Champions League: Who Will Meet Barcelona in the Final?

illya mclellanSenior Analyst INovember 9, 2008

After enjoying an abundance of exciting, entertaining, and wonderful football in the group games so far played in the Champions League, it has become increasingly clear to me that Barcelona will probably be in the final when it is finally played.

The football they have played so far this season has been so well structured and devastatingly clinical that to this point I have not witnessed a team that has really come close to the level they have reached on several occasions.

Josep "Pep" Guardiola has come in and had a instant effect on this team, bringing the same authority he once demonstrated on the pitch for the side to the sideline and the coaching position.

After a somewhat shaky start in the league with a loss and a draw, they have gone on to complete eight wins in a row, including a 6-1 demolition of an astonished Atletico Madrid side. They have also put in three other performances where they put five or more goals past their hapless opponents—including the weekend's result against a bewildered Real Valladolid.

While in the Champions League they were surprisingly defeated in their second qualification match, it has again been a case of them slowly gathering speed at the expense of their opposition.

They have occasionally been guilty of being a little bit casual in defence, as many very good footballing sides often are.

It was in the 1-2 away victory over Shaktar Donetsk that they were able to show their dogged determination and absolute self-belief off for all to see. Down with time on the home team's side, they were able to fashion an unlikely victory from the jaws of defeat.

It is the consistency of their play which has so far marked them out as genuine contenders for the top European honours this season. The football has been highly polished and beautifully, clinically rendered.

It is this that the other top clubs of Europe will be well aware of going into the next round of European play.

This will not be the side that stuttered their way to a toothless exit at the hands of Alex Ferguson's Manchester United last season. Far from it, if this season is anything to go by.

In predicting the sides who meet in a cup final you invariably set yourself up for humiliation when they are knocked out in the next round, two rounds from the actual final.

That is the nature of knock-out football though, you can never really predict who will make it to the final day and fight it out for the top honours.

But I feel comfortable this time in putting on the blind fold and strutting out along the plank toward the sharks. Barcelona look to be so good this season that I just can't imagine them losing to any of the other contenders.

Perhaps I will end up going to a watery grave—indeed, I may well do—but before that, I will go out and put a lazy wager on Barcelona to be the next champions of Europe.