The Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Inter Milan promises to be an intriguing one, but it's only a curtain-raiser ahead of the mega event—FIFA World Cup 2010.
Nonetheless this game is paramount for both the finalists. Firstly, both teams weren't touted as the favourites to reach the finals before the start of the campaign.
Now that they have made it to the finals, of course both would want to win it. But to add more motivation—and pressure—is the chance to complete a treble of championships.
It's only coincidence that both teams have won their respective domestic League and cup double.
It's hard to choose between these two teams, but Inter Milan appears to be in a better shape and more likely to win the the game that matters the most.
Under the astute coaching of Jose Mourinho, Inter thrashed both Chelsea and Barcelona on the road to the finals.
Bayern Munich, on the other hand, had a simpler route with only Manchester United being the major scalp.
Past glories and current-form count for nothing if the team fails to withstand the pressure of playing in the final of Europe's elite cup competition at Santiago Bernabeu.
The presence of Mourinho may give a little more conviction to the players and supporters of Inter just because of his nature of being calm under pressure.
Before the game, if he succeeds in channelising this calmness into his players, there is no reason why Inter can't walk away with the spoils.
Louis Van Gaal is not a novice manager, though. Van Gaal's pride wouldn't let him fail against his student, Mourinho. But in this case the mentor will sweat it big time in overhauling his student's team.
Bayern Munich is strong going forward but the actual problem lies in defence. Goalkeeper Butt showed that he's not a reliable force in front of the goal.
However, centre-half partnership of Demicheles and Van Buyten looks decent enough, though not the strongest.
Left back, too, is a troublesome area for Bayern. So it doesn't take too much time to predict where the attack is going to come from.
Mourinho would have already made plans to take advantage of this weakness; however, Bayern's right wing looks rock-solid with Philip Lahm and influential winger Arjen Robben set to test Mourinho's mettle at that part of the pitch.
Van Bommel and Schweinsteiger form solid midfield partnership for Bayern, but the absence of Ribery is a cause for concern. His moment of madness deservedly earned him a red card in the game against Lyon, and now he has to sit out.
Options upfront are limited for Bayern, having only Ivica Olic as the main weapon. Muller will find it extremely tough against a razor-sharp Inter defence, and Mario Gomez is not in the best of nick.
Inter, on the other hand, are mighty strong at the back with Julio Caesar guarding the goal.
Centre-half partnership of Lucio and Samuel had kept Chelsea and Barcelona at bay, so it wouldn't be a tough job to keep Bayern strikers away from the Inter penalty area.
Right wing back Maicon offers solidity and attacking threat on the right flank. In short, Bayern would struggle to score against this defence.
In midfield, Dutch playmaker Wesley Sneijder is key as he has been simply superb throughout the whole campaign and it's only fair to expect one more top-notch performance from him to deliver the icing on the cake.
His support staff in the midfield are established world-class players. Although Maradona has left Cambiasso out of the World Cup squad, he's one the best defensive midfielders in Europe.
Upfront, the deadly combination of Diego Milito and Samuel Eto'o is intimidating for any team. Milito, one of the star performers for Inter this season, has been in red-hot form with goals at will.
Eto'o has seen and done it all. He has scored in his previous two Champions League finals while playing for Barcelona, so no prize for guessing who's going to open the scoring for Inter tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Bayern is overly dependent on Robben, arguably the player of the tournament.
His goals against Fiorentina and Manchester United were vital in the progression of Bayern. Only he could have scored those two goals. Therefore, all the expectations will be banked on the shoulders of Robben.
It's only a coincidence that both teams have a Dutch player as their deadly weapon, and both were Real Madrid-rejects.
The major battle will be between Robben and Sneijder. Of course, Robben is an all-round player, and he's a constant threat in front of the goalmouth with a lethal left foot.
It has to be seen whether Mourinho's tactically organised team will give any space for Robben to manoeuvre.
Sneijder's inch-perfect passes and set-piece deliveries could cause havoc in the Inter defence.
The other crucial battle is between Philip Lahm and Maicon.
Maicon is a beast of a player always looking to get forward with a thunderbolt shot.
Whereas Philip Lahm is not much of a goal scorer, but his crossing ability, pace, and understanding of the game are terrific.
Finally, Ivica Olic vs. Eto'o offers a fierce battle, too, but Eto'o is too experienced to get bullied in such a high-profile game. Whereas Olic's not much of an imposing player.
He's a work-horse and constantly engages himself in doing the minute things which others fail to notice.
All in all, we have a pretty interesting match in store. Probably a victory for Inter could be followed by news that Real Madrid have finalised the deal to sign Mourinho, especially when the match is played at the home ground of Real Madrid.