Champions League Final: The Key Matchups

Jeff HarbertSenior Writer IMay 19, 2008

Above: Didier Drogba gets the better of United's defense in last year's FA Cup final to score the winning goal. This year's Champions League final consists of some intriguing matchups between Chelsea and Manchester United.

With the kick-off to the UEFA Champions League final rapidly approaching, it’s time to preview some of the key battles which are set to take place in Moscow.  Manchester United and Chelsea have met twice this season in the league, with each side winning on their home turf.

But at a neutral stadium on Wednesday night, it’s anybody’s match to win and the outcome may depend on some of the key battles between the two clubs.

Here are a few of the key matchups which could prove pivotal on Wednesday night.

Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Ricardo Carvalho

The Premier League’s player of the season, with 41 goals to his name in all competitions, including seven in the Champions League, takes on his international teammate tomorrow night. Carvalho believes the key to beating United is to stop Ronaldo and is prepared to give his all in order to prevent the United winger from getting on the score sheet. 

Ronaldo, meanwhile, will be desperate to not only win a first European winners medal, but to prove to the football world he can perform in the big games. 

This will be intriguing match up especially considering the dazzling form Ronaldo is in at the moment. Carvalho has been solid in the back for Chelsea all season long, however, and could pose a problem for United’s focal threat.   

Didier Drogba vs. Nemanja Vidic

Powerful, aggressive, and unyielding; these three words describe both of these players.  The last time these two faced off against each other, Vidic was forced to leave the match after a collision with the Ivory Coast striker left him with a bloodied nose and a concussion. 

But don’t expect that to impede Vidic from stifling Drogba at every opportunity.  Both players have been key figures for their teams this season, and it will be interesting to see who gets the better of the other on Wednesday night. Vidic can’t afford to give Drogba any room, because as Liverpool learned in the semi finals, the consequences are fatal.    

Michael Ballack vs. Michael Carrick

After a lackluster start to his Chelsea career, Michael Ballack is finally showing why the Blues acquired him in the first place. His form this season has been sensational and the former Bayern Munich midfielder was even on hand to score both goals in their victory over United in their last meeting. 

Michael Carrick has also received plaudits for his form this season, and if selected by Sir Alex, will most likely find himself battling it out with Ballack in the center of the midfield.

Two Premier League titles in his first two years with United is an impressive achievement, but if Carrick wants to add a Champions League medal to his collection, then he better hope he can contain Michael Ballack.

Paul Scholes vs. Frank Lampard

Paul Scholes, scorer of the only goal against Barcelona which booked United a place in this year’s final, will be desperate to come away with the win after missing out on the 1999 Champions League final due to suspension. 

Frank Lampard will also be eager to win the Champions League after reaching the semi finals on three previous occasions. Two of England’s best midfielders will come head to head in Moscow this weekend, assuming Avram Grant selects Lampard. Sir Alex Ferguson has already assured Scholes a place in the team tomorrow night. 

It will be an intriguing battle, one which could possibly hold the key to who wins the match. Give Paul Scholes an inch of space and he’ll make you pay. Allow Frank Lampard too much room and he will open up your defense and create space for his teammates. Scholes and Lampard, you’ve been warned.    

Wayne Rooney vs. John Terry

Both of these players can be considered as the heartbeat of their clubs. United only tasted defeat once in the league this season with Wayne Rooney on the pitch and will be hoping his determination and vigor will lead the Red Devils to victory.

Interestingly enough, however, that single defeat came at the hands of John Terry and his Chelsea teammates. The Premier League runners-up struggled without their captain when he was sidelined by injury this season, and will be hoping he can overcome the injury he received against Bolton in the last day of the Premier League season. 

Rooney will be a huge threat to Chelsea and it’s up to John Terry to throttle the United front man. 

Fans all across the world are in for a mouthwatering encounter tomorrow night and these key matchups could be the deciding factor. But it is, of course, up to every one on the pitch to determine which club is destined for European glory.    


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