Barcelona vs. Manchester United: Breaking Down Player Matchups in CL Final
While the decision to move the event from the regular Wednesday slot to a more family friendly Saturday evening has been warmly embraced, the not-so friendly ticket prices has not.
Seriously, how family-friendly is it to charge upwards of €250 per ticket for a football match? The average family has around 2.5 kids, so an average family that the event is supposedly catering to would have to shell out somewhere in the neighborhood of €700 – €1,000. I wonder which families the UEFA had in mind, the British monarchy, perhaps.
Nevertheless, this is supposed to be a football match, 11 vs. 11. That’s 22 (multi)millionaires who play football, no more, no less. The world is coming to an end. Unlike the opera, Wembley has no roof.
In comparison, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides has reportedly cost $250,000,000 to produce. And even accounting for a 30 per cent 3D extra-charge, the movie goer comes out way cheaper. At this point the movies win. Mermaids AND Penelope Cruz for the price of €13 vs. 22 sweaty dudes and an average ticket price of €200.
Am I the only one thinking something is wrong here?
Then again, I would’ve seriously considered if tickets were available. This could be your favorite teams’ last appearance in a final of any kind.
Since my knowledge of Manchester United is somewhat limited, I’ll go for the most reasonable matchups I can think of.
Wanye Rooney & Chicharito vs. Gerard Pique & Javier Mascherano
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
For once all protagonists wear Nike: the boots not the jersey. Waaza’s form was indifferent throughout most of the season he has gradually improved over the last couple of weeks and months.
It appears as if he is relishing the partnership with Chicharito.
The Mexican has been, by all accounts, the best signing in any of Europe’s top leagues. Technically sound, mobile and a born goal-poacher. If Tottenham Hotspurs had one striker of his caliber, they would play Champions League football next season.
Their direct adversaries will probably be the unlikely tandem of Mr. Waka Waka himself, Gerard Pique, and Javier Mascherano.
On his day, Pique is a world-class center back, perhaps the best of his generation. Unfortunately, those days coincide with the appearance of Carles Puyol, meaning when Puyol is not featuring in Barca’s starting XI, Pique’s mind tends to wander all kinds of places.
Javier Mascherano is world-class, a world-class defensive midfielder. Even though he admirably performed his duties as a makeshift central defender in recent weeks, there are still some question marks over his ability in this position.
Nevertheless, he remains one of the best, if not the best, tackler in the business.
However, with a duo as mobile and agile as Rooney and Chicharito, Pique and Mascherano will have their work cut out for them.
Ji-Sung Park & Antonio Valencia vs. Dani Alves and Carles Puyol
David Ramos/Getty Images
Park vs. Alves
Both protagonists will probably end up accounting for 25 percent of the accumulated distance of all field-players. In my opinion, that’s the most interesting matchup of the game.
Either Park will pin Alves in FC Barcelona’s own half, or the Brazilian will force his opposite number to track back and defend.
The South-Korean might be an unsung hero, but Dani Alves is much more integral to FC Barcelona’s game than Park. With that in mind, only a handful of players have ever restricted Alves enterprising runs down the right flank.
Antonio Valencia vs. Carles Puyol
Arguably the only classical winger Manchester United have within in their ranks, Valencia is speedy, tricky and an outrageously accurate crosser of the ball. Take him out and Rooney scores a lot less. Who else but Captain Catalunya himself, Carles Puyol, could get the job done?
He may have lost a yard or two but his positional sense remains world-class. If anyone can contain Antonio Valencia, it’s Puyi.
Sergio Busquets, Xavi & Iniesta vs. Paul Scholes & Ryan Giggs
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images
Since I assume Manchester United will field a classic 4-4-2, it only leaves two midfield spots unaccounted for.
Even though Man U have talented midfielders such as Michael Carrick or Anderson, I would rather place my faith upon Scholes and Giggs.
Michael Carrick sometimes just looks out of his depth, whereas Anderson’s development has somewhat stagnated.
The FC Barcelona players are not midfield enforcers per definition, but they are bullies in their own right. As former teammate Cristiano Ronald can attest, they like to play triangles, lots of them.
But in all fairness, it must be said that neither Giggs nor Scholes would look out of their element in Barcelona.
Lionel Messi, David Villa & Pedro vs. Patrice Evra, Vidic, Ferdinand & Rafael
David Ramos/Getty Images
Pep Guardiola’s almost dogmatic insistence on playing Lionel Messi as a false no. 9 has brought goals, lots of them, for….Lionel Messi.
Overall the numbers have dropped; only Messi’s improved.
Some argue that Villa’s and Pedro’s sacrifice has benefited FC Barcelona’ s overall play, but I remain unconvinced.
What’s wrong with playing Messi as a right-winger? He racked up over 90 goals in the two seasons prior. Meanwhile, David Villa can’t even hit a barn door.
Spain’s all-time record scorer has been installed as a left-winger. Has madness overcome Pep?
And if reports are to be believed, Giuseppe Rossi is on his way to Catalunya. Pep has enforced Samuel Eto’o exit and two years and some €100,000,000 later, he still has not found a viable replacement.
I’m sorry, David Villa is lost on the left-wing.
David Villa vs. Rafael
Rafael might be raw and all too eager at times, but he is one of the brightest prospects in his position. I just can’t see David Villa getting the best of him, I just can’t see it.
Lionel Messi vs. the Wall of Manchester aka Ferdinand & Vidic
Quite literally, David vs. Goliath, though I assume even David was taller than Lionel Messi. But unless they defend as a four-man block against Messi, La Pulga will surely get his chance or two to score.
Pedro vs. Patrice Evra
Pedro, the breakout star of the 2009/2010 campaign, against one of the world’s best left-backs, Patrice Evra. While Pedro is less direct than, say, Messi, he is an infinite amount trickier than David Villa.
The constant interchange between the front three should also play in FC Barcelona’s favor. I’m inclined to believe Dani Alves will a constant menace in ManU’s half.