Ok, off to the big match tonight, Chelsea vs. Barcelona, season deciding for Spanish and European soccer IMHO.

No idea how it is going to end (at this stage and level anybody can eliminate anyobdy), but here just a few thoughts about layout and possible outcomes:

In favour of Chelsea:

- Home turf (higher testosterone level and spectator pressure on referee)

- Barca got always elimiated by English teams

- Barca comes without it´s defense centrals (Marquez injured til end of season, Puyol out for sanction). While Piquet against Madrid proved he is up to the thingy, Puyol will be hard to replace

- Henry is a doubt (knee problems and might not play, decision will be made last second)

- Hiddingk has formed an extremely solid defense, the fact that they managed to hold the 0:0 in Barcelona tells the story, not one other team this season held a 0 in Nou Camp

- Chelseas goalie is far better than Valdez, esp in penalties

- Lampard, Anelka, Terry and Drogba are terrific counter attack players and can execute anything at home

- Chelsea players are an average of 10cm higher than the Barca guys, so will rule in the air (corners, free kicks) and physically more fit and also faster overall.

- Barca is known to fail a lot of penalties

- Abidal is the weak entry point and an open flank (its left side) to the Barca goal

In favour of Barca:

- Of cause, Morale: The 6:2 in Madrid will make them believe that home turf should not be a problem

- Iniesta, Xabi, Messi, Etoo and Dani Alves (+Henry?) are terrific constructive attack players and will do magic if you just give them an inch of space

- In Barca the ball moves much faster than in Chelsea and the passes come with high speed and precision

- The Bench is also terrifcly set with Bojan and the other youngsters

- Barca wins in any draw that is not 0:0

A slight advantage for Chelsea, it would seem, but:

People here keep saying that Chelsea in London cannot permit themselves to play so defensive (just Drogba in the point and 2x4 lines of defense), but if I was Hiddingk I would do just that and hope to make it to penalties with a 0:0, maybe with Anelka as 2nd spear tip to play counter (in penalties the chances to win are defenitely on the Chelsea side).

If Barca just scores one goal and Chelsea has to open just a little, they might see themselves confronting the terrific and magic attack soccer and get themselves a "set" (Barca has made 5 "sets" this season, the last one against Madrid, and over all three competitions now have scored 143 goals).

Barca, on the other hand, will have to play the only style they know: Attack! If the manage to get one goal in, they have a high chance to win the match (see above) and they will try everything to not get into penalties.

Looking forward to an interesting match, may the better win, and the only thing I sincerely hope is that it will not be decided due to a referee error...!

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Okies, so we made it !!!!! :rockin: :jump:

Luckily, I might add, because the ref indeed erred many times: Between 1-3 - according to your fan colors - penalties not given for Chelsea, and, to compensate, an expulsion - Abidal! The Weak Link! - that was none (Abidal was about a yard away when Drogba did the "Diver").

But, despite the early goal of Chelsea (I saw the game in the same Madrid Bar, and: Again Hats Off! they wanted Barca to win) I never lost faith, because one goal was not the problem: Barca had to score one anyway, with or without a counter goal, and I was somehow sure they would make it, finally...

We had a cartoon in the newspaper today of Hiddink, who -when asked about the strategy for the match - said: "Simple: 1:0 in minute 89, sop that when they get mad they have no time to react....". I never imagined it would be the other way around, but see for yourself the last 2 minutes of the match (not much soccer during the whole match, but a duel of Beauty and Beast, where the Beauty luckily made it), some minutes no soccer fan will ever forget: Minute 92: Barcelona with 10, all seems lost, but they never lose their style, no panic, the machine at work (possession 29:71%), and then: *INIESTA!!!!* (IMHO the best Spanish player atm) scores the saving 1:1... (and the referee let them play on til minute 98...). I called the goal at the pass of Messi, btw...

Last two minutes of Chelsea vs Barca, 6.5.09

Versus Manchester this will be easier, as they are playing more open (and we will have Puyol and Henry back), but we lost Dani Alvez (sanctioned) and probably Abidal (though I am sure this red expulsion will be recurred successfully).

Rome!!! Here we come!

Please do not wake me....

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Just one point tho'. My big deal is that you must never rely on a one goal lead; especially when your opponent has away goal advantage. I was writing the final script throughout the game. Chelsea failed to put away their chances; did not shoot enough when given sight of Barca's goal. Perhaps five chances were missed that way; whereas Barca put away their one chance. For that reason, despite the blunders by the ref, Chelsea did not deserve to survive; that privilege goes to the hungriest. Man U v. Barcelona will be a great game.
it's official: Werder Bremen kicked HSV out of UEFA/ DFB and Bundesliga... revenge is a dish best served cold...
HSv and Werder is an old quarrel- sadly this time they won
And Barca has hit really bad luck:

- Instead of proclaiming themselves league winners in their own camp for once (by winning against Villareal yesterday) they took some of their own medicine and got the draw goal in minute 94 (3:3). Still gives them 8 points plus goal average lead to Madrid with three matches to go, but the devil is a squirrel as we all know...

- Much worse (and also partially a reason for the 3:3 after a 3:1 lead) is that Iniesta got injured and will definitely be out for at least 2 weeks, maybe longer (micro rupture). THis is the best news for Manchester, and all three titles are in question again (if Iniesta cannot play Manchester I am sure they will win) as he is the brain of Barca, and the only 4 games lost this season were ones where he could not play...

He emoves all the pieces, and of the now 150 goals over all competitions 132 had touched his foot in the making.

Since Barca shouldn't be in the finals anyway (if you take a normal Ref who gives at least one of those 4 discussed penalties) that's not really bad news- as I said they shouldn't be there.
And yet they are you'll say.
I could really argue on some things but in that match Barca wasn't a winner and they didn't manage to score at home either- not a well deserved win for such a great team. They should have shown their strenght (which no doubt they have) and score some nice goals not a lucky (but great) shot- instead typical aggressive "close combat" goals with lots of technique, Messi and Eto'o. Because they have that and didn't show it in semi finals I don't think they deserved it. Chelsea was very disciplined and had great chances- and 99% of refs would have given him at least 1 penalty. And they got the lead early. There's a reason why the ref will never again appear on champions league semi final or finals ^^...
Just my 2 cents- think about it.
Losing Iniesta is a small price for getting to the finals with so much luck and you still have the best offense in the world- if you use it ;)
No offense to you rattler- Just my opinion...

As for the HSV- they lost it all, now they have to fight for UEFA qulalification :(
Very sad- they did a great job until now and yet they will lose it all- especially because of DIEGO!
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Losing Iniesta is a small price for getting to the finals with so much luck and you still have the best offense in the world- if you use it ;)
No offense to you rattler- Just my opinion...

No offense taken, and it actually looks like in the end he might make it, the injury is smaller than initially thought (a 2 cm rupture), we will see.

Anyway, tomorrow (w/o Iniesta) the cup final vs. Athletico Bilbao, there we will see how Barca works (or does not work) w/o him.

i'm exited, the Belgian national team is probably going to have a new coach and a good one this time. maybe now they will stop sucking so much :p
Well, after winning the Kings Cup on Wednesday (4:1 vs. Athletic Bilbao), Barcelona now has the 2nd title under its belt, the Spanish league: Madrid lost in Villareal, so, with 2 matches to go for them there is no chance to make it anymore as the difference is 8 points.

For me, apart from being a Barca fan, this is good news: Barca will play here in Mallorca tonight (and be received with the "pasillo") and can now reserve its top players to attempt and win the triplet vs ManU on May 27th... Mallorca, otoh, has a chance to win a match that always in the last years was chanceless...

Big confrontation - Man U are current Premier League champions , European Champions League holders, and World Club Champions. Watch this space.
So, tonight is the night...:

From Leo Messi to Cristiano Ronaldy, from Edwin van der Saar to Victor Valdés, from Thierry Henry to Ryan Giggs, samuel Etoó to Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick to Xavi Hernandez, from Andres Iniesta to Carlitos Tévez, it is an impressive amount of great soccer players that meet tonight in Rome in confrontation, I expect one of the best matches I have seen in my life time (and probably will see ever).

Hard to tell which team might be better positioned, but from the numbers we can draw some conlcusions:

Barca plays 4-3-3, ManU 4-4-2; some comparisons seem in order.

Victor Valdés - Edwin van der Saar
(2): The Spaniard is younger (12 yrs less). 54 matches played in Champions versus 81 of the goalie from Netherlands. Barcas goalie received 0.86 in the league and 0.92 in Champions, the Dutch is better: 0.64 in league and 0.75 in Champions. I am sure ManU will score, Barca will find it more difficult to score one more than they will. Barca 0 - ManU 1

Carles Puyol - John O´Shea
(1): While the Barca Captain will play as a flank defense (not his position) because both Dani Alves and Abidal cannot play) and has completed an irregular season, he will be hard to beat: The Irishman, one of the most reuglar players used bxy Fergusson, offers compromise, but not much more. Barca 1 - ManU 1

Yaxa Touré - Rio Ferdinand (2): Touré also plays (for the reasons mentioned) in a position he does not occupy normally and has proved towice that he can. But, he never had to face some strikers way much faster than himself. Rio, despite just coming from an injury, is one of the best defenses in the world. Barca 1 - ManU 2

Gerard Piqué - Nenamja Vidic (X): ManU let the Catalán Pique go because they felt they had enough good defenders, he has responded perfectly in his home club and brought in fresh air. This will compensate for his technical problems (still very young and lacking experience), he is the largest in the team and might score from a standard. The Serb, otoh, is one guy who does not show any deficiencies, effective and solid. Barca 1 - ManU 2

Keita- Evra (2): I dont like what Giuardiola decided here, Keita is a midfielder and only plays defense because of Abidals absence. He himself states that he cannot do that well. The Frrenchman, otoh, is in his position, hard to overcome and has a lot of offensive powers for counters. Barca 1 - ManU 3

Busquets - Carrick (2): Busquest has been one of the relevations of this season, better than his father, but he is lacking experience and it shows under pressure. Carrick (as midfield one of the center pieces in Manchesters offensive play) should theoretically do better simply due to experience. Barca 1 - ManU 4

Xavi- Scholes (1): Both are the symbols in their teamd, the brains (or part of it). Xavi is at his peak, whereas Scholes is declining (just for age reasons, he is 34). Same goes for Giggs, should he play (35). Still Scholes can do anything that seems impossible, and anytime. Barca 2 - ManU 4

Iniesta - Anderson (1): As the other half of Barca´s "brain" he can alway and at any time win agiainst the double defensive line of ManU. Only problem, his injury: He has trained two days with the team an might fall injured again easily (which, from my POV would mean Barca could kiss goodbyue the cup). Anderson is an excellent pressurer, but no match to Iniesta in verticality. Barca 3 - ManU 4

Messi - Ronaldo (1): This is a risky bet I am making here, but they are very different players: Ronaldo is fast w/o the ball (probably the fastest in Europe, 50 mtrs sprints to appear out ot nothing are his typical style), whereas Messi is probably the fastest in the world with the ball glued to his feet. While the match is not (as press says) a duel between the two, if matched I prefer Messi. Barca 4 - ManU 4

Eto´o - Rooney (X): If well, Eto´o should win against Rooneys talent and sacrifice anytime, but he has allowed himself to become obsessioned with the "Pichichi" (which he just lost against Forlan in the league, 30 opportunities and did not score one goal incl two failed penalties) and the Golden Boot, all this makes him nervous and uncertain... If I was the mister, I would not place him in the intitial team... Barca 4 - ManU 4

Henry - Park (1): Henrry´s last chance to carry a big title, he comes from injury as Iniesta (also only two days training with the team after 6 weeks), but he is the natural killer that can score from any positions and stance (left, right, head). The Corean has improved a lot and knows to hide his techinical deficiencies, but is no match in comparison IMHO. Barca 5 - ManU 4

The reserves (2): Barca: Gudjohnson, Hleb, Bojan are good but not in form (except Bojan who will be the ideal suppement both for Eto´o or Henry). Manchester with Berbatov, Nani, Tevez and Giggs (Scholes) offers more opportunities. Barca 5 - ManU 5

So well balanced, I see ManU as the favorite:

- Evra has shown in the semifinals of last year that he can neutralize Messi one whole match.

- Barca has no defense

- ManU is champion

- Too much for Barca depens on just Iniesta and Henry

I expect Barca to play its usuall style with lots of posession (following the Cruyff doctrne: If you have the ball, the opponent cannot score) and ManU to play counter. With the fast Ronaldo and all the talent accumulated there (and also the majority of supporters) this might well work out and even terminate Barca losing big time. Also, we have been lucky with th referee vs. Chelsea, so Murphy´s Law dictates that this time it will go aginst us (though I sincerly hope this great match will not be decided by a bad referee!).

As always, I am with Barca, but I fear for the worst, looking forward to this match like to none other... :)

Man U are slight favourites according to betfair 1.91 v 2.08 so not by much. Never liked them much myself, despite my roots being only 25 miles away from Manchester. Everyone either loves or hates them there, not surprising with 7 or 8 premiership teams within a 25 mile radius!