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Champions League Final 2012: Top 10 Dream Matchups We'd Love To See

David TenenbaumContributor IMay 29, 2011

Champions League Final 2012: Top 10 Dream Matchups We'd Love To See

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    http://bleacherreport.com/slideshow/716101/new#
    http://bleacherreport.com/slideshow/716101/new#Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    The 2011 Champions League final is finished, and Barcelona are kings of Europe. The Catalan side bested English stalwarts Manchester United, in spirited fashion. Pedro, Villa and Messi all helped to push Barcelona to a 3-1 victory.

    However, some fans found themselves bored with the same old teams playing in the final, as this year's game was a rematch of the 2009 final (with the same result). Now, as we await another year long wait until the next final, we find ourselves thinking of exciting match ups for next year's game.

    Strong new teams such as Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund will look to break up the Manchester-Barcelona-Madrid hegemony, while other Champions League veterans (Milan, Inter, Bayern, Arsenal, Chelsea) lurk in the distance, always a threat to make a deep run or even to win the Champions League.

    The potential amount of rivalry matches, with significant rivals being picked from several European countries, only furthers the possibility for next year's game. Though we will have to wait, we can still imagine what lies ahead.

10. Benfica vs. Porto

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    Porto: 2011 Europe League Champions
    Porto: 2011 Europe League ChampionsJulian Finney/Getty Images

    Benfica and Porto have one of the fiercest rivalries in Portuguese soccer, and Porto has just won the Europa League. Though Benfica still has to qualify for the final rounds of the Champions League, it is still a possibility that they will make it.

    Benfica will be trying hard to upstage Porto's recent European success, so perhaps their will and desire can lead them to victory over some of the stronger European teams.

    Porto, meanwhile, are building off their experience this year and their talented attacking corp of Falcao and Hulk. Assuming none of their stars get cherry picked by a bigger team, then Porto will have some pretty impressive attacking play. This will only make the hypothetical game all the more exciting.

    The team that Porto beat for the Europa League championship was Braga, another strong Portuguese team. Braga, though, is not one of the Big Three of Portuguese football. Those teams are Benfica, Porto and Sporting CP.

    Perhaps, the soccer gods would like to have the Portuguese titans graduate from their Europa League success and move on to Champions League success, in which case a Benfica-Porto showdown could lead to a thrilling rivalry match for the greatest honor in European sports.

9. Arsenal vs. Manchester City

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 05:  Referee Mike Jones sends off Pablo Zabaleta of Manchester City and Bacary Sagna of Arsenal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium on January 5, 2011 in London, En
    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Arsenal has been a definite member of the "Top Four" of English soccer for years. However, Manchester City's recent success (and wealth), plus the resurgence of Liverpool, all threaten Arsenal's status as a top four club. As City look to push out a top four team, they have found themselves knocking at Arsenal's door.

    The clubs met twice this season, but Arsenal clearly had the upper hand. They won the first match, 3-nil, before tying City in the rematch.

    With Arsenal struggling to remain a part of England's soccer elite (in fact they have to qualify for the Champions League group stage first) and with Manchester trying to break through, what better stage is there for a final showdown than the Champions League final?

    Arsene Wenger and his boys have done well in the Champions League but have found themselves frequently frustrated by Barcelona. Hopefully for them, they will not draw Barcelona next year, otherwise this final becomes much less likely.

    City are sure to retool their roster even further over the summer, with more players being bought and more disgruntled stars leaving. Regardless of any transfers, the team has the firepower to compete in the Champions League, the trouble comes with dealing with all of the large egos.

    Of course, when Arsenal and City face off, the matches usually become heated. One player from each team was sent off in their last meeting, and City was a man down during their 3-0 loss to Arsenal. The animosity between the teams would surely lead to a hard fought and hard tackling Champions League final.

8. Barcelona vs. Arsenal

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    BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 08:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona (R) duels for the ball against Cesc Fabregas of Arsenal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match between Barcelona and Arsenal at the Camp Nou stadium on March 8, 2011 in Barc
    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Barcelona and Arsenal have faced off in the later rounds of the Champions League for two years in a row. Barcelona has come out on top each time. What better place for Arsenal to try to avenge themselves than in the Final?

    Plus, depending on Cesc Fabregas' summer travel plans, this game could have further implications. If Cesc moves to Barca (which is supposed to happen every summer, if you believe the gossip sites) then you have Arsenal's ex-Captain facing off against his old team mates.

    Now, if Cesc stays, and perhaps if he definitively says he is staying with Arsenal, there would be the aspect of Cesc having "turned against" Barcelona. This would only further motivate Barcelona, and the game is always enjoyable to watch when Barcelona is motivated.

    Finally, when Barcelona and Arsenal meet, there is always the possibility that Lionel Messi will put up four goals in one match, as he did two years ago. Could Lionel put on a messiah performance in a Champions League final? Of course, and that's one of the reasons why this match up is so exciting.

7. Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund

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    DORTMUND, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 18:  Jen Jeremies of Munich in action against Jan Koller of Dortmund during The Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich at The Westfallen Stadium on September 18, 2004 in Dortmund, Germany.  (Photo by Stu
    Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

    Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund are two of the greatest teams in German soccer history, and their matches always retain a prominence because of that. Munich is definitely the more popular of the two, especially outside of Germany, but Dortmund are the reigning Bundesliga champions.

    Bayern Munich also have two of the best wingers in the world, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery. Both capable of putting on a spectacle, the two would also be looking to make up for their loss in the 2010 Champions League final to Inter.

    Dortmund, on the other hand, have only made one Champions League final appearance, in 1997. They won, and it remains their lone Champions League title.

    With Bayern looking to re-assert itself both at home and abroad, this match could kill two birds with one ball. A Bayern victory would make them the dominant team in both Germany and Europe. Of course, a Dortmund win would put them in the top class of Europe, as opposed to just the top class of Germany.

    The final next year takes place in Munich, at Bayern Munich's home stadium, the Allianz Arena. What better place for two German titans to square off, then Germany?

6. Bayern Munich vs. Manchester United

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    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 07:   Franck Ribery of Bayern Muenchen battles for the ball with Rafael of Manchester United during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final second leg match between Manchester United and Bayern Muenchen at Old Trafford on April
    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Bayern Munich and Manchester United have a storied Champions League rivalry. Of course, their 1999 final match was a great one, with United putting up two goals in heartbreaking fashion during injury time. Additionally, Munich bested United during last year's competition.

    Now, imagine a 1999 rematch, that is on the grand stage that it belongs. There is already impetus for United to achieve, as they came up short this year. But now, they will want to double up on the success of their 1999 counterparts, by defeating Munich in the final again.

    Bayern Munich, on the other hand, would be looking to improve from their recent final appearance, during last year's match. So there is the desire to improve, plus the desire to beat Manchester United in the final.

    Munich beat United last year, so the ability is there. But, Manchester United are one of the best teams in the world, so they have a chance to beat any team. Either side could win, and that is what makes the match up so exciting.

5. Milan vs. Barcelona

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    BARCELONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 25:  Leo Messi of Barcelona dribbles the ball between Manuel Alberto Yepes (L) and Clarence Seedorf of AC Milan during the Joan Gamper Trophy match between Barcelona and AC Milan at Camp Nou stadium on August 25, 2010 in Barcelon
    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    A.C. Milan and Barcelona are both reigning champions of their respective countries. Furthermore, Milan acquired former Barcelona striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and he is a main reason for their success, so there are other reasons why this is an intriguing match up.

    Italy has suffered in the UEFA co-efficient standings as of late, and Milan know that success for them in the competition means success for Italy, so there is the nationalist aspect.

    Of course, there is the Ibrahimovic factor. Though Ibra is a mercenary, and overall cares only for money and not team allegiance, players always want to perform well against their old teams, so Ibra would be looking to make a statement.

    Outside of Ibra, Milan also boasts the attacking talent of Alexandre Pato and Antonio Cassano. Milan's midfield and defense are solid enough to compete against Barcelona, and their attacking is certainly good enough to score against Barcelona.

    Though Barcelona would obviously be the favorites, an A.C. Milan-Barcelona Champions League final is one that excites many fans. Two of the most popular teams in the world, and two of the most successful in Champions League history, would surely put on a good show.

    Alternatively, Barcelona could just dominate, as they often do.

4. Chelsea vs. Real Madrid

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 16:  Chelsea players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Barclays Premier Reserve League Play-Off Final against Blackburn Rovers at Stamford Bridge on May 16, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
    Dan Istitene/Getty Images

    Chelsea is a team that has been continually frustrated in their efforts to win the Champions League. Real Madrid is a team that has won the Champions League many times, but recently has found their efforts frustrated, despite many transfer moves to fix that.

    There is the small possibility that Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho could leave Madrid for the now vacant Chelsea coaching position. Of course, this would make next year's game a big grudge match between Mourinho in Madrid, but there is a very small chance of this happening.

    If Mourinho stays, there would be motivation for him to defeat Chelsea. Mostly to prove them wrong for dismissing him several years back, but also to further prove his ability to produce results against English teams.

    These two teams have both followed the same formula recently: spending tons of money on players equals Champions League final victory. But, the formula has not proven successful. Despite that, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich only seems more inclined to spend the big money on transfers this summer. The inevitable big Chelsea transfers will only serve to make this game more exciting.

    Madrid, meanwhile, have shown promise under Mourinho when it comes to European competition, but they were knocked out this year by rivals Barcelona. Mourinho was brought in to win something, and he has yet to win either La Liga or the Champions League. Now that he has had a year to settle in, next year will surely be the year he throws everything into winning it all.

    Chelsea and Real Madrid are two teams desperate for Champions League success, and a matchup between the two would be a fierce battle for victory.

3. A.C. Milan vs. Inter Milan

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    MILAN, ITALY - APRIL 02: (L - R) Samuel Eto'o of Inter competes with Gennaro Gattuso of Milan during the Serie A match between AC Milan and FC Internazionale Milano at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on April 2, 2011 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Dino Panato/Getty I
    Dino Panato/Getty Images

    A.C. Milan versus Inter Milan is the second-biggest rivalry in Italy, behind only Inter versus Juventus. The two teams are both located in Milan and are historically the second (Inter) and third (A.C. Milan) teams in Italian soccer.

    This year, Inter Milan languished for the first half of the season under the management of Rafael Benitez, who proved himself very unable to fulfill his duties as Inter's coach. Inter brought in former Milan coach (and longtime Milan player) Leonardo, and he righted the ship.

    Inter made a run at the Scudetto, but Milan overcame in the end. Milan also got the upper hand in the two head-to-head contests, with a 1-0 victory in the first match and a 3-0 victory in the second.

    The rivalry will only get hotter next year, as Milan's newfound success in the Serie A is in direct conflict with Inter's longstanding dominance. A Champions League final matchup between the two would be a heated match—but a great one at that.

    Both teams have also recently achieved the ultimate success in the Champions LeagueInter having won it last year, and Milan having won in 2007.

2. Real Madrid vs. Barcelona

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    BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 03:  Lionel Messi (L) of Barcelona duels for the ball with Xabi Alonso of Real Madrid during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final second leg match between Barcelona and Real Madrid at the Camp Nou stadium on May 3, 2011 in Barcelona
    Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

    El Clasico is perhaps the greatest rivalry in all of sports. This year, the fans were lucky enough to witness five matches between Barcelona and Real Madrid. One would think that the repetition would bore the fans, but on the contrary, the rivalry only got more exciting as more games were played.

    The best case scenario for next season is that Barcelona and Madrid only face each other three times. Twice during league play and once in the Champions League final. A win by Madrid would avenge their recent habit of losing to Barcelona and achieve their goal of Champions League glory.

    A Barcelona win would cement the recent Barcelona incarnation's reputation as one of the greatest teams of all time, certainly as the best of the recent era.

    Madrid and Barcelona both boast some of the greatest players in the world, and of course, there is the additional rivalry of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Seeing these two go back and forth in a Champions League final would be the ultimate test for the Messi versus Ronaldo argument (though I personally think Messi is hands down the greatest player in the world right now).

    Jose Mourinho would love to take down Barcelona on the ultimate stage, as he does not take losing lightly, and Barcelona have made him lose too many times this season.

1. Real Madrid vs. Manchester United

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    MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 21:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid celebrates after scoring his second goal during the La Liga match between Real Madrid and UD Almeria at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on May 21, 2011 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Imag
    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    There is one man that makes this specific matchup so intriguing. That man is Cristiano Ronaldo, the man whom Real Madrid paid Manchester United a record transfer fee for. Their investment has yet to pay off fully, as Ronaldo has only led them to one piece of hardware so far, the Copa del Ray.

    Additionally, Ronaldo has not yet faced his old Manchester United team. Cristiano Ronaldo's ties to Manchester United turn what would be a great matchup, into a fantastically exciting match.

    Of course, there are more layers to this. There is a chance that next year could be Sir Alex Ferguson's last year coaching Manchester United (or any team, for that matter). So United will want to give their coach a fitting goodbye.

    Ferguson's retirement leads into the next interesting aspect, which of course relates to Jose Mourinho. Mourinho has long been rumored as a replacement for Ferguson, so who better for Ferguson to face in his (possible) final match. It would be the ultimate litmus test for Mourinho.

    Obviously, the match itself would be very good. Mourinho and Ferguson, two of the greatest managers in the game, going all out, while their teams (two of the greatest teams in the world right now) go all out. This matchup just has the perfect recipe for a classic Champions League final matchup.

    Every matchup on this list is an exciting prospect for next year, but this is definitively the most exciting.

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