in the pub. Tactically we are seeing two great managers at work. Sir Alex has immense experience in the Champions League and domestically, having rewritten the history books after winning their 19th league title this season. Guardiola is still a young manger, and as Sir Alex said at the press conference yesterday, he came in and reinvigorated the team, changed the way the play, and brought a maturity to the team. How are they going to be lining up, will we see something different from Ferguson, or so he has stated, as he wants to be able t say his team gave a full account of themselves, as opposed to their 2009 encounter. Guardiola, on the other hand, is unlikely to change anything, and we will see their best and strongest team on the field in their usual positions. However, as many have stated, this is a rare occasion when Man U are actually the underdogs, and so they are the team with all the work to do and less pressure than Barcelona.

From the Man U side of things, a big talking point this entire season has been Javier Hernandez. Guardiola and the Barcelona team will be wary of the majority of the threats posed by the big guns of the Man U team, with the likes of Rooney, Giggs, Berbatov, Nani, Ferdiand, etc. having all faced off against them in the Champions League in the past, or against each other on international duties. However in the young Javier Hernandez, Ferguson as an unknown element. During his first proper season in the Premier League, his pace and movement has caught a lot of teams by surprise, almost as much as it has their fans! Will he be able to use this wild card against Barcelona effectively? This remains to be seen. Guardiola stated that Hernandez was a ‘huge surprise’ and ‘amazing’, that he is a great young talent and will be a big star for Manchester United – so perhaps the threat really has been realised. I’m not sure. Discuss.

Messi – how do you deal with Messi? And, its not just Messi really, it’s the front 3, Pedro in the middle, Messi on the right and Villa on the left. How will Man U’s defensive midfield and back line be able to cope with their pace, power, creativity and accuracy? These are the guys who have literally decimated teams this season. Need I mention a 5-1 win over Mourinho’s Real Madrid? Man U have all the work to do, and Barcelona just have to keep up their form of averaging 2.5 goals per game (sorry, that is a number, and I’ve been trying to avoid them).

Barcelona Training at Wembley

I am sure there is a lot more to talk about really:
Giggs performances both on and off the pitch
Rooney and his temper – is he going to be frustrated beyond belief today?
Potential signings for Giggs?
Guardiola being linked to Chelsea this morning (yet another name in the world’s biggest hat)
Goals – who is going to score first? One for you gamblers out there.
The youngsters – there are quite a few young players who are likely to put in an appearance, are they doing to keep their heads?
Wembley – it’s in the UK again, is it going to rain? Is the pitch going to hold up?

There is a lot to consider here, a lot to discuss all afternoon in the pub or at a BBQ, if you are lucky enough to find a sport of sun that is. Of course, you are welcome to discuss it here with us as well, leave us a comment. So, head to the pub right now armed with your points of view, grab yourself a cold Heineken and get chatting. Hopefully within the next few hours your points will be proved right… Check out the review of the season for more to discuss, oh and why not crack a Giggs joke n all?