Today is the day. It’s do or die for the Blaugrana and Manchester United. There is no doubt it my mind, this will be a classic. Personally, the Champions League Final is the biggest stage for any footballer. Yes, there is the World Cup, but being English has kinda put me off the International scene.
The favourites, in many people’s books, are Barcelona. Current Spanish Champions, former European Champions, looking to complete the double. However, Manchester United are also Champions of their domestic league, were European Champions a few years back, and are also looking to complete the double.
It is the showdown between the two best sides in World Football. How can Barcelona win it? What will they need to do to bring home the Gary Lineker trophy?!?
Here’s what I think.
Keep the tempo high
Recently, Barcelona have been rather slow in their build-up play. Many people have suggested that Mourinho’s approach negated that of Barcelona, but I think Barca just needed to move the ball quicker.
Control, pass, control, pass, tip, tap, tiki, taka.
FC Barcelona - Passing Game 2011 (via alexandermessi10)
Barca have to zip the ball across the Wembley surface if they wish to win. Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Pedro etc can all do it, and when they have, the results have been mind-blowing. In Sir Alex Ferguson, United have a manager who will have a set gameplan, who will instill discipline, and will send out a team that is difficult to beat. Barca just need to make sure the United players cannot make the challenges by making sure the ball is nowhere near.
Make it Messi
Apparently, Sir Alex has been sending his brother to do some spying on the Argentine. Apparently, he has a huge dossier, and from this, he has a plan to stop the two-time Ballon D’Or winner.
You know what? I would love to test this plan!
Barcelona should give the ball to Messi early on, and often. See who exactly is marking him, and if it is not one person, and a zonal system, see where the weak links are. Messi is by no means unstoppable, but he is damn close, and if we find out early that they have no answer to El Pulga, it could get Messi.
Alves, Alves, Alves!
Dani Alves is a great full-back. Pedro is a great winger. To stop Barcelona, most teams have pushed the full-backs in narrow, leaving space for the wide players to exploit. So, let’s give the ball to Alves.
He may not be the most accurate crosser all of the time, but he is guaranteed to get at least one delivery spot on. If the full-backs try and force Barca to play wide, the least they can do is oblige, and from there, they can let Ferguson know that Alves et al are pretty dangerous too.
Should this work, there will be more room for Pedro and Villa to work their magic.
Play the full-strength side
How many times have Barca lost with Puyol and Pique starting next to each other?
How many times have Barca lost playing Alves, Pique, Puyol and Abidal from the start?
How many times have Barca lost playing that back four, with Messi, Xavi and Iniesta?
If Guardiola picks the best eleven players to start, the stats suggest that the Blaugrana will not lose, and considering a final cannot end as a draw...
Force United deep
Attack is the best form of defense, and Barcelona are the masters of attack. United may have a strong back line, and good holding players, but how much damage will they do if Barca force them to play 7/8 players behind the ball?
Back in the series of Clasicos, Barcelona had a lot of possession. Where was this possession? Mostly in their own half, and in the midfield. No wonder they lost the Copa. Of course United are formidable on the counter, but if they have to defend in numbers, their counters are likely to suffer.
If Villa doesn’t perform, TAKE HIM OFF!!!
David Villa was signed in the summer for a large amount of money. Coincidentally, so was Ibrahimovic. When Ibra played badly, Guardiola took him off, and Barca played better. There is proof of Guardiola making the big decision.
Villa may have started his Barca career well, but his recent goal drought – 1 in the last 15 I believe – is alarming. His all-round performances haven’t been poor, but even Bojan, just recovered from injury, has played better. Bojan is quick, and unpredictable, and that is something Villa has lost. Nowadays, he is almost certainly going to cut inside, and the defenders love it!
They stop him in his tracks, and he gets more and more dejected. Bojan might go either way, cut inside, go down the line, pass it off and make a run, basically, he is playing better than Villa. While Villa should still start, if he plays badly, Guardiola should not be afraid and bring on the young Spaniard.
Well, that’s my two cents anyway. If you can think of anything else Barca could do to ensure victory, feel free to post it below.
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