UEFA Champions League Final 2010

In terms of footballing quality, there is no competition that outshines the brilliance of the Champions League.  Tomorrow is the final of this august event, unfolding on a Saturday for the first time ever.

Thankfully for the sake of the tournament, the recent domination by Premier League clubs ended this season.  Instead France, Russia and Germany enjoyed substantial success.  Barcelona failed to match the hype that a core of its players richly deserved, but several key players did not.  Guardiola exposed his inexperience by buying Ibrahimovic in the most hilarious transfer of all time and by continuing to play Messi through the middle.  Through exceptional strategy and organisation, Inter Milan soundly beat Barca, prematurely heralded as the best club side ever.

Without Barcelona, the prospect of a scintillating final look mediocre.  Jose Mourinho’s teams defend like Spartans at Thermopylae, but are often one dimensional in attack.  Inter is no exception.  Bayern Munich under Louis Van Gaal are unusually brittle in defence, but explosive in attack, thanks to the arrogant, but deadly Arjen Robben and the unassuming, but crafty Ivica Olic.  To win, Bayern must neutralize the creative magnificence of Wesley Sneijder and raise their defensive display substantially.  They will get chances, but not many.  Inter need only continue their compact, counter-attacking strategy masterminded by Mourinho to walk away winners.   If they do, let’s hope it is with plenty of flourishes throughout the game.

Should he win the title with Inter Milan, Mourinho will succeed in silencing his few remaining critics.  As distasteful as his behaviour often is, the man is a tactical genius, galvanizing under-performing players and buying the right talent to establish a balanced team.   Any knowledgeable football fan must feel a rising sense of dread at the prospect of Mourinho leaving Inter to transform Real Madrid from its expensive collection of spoiled brats into an all-conquering dynasty.

In the meantime though, get those beers cold!  The spectacle awaits…

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