Inevitably, when two squads with singular superstar talents square off, the match-up gets reduced to the individual showdown. The NBA (and Nike) has been anticipating a LeBron-Kobe NBA Final. Had the swoosh been on the boots of Lionel Messi, Nike would probably join everyone else in playing up Ronaldo versus Messi in today’s Champions League final as well.
Outside of Liverpool pair Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard, the two goalscorers are the most serious contenders for title of world’s best footballer. When Ronaldo took home the FIFA-endorsed crown last year, the normally reserved Messi voiced his discontent. And so, the miniscule Argentinean campaigned for this year’s crown by lighting up La Liga, netting 23 goals. Ronaldo, falling significantly short of last year’s haul of 46 goals, helped his cause by scoring improbable goals when they mattered most — in the earlier CL stages.
Though to reduce a dream match-up of Manchester and Barca to just the star names is a disservice, especially when odds are they may not even engage in the same tackle. Both teams play blistering, offensive-minded football, never abandoning their attacking ethos on their respective ways to amazing feats: a record 101 goals scored en route to Spanish league glory for the blaugrana and a World Club cup and third consecutive English title for the Red Devils.
Today in Rome, if Barca can overcome a weakened D (3 starters in the back are injured or suspended), then we may get the high-scoring affair we want. In that event, the deciding showdown will be between the creative fulcrums for each.
For Barca, Spaniard Xavi Hernandez pulls the strings in the midfield. As he did for his country last summer, Euro 2008’s Player of the Tournament is the one to sit back and dictate the tempo of the match, spraying passes about as teammates make incisive runs through the D. In the middle of the park, he’ll meet Mancunian Brazilian Anderson. The 20 year-old does the same as his counterpart, also alternating his duties with marking out the opposition’s midfield maestro.
Yet the two may effectively cancel each other out, which was the case last year when a Paul Scholes strike broke the stalemate. A singular moment of brilliance may again prove to be the difference. And the hungriest to provide it are the biggest names, Messi and Ronaldo. Or Eto’o and Rooney. Or Henry and Tevez. Hell, maybe even Puyol and Vidic.
It’s just one of those games.
Previously Posted — Your Champion League Futbol Report
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