According to Unibet, Barcelona are favourites to retain the Champions League, a feat that has never been achieved in its current format. While it may be premature to start talk of next year’s final in Munich now – after all, we are only six days removed from the game at Wembley – I feel there are only two teams who look capable of stopping the Blaugrana juggernaut.
No prizes for guessing the first is Real Madrid, but few would be able to guess my second...
The team who will make their debut in next year’s competition, are also one of my favourites. They are a great side already, but with the unparalleled spending power of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan beyond them, they have an opportunity to build, and improve further.
The Manchester City starting line-up of the FA Cup final triumph consisted of 10 regular starters at international level, and the other player is an under-21 player, who has represented the full national side on more than one occasion. In Carlos Tevez, they have one of the best attackers in all of World Football, and given his fall-out with Argentina national coach Sergio Batista, a player who will be fully rested going into the new season.
No doubt I will get some heat for this, but I believe Mario Balotelli is the best player in the world...under 21 years of age. Watch his performance against Stoke in the FA Cup final, and you will see what I mean. When he wants to, when he cuts out the petulance, he is a world-beater. As a person, he is an acquired taste, but with the man he regards as a father, Roberto Mancini in charge, the best is yet to come from the volatile Italian.
That brings me nicely to my next reason, Roberto Mancini. A vastly under-rated manager, who is a fine tactician, Mancini knows the best approach for every game he plays, and every opponent he faces.
The universal opinion is that Barcelona outclassed Manchester United on Saturday night, and that Ferguson got his tactics wrong. Apparently, the only way to play Barcelona is to not play them at all. Sit back; absorb the pressure, and if/when the time is right, attack on the counter.
Mourinho did it to great effect in the Copa final, could Manchester City do similar?
Well, they have an Italian manager, who can organise his team in a way that the defense is tough to break down, with quick wingers and attacking players, who can break quickly, with both power and precision.
I think that’s enough praise for the Citizens, but over a two-legged tie, or a final for that matter, Manchester City will be one of the teams I least want to face.
Come to think about it, I wouldn’t mind if we only faced them once in a Blue Moon...
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