Date: 26th May 2009 at 4:02pm
Written by:

I must admit that writing this one gives me a lot more enjoyment than writing about Barcelona’s chances. Who would have thought that, eh? So, what hopes do we have ahead of tomorrow’s final?

1. Barcelona’s defence.

The most obvious weak link. Last season’s fourth choice United centre-back is now the main man in Barca’s back four. His partner will be a midfielder; on the left Guardiola will deploy either a 36-year old or a defensive midfielder who never started a game at full-back during his career. On the right side there will be captain Carles Puyol – a player who looked desperately error-prone throughout the last few months.

2. Iniesta and Henry are not fully fit.

The Xavi-Iniesta-Henry-Eto’o-Messi front five is intimidating – but it is still not certain that Iniesta and Henry will recover in time to start and even if they do they will be far from full fitness. Hopefully they’ll be pale shadows of themselves.

3. Set pieces.

Oh yes. Barcelona do not really like them: every corner or free-kick around the box represent a chance for Vidic, Ferdinand, Ronaldo and co. to use their height and heading ability, taking advantage of Barcelona’s suspect marking. And it’s less risky to foul their attackers in dangerous areas than one would think as generally, their set piece variations have been awful this season.

4. United’s speed on the break.

I lamented our attacking problems this season but in full flight we are still unstoppable. Fergie’s front three is likely to be made up of Rooney, Ronaldo and Park which gives us pace and hard work in equal measure. Aided by the thrusts of Giggs we should be able to threaten Barcelona – but only if we’ll be as sharp and incisive as against Arsenal over the two legs of the semi-final.

5. Physicality and psychology.

They don’t like it up ’em, as the old adage goes. And this is absolutely clear to see when Barcelona play English teams these days: their neat, pretty triangles usually simply bounce of the wall and they regularly come off worse in 50/50 challenges. It was the same in last season’s semi-final and it was the same this season against Chelsea. Whatever they say about their team spirit, United have a psychological as well as a physical advantage.