UEFA Champions League Final: Preview and Prediction

Posted: May 21, 2008 in Barclays Premier League, Soccer, UEFA CL

Cue music, cue fans, cue stadium, cue commentators, we’re hours away from the first ever all-English final in UEFA Champions League history. Manchester United are looking for a cup double, while Chelsea are looking for instant success in their first ever final. Oops, and Avram Grant is also hoping that he isn’t thrown out if Chelsea lose again.

Manchester United

The Red Devils have had a great run in their first final since 1999 (the treble season). They have outscored their opponents 19-5, and just 1 goal was conceded in the knockout stage. Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney will be the forwards today and they will have to find a way to get past Petr Cech. Both have scored against Chelsea this season, with Tevez getting his first ever Man Utd goal at Old Trafford.

Cristiano Ronaldo, player of the year, one of the best in the game, need I say more? He leads all scorers in the Champions League with 7 goals, and we know what he can do to set up his teammates, or bend in a free kick from 30 yards away.

The midfield has been strong for the most part for United, Paul Scholes scored the winner for them against Barcelona to send them to the final, Ryan Giggs is going to surpass Bobby Charlton’s club record for caps, and Michael Carrick….well I said most part right?

United’s defense has been brilliant in this Champions League run, as mentioned, they’ve conceded just 5 goals in 14 matches. The goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Sar has been inconsistent at times, and he will have an important role in his first ever final.

Chelsea

Well, it hasn’t been as pretty but they are in! Things were quite bumpy after a 1-1 draw with Norwegian minnows Rosenborg at Stamford Bridge. Jose Mourinho resigned and things were in peril for the club. They had to rally to beat Valencia away 2-1. Although they won their group rather easily, their goal scoring form was poor, just 9 goals and even 2 scoreless draws.

However, they blew past Olympianakos, survived a massive scare from Fenerbahce, and that set up another round of Chelsea vs. Liverpool. They were essentially saved from elimination all because of John Arne Riise’s own goal in stoppage time at Anfield, as that got them an away goal and a draw heading back to Stamford Bridge. Frank Lampard, who lost his mother just 1 week before, stepped up and scored the go-ahead penalty in extra time with the score tied 1-1 in an emotional moment for the midfielder. They led 2-1, Didier Drogba scored to make it 3-1 and they held on to win 3-2 and 4-3 on aggregate.

For Chelsea to win this game, they need strong attacking play. Drogba has been in less than stellar form, Nicolas Anelka has been just about useless since being transferred from Bolton, and Andriy Schevchenko is just about the worst signing for the Blues this decade. They are in need of more chances to be created to frustrate Van Der Sar and company.

Michael Ballack has been much improved, the midfield seems to be dragging the Blues out of the dumpster, with Lampard and the German international leading the way. They will be very dangerous, especially when given an opportunity near the penalty area to smack in a free kick.

John Terry was injured 10 days ago against Bolton and that will be a major affect on this game, he will play, but whether or not he is healthy is the key. Petr Cech is considered by many to be one of the top goalkeepers in the world, and I find it hard to disagree.

Prediction

It’s going to be a tough one, a close game that will be dominated by defense, but I see Manchester United earning a cup double. We may even need extra time to decide this.

Man United 2 (Ronaldo 25, Tevez 103) Chelsea 1 (Lampard 33) (A.E.T)

For those in England, enjoy David Pleat butchering the names of Drogba and Beletti.:)

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