Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Your Federally Mandated Champions League Final Preview

We're having a hard time getting up for today's Champions League final. Why? Well, some of us have crippled livers that don't detox as efficiently as they used to. Some of us are sick (physically, that is) or bordering on it.

But almost to a man here, we're filled with a little dread. United seem to be the favorites, meaning they repeat as club champions of Europe and pull a quad (not a muscle).

Given our varying allegiances here—everyone but United—an overt fear of the inevitable has put a bit of a damper on today's festivities.

But fuck, this is the Champions League Final. And Barca are going to roll out Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto'o, and Thierry Henry. It's not like Fulham is going out there to line up and roll over for this supposed United juggernaut.

Oh, and did I mention that Fulham beat United the last time they played? Well I just did. Maybe as telling: in a two month stretch across December and January, United dismantled relegation candidates Sunderland, Stoke, Boro, and SF Bolton all by the impressive scoreline of 1-0. Add another 1-0 win over mediocre Wigan in that span and you've got a team that can be positively average on any given game day.

And remember if Porto could have managed to either bury just one of the two near-sitters they missed at Old Trafford or simply to score at home, then United are out in the quarters. And we're talking about an Arsenal v. Barca rematch (indulge me, okay).

Sure Barca had some slips, but they also have a front line that put in 19, 23, and 29 league goals between Henry, Messi, and Eto'o. That's three more goals than United managed as a squad. So why the hell does everyone think United are such heavy favorites?

Ninety minutes. Maybe 120. Then possibly a lottery of sorts. But it will be decided on the pitch.

After the jump Lingering Bursitis tells you why United will prevail. Then I debunk their chances with unassailable logic.

Why Manchester United Will Win

Where There is Rooney, There is Fire: As talismanic as Lionel Messi is for Barca, there is a similar figure in red for Fergie's men, and his name is Wayne Rooney. With his workrate, confidence, energy and tenacity, Barca will invariably struggle to contain the multi-faceted United attack.

Rooney is the high-octane trigger for Ronaldo and co, and if he finds himself with room to operate across the final third (I'd expect Barca to try and man-mark him), he will be difficult to stop. And if they stop him, it'll leave someone else open.

Barca's Backline: No Marquez, no Alves, and a barely-there elder stateman in Carlos Puyol. Throw in a couple more physically-adept, not-so-tactically-sound stand-ins, and you can almost see the goals piling up before a single ball has been kicked.

As cautious as Sir Alex might well choose to be in this, a major European final, it's not inconceivable to see him releasing the hounds upon that patchwork defense.

They're Manchester Fucking United: Of all the teams in all the leagues across the globe, you'd be hard-pushed to find a single one as blessed as United. Whether it's generous refereeing decisions or downright piss-poor game-calling, United are rarely on the receiving end of rough justice. Why should the CL Final be any different?

For proof, look at last year's final; their luck on the pitch was shared evenly with Chelsea, but in this most team of team games, they were lucky to have the greed of John Terry on their side. After all, with other penalty specialists in the side, it was EBJT who begged for the final shot, and slipped and scuffed his teary-eyed way into soccer history.

Why Barcelona Will Win

Massimo Busacca: That's the ref. He officiated the 2007 UEFA Cup final where he sent off Moises Hurtado on a second yellow, the first of which came in the 18th minute on something between an Al Haig (i.e. "I'm in charge here") and a Nuke Laloosh ("Announce my presence with authority").

He's going to do it again and card the first defender to make a slightly less than borderline challenge. And my money is on Vidic to be the perp of such a foul. Vidic does it weekly in England, so it's a safe bet. But Busacca isn't an EPL official (he plies his trade in the Swiss Super League), so he's less likely to let it slide because of the jersey color. An early yellow changes the dynamic of how the United backline plays. Moreover, Busacca's not afraid to flash red no matter how big the match (having done it in World Cup quarter as well).

The Forecast is for Rain: Remember that slip by Kieran Gibbs in the semi return leg that led to Arsenal's collapse and a bit of a walkover for United. Yeah, well the fates are sick fucks with the cruelest sense of humor. Expect a United player to similarly slip—please God, let it be PFA Player of the Year Ryan Giggs—and gift a deciding goal to the Catalans.

Cristiano Ronaldo is an Enormous Douchebag: If there is a God, he is aware of this fact. Eventually he has to intervene and stop this giant twat from winning more trophies. That day is today.


Autoglass said...

Blau-grana al vent,
un crit valent,
Tenim un nom,
el sap tothom:
Barça! Barça! Baaarça!!!!

Sarah said...

I've been blasting that song out of my window every time some douchebag from the London suburbs walks by wearing a Man United jersey.

Visca el Barça!

Lingering Bursitis said...

Fun Fact: "El Sap Tothom" is the latest player on Arsene Wenger's wish list. He's a 15-year-old Moroccan with a wicked left foot

phil said...

@Sarah: it can't be as bad as being around douchebags from the Chicago suburbs walking around wearing ManUre shirts.


WhiteSpeedReceiver said...

So it's ok to whine about people wearing Manchester United shirts? Can I complain about the mouthbreathers wearing Liverpool, Chelsea, or Arsenal clothing around Minneapolis?

Kick back and enjoy the match. Maybe we'll see something great today. Besides, it's the last competitive club match you get to see for a while unless you have a 5 year old niece playing like me. Or you go a step lower and watch the MLS.

Sarah said...

I don't know, American Manure fans are incredibly annoying, but it's a little bit more's more difficult to follow the smaller teams overseas so most people do become a fan of one of the Big 4.

If you're a non-Mancunian Brit and a Manure fan, it just means you're a massive douchey glory hunter.

Sarah said...

Sorry, that last comment was to phil.

Lingering Bursitis said...


I'm actually a little jazzed about the Confederations Cup

Precious Roy said...


That was the strangest (and coolest) thing about my watching experience at Brit's over the weekend.

Not a single United, Chelsea, Arsenal, or Liverpool shirt came into the place. Saw a Hull, Newcastle (okay several Newcastle), Portsmouth, and West Ham. But not a single Big 4 shirt.

WhiteSpeedReceiver said...

@LB: But that's National, not club. In all seriousness, what's left? Ireland? Some eastern European leagues for countries that I may or may not be able to spell? A few South American leagues that I haven't been gotten into yet?

EbullientFatalist said...

Is Arsenal still considered in the Big Four? Or is it the Big Three now?

Autoglass said...

Ummm...WSR? There is a reasonably notable match at Wembley on Saturday and...I'll be there!

phil said...

@ Sarah: it's more difficult to follow the smaller teams overseas so most people do become a fan of one of the Big 4.I get that, but, as an American Spurs supporter, it's not as hard as it seems. It's just that as the popularity of football grows (SLOWLY) in the US, the glory hunters pour out of the woodwork. And it's a shame. I know a couple guys who are American fans of West Ham and Villa, respectively, and are passionate about the game and their teams. We find ways to follow our clubs, and there's definitely something rewarding about that experience. But I also have a couple firends who are American ManU fans and are completely cool, so it's def not all of them. it's just the fanboy culture-types that annoy the shit out of me. I look at the majority of American ManU fans the same way I look at most non-NY Yankee or Cowboy fans.

Teeknuts said...

SportsCenter is about to give us a 2008 UEFA Cup rewind. Why? I don't know, maybe they're big Zenit fans.

Teeknuts said...

Also, the only thing worse than Tommy Smyth's voice is his face.

WhiteSpeedReceiver said...

Thanks, Autoglass. I'm all sorts of wound up today, and the little important things are escaping me.

Whizalen said...

@phil -- I saw a guy in a barcelona JERSEY on the elevator last week and said to him, "what you think about your chances next week?" and he looked at me like I shit in his cereal. I then said, "Champions league final?" and he replied, "huh?" I wanted to tell him to fuck off, but, you know, was at work and all. Understand your point and agree 100%...I've also had train-ride long conversations about Arsenal's Carling Cup squad because I had on my arsenal jacket. sometimes you're surprised..

I'm feeling (hoping for?) an '06 repeat...2-1 to the good. The good, of course, being anyone playing against Man United.

phil said...

@Whizalen: No doubt Barca has their own fanboy contingent here.

I was shocked last weekend. I'm walking into the grocery store with my Spurs shirt, just coming from the bar, and this young guy and a gril are walking out. The guy sees me and throws his hand up and yells "SPURS!" I was fucking stunned.

Even the fanboy thing, as much as it annoys me, I can recognize as good for American fans, because if that crowd gets interested, maybe I can stop stealing feeds and be able to watch a match on TV!

Goat said...

Holy shit, ESPN shelled out to send Tommy to Rome. Hopefully, they've neglected to provide his return ticket.