UEFA Champions League Final Preview

UEFA Champions League Final Preview

  • Posted by Geoff Reid
  • On May 22, 2010
  • Geoff Reid, UEFA Champions League

By Geoff Reid

The day has finally come for two of Europe’s best to face off against one another in the most prestigious football club competition in the world. This year’s final also marks the very first time that the final will be played on a Saturday instead of during the week on Wednesday. We’ll soon see if Michel Platini’s new idea will be better then the old format and if it will succeed. Certainly in this part of the world viewership should be higher being on a Saturday afternoon compared to an afternoon in the middle of the week. Lets get into some of the subplots of the match.

The Apprentice vs The Master
One of the most intriguing tactical battles will take place here with Jose Mourinho locking horns with Louis van Gaal. Credit Mourinho for doing as well as he has done in his managerial career thus far, but he wouldn’t be where he’s at currently without the help of two mangers: The late Sir Bobby Robson, and Louis van Gaal. It’s fair to say that Sir Bobby had more of an influence on the Portuguese tactician then anyone else after starting out at FC Porto when the English legend was manager and Mourinho was his translator. Mourinho followed Robson to Barcelona, this time as his assistant and after Sir Bobby’s one and only season in charge, Mourinho stayed on in Catalonia and was retained by Dutch trainer van Gaal. While van Gaal had two mixed spells in charge of the Catalan giants, Mourinho returned to Portugal after the Dutchman’s first exit to start his managerial career. One of the really cool things about their relationship in Barcelona was that van Gaal realized his number two had potential to be much more then a number two and fully entrusted his assistant to take charge of training sessions and manage the Barcelona B.

Wesley Sneijder vs Arjen Robben
This isn’t a tactical matchup as such, but a very interesting subplot involving two international teammates that were outcasted by the club who play in same stadium the final is taking place, and were sold to make room for a new galactico generation at Real Madrid. One of them will have the last laugh Saturday night. Sneijder is arguably the best player in the world in his position with being both technically and tactically superb and having the vision to pick out killer passes to Samuel Eto’o and Diego Milito. Robben on the other hand has carried the Bavarians on his back on more then one occasion this season and will have to do so again with the absence of Frenchman Frank Ribery which brings us to our next point.

Frank Ribery Suspension
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Ribery gave Bayern another dimension and was a perfect compliment to Robben on the opposite wing to give the midfield the perfect one, two punch. Ribery’s replacement will be Turkish international Hamit Altintop who has experience of playing at the highest level and is more then capable of filling the Frenchman’s shoes. It’s also most likely we’ve seen Ribery suit up in a Bayern uniform for the last time although a new rumor out is that both club and player have agreed to a contract extension so who knows.

Will This Be Mourinho’s Last Match In Charge Of Inter Milan?
In other words, will this be Mourinho’s first match managing at the Santiago Bernabeu? You can never tell what he is thinking, but you also can’t help but think this would be a perfect way to sign off in Milan and Italy in general before he heads to greener pastures new whether it be in Spain, a return to England, or return to his native Portugal to coach the national team which he has said is his ambition. The fact that he has said over and over again he likes Inter, just not Italy leads us all to think should Inter win the final, he would quit.

Will Fox Showing The Final Be Any Different?
Overall this season, Fox has done a good job covering the tournament. Better then ESPN? Personally, I think so. I think the idea of each match day having a pre-game in studio with Warren Barton and Bobby McMahon as analysts was tremendous. I briefly touched on the thought about viewership being up in this country due to the change of day, and that’s clearly going to happen. What will be interesting is will their coverage be good enough to win over new fans? Having Curt Menefee host is a big reason as to why he was brought in, and is a gamble in a similar sense as ESPN rolled the dice in 2006 having Dave O’Brien be part of the lead commentary team, and everyone can admit that was a massive failure. However, the best thing Fox could do was get Martin Tyler and Andy Gray to be the commentary team which they did. Folks, this is huge because growing up watching matches these guys commentated on was fantastic, and are easily the two best anywhere in the world. Gray sees things the average fan just doesn’t tactically and Tyler has the best voice in the business. In a sense it’s great both these guys will be working for American television this summer during the world cup, just a shame they won’t be together (Tyler working for ESPN, while Gray will be working for FSC along with fellow Sky presenter Richard Keys).

Inter Milan 3-2 Bayern Munich. My heart says Bayern, but my head says Inter. All season I’ve betted against Inter, and every time they’ve made me look like a fool. If you look on paper and lineup Inter’s players compared to Bayern’s, Mourinho’s club are clearly the stronger side. Inter has an attack then can beat anyone, while Bayern’s defense has never been stable and is their weak point. The Bavarians will stand every chance as long as Robben is on the pitch, but Mourinho knows all about him after both their spells at Chelsea. What will also be an intriguing battle that nobody has really mentioned so far is the Dutch duo Sneijder and Mark van Bommel locking horns before joining up for the world cup. Either way, we should be in for a real treat and that’s what we’ll need in order for the sport to gain new fans in this country. Enjoy the match everyone!