What: 2011 UEFA Champions League final
Who: Barcelona (Spain) vs Manchester United (England)
When: Saturday 28th May, 2011, at 19:45 UK time
Where: Wembley Stadium, London, England

Fourth in Sight

It seemed just yesterday that Josep Guardiola guided Barcelona to their most successful season ever as the first team he was promoted to coach amassed every conceivable trophy there is to win, claiming their third Champions League accolade in 2009 against Manchester United themselves, a game that crowned them as the best team in the world. Two years later, Barcelona will be looking to consolidate that title in a rematch of the game that took place in Rome.

Never taking their foot off the gas this season as Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid side were left trailing in their wake in La Liga, Barcelona have been imperious ever since Guardiola assumed command. This is their third Champions League final in six years, having won it in 1992 – at Wembley –, in 2006 and 2009.

Pundits and bookmakers might make the Blaugrana favourites to clinch their fourth European Cup, but Lionel Messi himself declared that this will be a very difficult match, with United having revenge in their minds: “We are up against a great team in a game that will be completely different. I don’t know if United are stronger than two years ago, but I am clear that this will be a very even final. I don’t see United as being any weaker than in Rome – they’ve just won the Premier League and they are in the Champions League final. They have an attack with a lot of quality in players like [Wayne] Rooney, Chicharito and [Antonio] Valencia. I see them as a very tough team – a very difficult team to beat”.

Time for Payback

Two years later, the opportunity presents itself for Sir Alex Ferguson and his team to gain revenge after they were made to look foolish by Barcelona the last time the two teams met on a hot Italian night. Naturally, terms such as “revenge” and “payback” have been thrown up the air in anticipation of the Wembley final, and with this current crop of United players lining-up for such an occasion, the tables could very well be turned after ninety minutes of football.


Morale is high in the Old Trafford camp, even though facing Barcelona is the most difficult task in European football, especially at such a stage. However, playing their third Champions League finals in the last four years is every indication that Ferguson’s team are worthy opponents.

And they have the right amount of expertise to approach a match of such magnitude, according to Serbian defender Nemanja Vidic, who acknowledged that his team won’t yield to the Blaugrana’s mind games: “We have to focus and concentrate and then it won’t be a big deal to handle the things that we know will come. They may do things and argue more than they should do, but it won’t affect us.

"I don’t think we have any doubt about the mentality of the players in our team and their ability to handle this. We’re playing at Wembley, it’s a different team and I believe we can perform better than we did back then [in Rome]”.

Recent form

Levante 1-1 Barcelona (11/05; La Liga)
Barcelona 0-0 Deportivo La Coruna (15/05; La Liga)
Malaga 1-3 Barcelona (21/05; La Liga)

Manchester United:
Manchester United 2-1 Chelsea (08/05; Premier League)
Blackburn Rovers 1-1 Manchester United (14/05; Premier League)
Manchester United 4-2 Blackpool (22/05; Premier League)

Key absences

Barcelona: Carles Puyol (doubt); Gabriel Milito; Jose Manuel Pinto (suspended)

Manchester United: John O’Shea (doubt)


Team formations

Barcelona – 4-1-2-3: Barcelona have not changed their style of play all season, and there is no indication that they are going to do so now. Of course, the big question mark remains over skipper Carles Puyol’s availability, but his absence has proven to be of little trouble as Barcelona managed to plug the gap. Eric Abidal might even start having recovered from his health problems.

Manchester United – 4-5-1 or 4-4-2: Of course, the prospect of an extra man in midfield seems very tempting for Ferguson, who will certainly want to stop the Barcelona engine-room in every conceivable way. Should he opt for it, then Javier Hernandez will likely be dropped to bolster the middle of the park. If not, the United manager will go for the “all-in” with the Mexican and Wayne Rooney spearheading the attack.

Players to watch

Barcelona – Lionel Messi: It is times like these where the current Spanish champions look to their star attraction to come up with that wonderful moment that separates them from the rest of the football world. Lionel Messi has been marvellous yet again this year, claiming more than fifty goals to his name. He will undoubtedly be at the centre of things should Barcelona be successful on the night.

Manchester United – Edwin van der Sar: Barring any last-minute change of heart, an epic career will be put to rest after 21 years when the Dutchman hangs up his gloves after the final. Edwin van der Sar will go down in history as one of the greatest keepers ever after spells at Ajax, Juventus and Fulham, before rejuvenating himself in Manchester. At 40 years of age, a Champions League victory will be the perfect farewell.

Match Prediction

It can be argued that United are in some ways stronger than for the 2009 final as they do not depend on Cristiano Ronaldo for inspiration. The 1999 winners do have the advantage of playing at a stadium they know well in the shape of Wembley. However, their task looks a difficult one playing against a Barcelona side that has the potential to go down as the best team ever to play the game. When all is said and done, expect Barcelona to prevail 2-1.