Champions League: Man U v Barca

SDMB soccer enthusiasts, I’m considering placing a small bet on the CL Final on Saturday. While I’m not a huge soccer fan, I have seen Man U play about 5 times this year, and Barca around 10 times. IMHO, Barcelona is several levels above any team they’ve played thus far. I’ve heard in passing that they could be the best team ever assembled. Can’t comment on that, but I think Barca are a lock to win in regular time. I marvel at the ball control of Iniesta and Xavi. Their feet are like hands and the ball is like a yo-yo when they have possession. As for Man U, while they’ve been incredibly successful, I don’t see the star power there that I’ve seen in the past. I really don’t see how they have a shot. Maybe home country advantage? Would most of Wembley be pro- or anti- Man U? I’d love to hear your opinions.

The current regular time odds are approximately:

  1. Barca +103
  2. Man U +247
  3. Draw +147

If I’m understanding the American format odds correctly, those look like stingy odds. On Betfair it’s currently

Barca 2.08
Man U 4.1
Draw 3.6

which I think is equivalent to

Barca +108
Man U +310
Draw +260

Man U and Barcelona should have equal ticket allocations, so assuming that the volcanic ash cloud doesn’t stop Barca fans from flying, the stadium should be fairly evenly divided. United are obviously more accustomed to playing at Wembley though.

I’m not sure home advantage is worth much, as most of the tickets will be split between the two teams. But Barcelona, although probably the best team around at present, aren’t unbeatable. The lost against Inter Milan last time because Inter played a game specifically designed to thwart Barca’s evil and tedious ways. Man U might do the same thing. Even a team playing Barca at their own game can win well, as Arsenal did at Highbury, but Man U are more likely to play a totally different kind of game rather than do the same thing less well. That gives them a chance. Never a good idea to write off Man U, I’m afraid.

My opinion is certainly affected by my fandom (United), but I think United will win in extra time. Wembley won’t have much impact in either direction. Plus, on the one hand, United haven’t done well at the new Wembley, but on the other, they’re the best team in Europe when playing away from home.

Anyway, United don’t really have a weak spot right now; the expected starting XI are all in form (I’m guessing Park, Giggs, Carrick, and Valencia in midfield, Rooney behind Hernandez up front). One tactic that would be fascinating would be Valencia slotting in at rb like he did a couple times after substitutions this year, and Nani playing on the wing. I like Rafael and Fabio, but neither are that much better defenders than Valencia would be in attack in place of whichever twin plays (probably Fabio), and I don’t think Abidal is anything close to the key for Barca. It just might be enough to force Barca to be a little less attack minded.

In '09, everything was really going through Ronaldo, and when things stopped going for him in the '09 Final, I think there was a sense of panic among the players, and then Ronnie really started trying to do it all. That obviously didn’t work. It’s really true that this is more of a “team” this season, and United’s depth is immense.

I’m just counting down the hours til kickoff. I think I’ll be a wreck by Saturday afternoon.

My money’s on Manster Underbeit. Cannibal Barca’s a little too unpredictable for his own good, while Man U’s won super-tournaments before. That said, the difference is small, so I think it’s shaping up to be a good one.

What could tip the scales is Barca’s Ranged Killing Attack with Autofire. Man U is more a tank build but if the dice roll well, something will get through enough to slow him down. However, Barca relies too heavily on being able to teleport away and use that specialized Aid to heal. Man U. can just outlast him and use a thrown weapon to disrupt the full-phase action. Aside from which, Man U. has a slightly edge because his build was set up with a little extra Speed - a Lightning Bruiser, essentially.

(If you don’t get the joke… I probably can’t explain it. Suffice it to say it’s grossly nerdy.)

I’m also a United fan, and thereby quite biased, but I definitely think they’ve got a real chance. Messi et al are amazing, no doubt, but if there’s any central D pairing in the world with a chance against them, it’s gotta be Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. I imagine United are kinda hoping to get to PKs and then take their chances.

Barça!

They have Messi. If he plays the kind of overwhelmingly superior game as he so often can, and as he’s likely to in my opinion, it’s theirs to lose.

Either way, I’m expecting a superb match.

Meh, for me it’s just the warm-up act for The Richest Game in World Football[sup]TM[/sup] two days later at the same stadium.

Seriously, I’m a little surprised at the disparity in the betting. I’m almost tempted to put something on Man Utd. For me, it feels like a reasonably even match. Barcelona have the slightly more impressive line-up, yes… but United will be very, very up for this.

The odds show value for Manchester United and would be looking at sticking some money their way, if were a betting man.

That said, this Barcelona team are better than the team from the 2009 final. The Manchester United team are about the same - maybe slightly worse given the lack of Cristiano Ronaldo. It’s Barca for me - United have a chance but Barcelona are, in my view, the better side, so it will take a good effort from United to turn them over. Midfield will be key - they must starve Messi of possession. Do that and I think Hernandez will take a chance if one comes along. Vidic needs a good game too.

Cumbrian, I disagree with you on Barca '11 vs Barca '09. That team had Eto’o, who is simply a winner. I think David Villa is great, but he doesn’t seem to be his usual self this season, and I like Eto’o just a bitter better anyway when both are at their best. I’ll never understand why Barca let him go for 1, and then gave him away in exchange for Zlatan and bags of money for 2. Also, even though Yaya Toure played in defense in the '09 Final rather than his usual midfield role, I’d take him over Mascherano (who seems likely to play CB) or Busquets, either midfield or in defense.

Regarding United, you’re correct that it’s basically the same team, with the obvious difference of Valencia and Hernandez vs Ronaldo and Tevez. Face value, R&T are better. But Rooney and Tevez do a lot of the same things, so I don’t think his loss is that great, except for depth over the course of the season. There’s not much to be said for Chicharito. His goals and influence to open things up for Rooney speaks for itself. And in '09, Ronaldo was playing far more centrally than Valencia ever has, so the wing play brought by AV gives a bit more balance. I’d be tempted to say that Ronaldo drew far more attention from defenders, but the past few big matches, Valencia has been drawing 2 or 3 defenders himself. Again, United are playing really well, and Barca have their own concerns about dealing with United’s attack.

The Utd team is their poorest for years, talentwise, which is curiously in their favour. They clearly have something extra that’s got them the title, a lot of toughness in the side. I wouldn’t discount a total steamrollering, mind, if things get out of hand early doors. OTOH, if they can compete for the first half I can see them gutting one out. A lot of talk in the UK press about how Barca are on their last legs, look knackered from a long season etc. We shall see - Arsenal kept it pretty close.

It would be good if Utd could rely on Rooney to deliver - he’s such a flakey player though. 50/50 to have a good game v having a tantrum and getting subbed for his own good.

I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on Barcelona - I think that they are demonstrably better now than they were then. This is principally because they have had longer playing together and have bedded in even more. Toure, for me, was a square peg in a round hole at Barca - he is a box to box midfielder and was asked to play the holding role. Mascherano suits the role much better - and is continually under-rated in my view - which makes them that much more defensively solid. Similarly, the way that Barca have evolved their play doesn’t really suit what I would see as Etoo’s strengths (though I would agree that giving him up for Zlatan is odd - I don’t think I’ve ever seen Zlatan play a really good game and must have seen him upwards of 20-30 times by now).

You make interesting points about the difference in set up for Man U though. To be blunt, I like Hernandez more than Ronaldo (though this is more to do with their personalities than anything). The key strength he has is finishing - if the ball falls to him in front of goal, he will force a save and in all likelihood score. Ronaldo banged in a lot of goals but I always got the impression he also took a lot of shots. I suspect that Hernandez is more deadly (though have not checked any stats to support this - only using the naked eye). The key difference in United for me is Rooney - he’s not at his level from a couple of years ago yet, though he has improved towards the back end of the season (the World Cup really messed him up I think, plus what seemed like him falling off the rails for a couple of months).

I don’t find Barca to be overwhelming favourites but they are the better team and I still mildly expect them to win - the top of the thread seemed to be about gambling and the value here is definitely with Man U, those prices seem to be well out of whack with how close the game should be. As I said, Vidic and the midfield are the key in the game for me. Keep Messi quiet, you’ve always got a chance - especially with a proven finisher to mop up any scraps that might fall your way.

Man U have too many things in their favour to be ignored as a betting opportunity.

Since their four games against Real Madrid in April Barca have only won two of their last six and four of their last ten games. Man U have won five of their last seven and 12 of their last 16.

United have won 5 of their 6 road games in Europe and not conceded a single goal.

Lionel Messi is yet to score in eight career games in England and the rest of the team don’t like playing English sides. They have only won 4 of their last 13 games in 5 campaigns. In the same period they have won 7 and drawn 3 against German opposition.

So, for an interest, I have taken $9 about Man U winning 1-0 and $18 about them winning 2-0.

If Man Utd can pack the midfield and stifle Iniesta and Xavia, they will have a chance to counter-attack, especially with Valencia and Hernadez.

I still think Barca may shade it, possibly a 1-0 or 2-0.

But don’t forget that Barca were a Nicklas Bendtner toe-poke away from elimination in the last 16, so there is a weakness there.

Barcelona can be wonderful but invincible they are not.

I’d have them slight favourites certainly but we all know what football is like. “should win” is a world away from “will win”.

You could easily match up superstar to superstar and say United are lacking and diminished from 2009 but that spectacularly misses the point. A team is more than the sum of its parts and it will all come down to who executes their game plan better. Sometimes it is the team of “lesser” individuals who can that. (e.g. how influential is someone like Park Ji-Sung?)

But hey, both teams have been there before. Man U have now reached 3 of the last 4 finals so they are no mugs. Could be a cracker though, let’s hope for that at least.

My main prediction is that Rooney will go piling into a tackle on Busquets sometime in the first 30 mins, leading to a swift red card and the effective end of Utd’s hopes…

Wouldn’t it be more likely that Rooney bumps Peek-a-Busquets off the ball, and PaB throws his hands to his face, getting Rooney a red? It wouldn’t be an even swap, but I’d imagine the ref would later balance things out by giving Dani Alves a 2nd yellow for diving.

I’m gonna disagree with everyone and say Barca are massive favourites. Seriously, I give Utd about a 20-30% chance, no more.

Everyone is saying Barca aren’t invincible. Well they’re the closest thing I’ve ever seen. Anything can happen over the 90 mins, and United are always mentally very tough, but that is the only thing they have going for them.

OP said he heard Barca were the best team ever. I think they are, no team has ever been able to dominate possession in every game they play the way Barca do. (Barring Spain, who won the world cup with what was basically the Barca team minus Messi.)
3-0 Barcelona.

Rooney want get a red he is more mature. If Man U want to win they will have to do it with less that 40% of the ball. They have hernandez (the best finisher in the world) and fast wingers to counter. Barcelona don’t lose the ball and have the best Midfield and defense in the world and because of that I say Barcelona 2-1 coming from an early Man U.

Barca have only lost four games all season. Two of these were unimportant (losing in one leg of a two legged tie while winning the tie, and losing a league match after already effectively winning the league). Their last ten games have mostly been meaningless - the first game against Real Madrid more or less sealed the league, so apart from winning a CL semi final and losing the Copa del Rey final against arguably the second-best team in the world, all their matches have been league games that they really didn’t need to win. You’ll notice they still won 3 of their last 6 league games, losing just once.

Yes, but their away form in the Premier League has been terrible. They won 5 of 19 away games. Also, bar Chelsea, they have yet to come up against a good side in the CL. They have had an incredibly easy route to the final.

None of this changes the fact that Barca are a far, far superior team.

Good luck!