LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Josep Guardiola manager of FC Barcelona is thrown in the air as Barcelona celebrate victory in UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

UEFA Champions League Final: Barca Rolls Over Man United, 3-1

FC Barcelona defeated Manchester United, 3-1 to win the 2011 UEFA Champions League.

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UEFA Champions League Final: Barcelona Show For The Ages

The 2011 Champions League Final, watched by the world's eyes, did not disappoint on Saturday as Barcelona completed the 90 minutes with a 3-1 win over Manchester United. The first half began and for the opening fifteen minutes it looked as though Manchester United's home advantage (English team playing on the English turf of Wembley) was going to pay dividends as they poured on the pressure and put the Barcelona back-line - containing Abidal and Mascherano - on the back-foot with direct balls up to Rooney and Hernandez.

The attacking endeavours of United, however, didn't reap any rewards and as the clock ticked through to the 15 minute mark, Barcelona suddenly flipped the switch and activated 'Massacre mode'. It's a mode they've been stuck in a for a large part of their domestic season and for the majority of the Champions League and for Manchester United, the second fifteen minutes of the match were experienced whilst in a state of fear - fear at the impending onslaught at the hands of the Spanish outfit.

Following near misses from midfielder Pedro (he was able to ghost in at the near post only to put the ball wide from 7 yards out) and from star striker David Villa, Barcelona watched on in disbelief as their warning shots went unheeded. On 27 minutes, Barcelona showed United and the watching world exactly what they were capable of as a beautiful defence splitting ball from Xaxi found Pedro whose solid finish sent Van Der Sar the wrong way.

Despite conceding an opener to Barca, Manchester United didn't throw in the towel, not even against a Barcelona team with a squad of players who wouldn't be out of place in a DC comic and in the 34th minute their resilience paid off. Taking a note out of Barcelona's 'Pass-pass-pass-pass-pass-shoot-score' book, a series of tight passes and one-twos eventually found Rooney at the penalty spot who applied a tidy finish to a Hernandez pass. That finish signaled United's intent and for the remainder of the half, they made Barcelona look human - something the Catalan club hadn't experienced very often.

At half time and at 1-1, the game was surprisingly even. United had spells where they made Barcelona uncomfortable and likewise, Barca had shown glimpses of what they could do to United given a little time and space. In the second half though, United and the estimated 400million worldwide audience would have front row seats to watch possibly the greatest club team in recent memory, tear apart the Premier League champions.

There will be many different things written about the way in which Barcelona played the second half of football and won their third Champions league title since 2006 and many of the pieces written will express all my thoughts but put them in far more eloquent ways than I can. All I can say is that Barcelona were playing football on an entirely different level. Their movement was intelligent. The passes they made were inch perfect and broke the game open, providing opportunities that spectators couldn't see from their seats, let alone being able to see them from pitch level. Technique, grace, power, vision.... they exhibited it all.

In the 54th minute, Messi showed any first time followers of football what all the hype was about as he notched Barcelona's second goal and one which enabled them to never look back. With Barcelona applying more pressure than Manchester United had experienced all season long, the ball fell to the feet of Messi with the Man Utd defence only yards away. Instead of turning back into the safety of his team mates, the 23 year old continued to stare down his opponents and struck the ball sweetly from distance and into the bottom corner of Van Der Sar's goal. Blame could be attributed to Vidic for refusing to move, for Evra for reacting too late to suitably close the Argentine genius down and for Van Der Sar for being out of position - all fair assessments - but the fact is that not many players in the world would have had the confidence or ability to take a shot at goal at that moment, a moment that seemingly came out of nowhere.

And when Messi capitalised on a mistake by United substitute Nani, and darted into the box, Manchester United were panicking. The ball squirmed free from the feet of Messi but found it's way to Villa on the edge of the box via Busquets and in the 64th minute he stroked the ball into the top corner and essentially ended the game. A top class-top corner strike from Villa was the cherry on the Barca sundae and epitomised everything that Barcelona have stood for since being under the command and guidance of Pep Guardiola.

Barcelona are mesmerising to watch and it's a credit to each and every member of the squad that they produce such scintillating football. On a night when the best teams in European football met at England's national stadium, there was clearly only one winner at the end... the fans.

Treated to 90 minutes of furious football, it's not a game many will soon forget.

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LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Wayne Rooney of Manchester United (L) comforts teammate Javier Hernandez during the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

 

Editor's Note: Special thanks to SB Nation Arizona's English corespondent, Keith Firmin for this report.

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Lionel Messi Powers FC Barcelona Over Manchester United, 3-1

The 3-1 final score doesn't full do justice to the domination of FC Barcelona in their victory over the very good Manchester United. Barca won the 2011 UEFA Champions Final behind the always brilliant play of Lionel Messi and the complete control of their midfield masters, Xavi and Andrés Iniesta.

After Wayne Rooney tied the game one all with a beautiful play in the box ('34) the two sides seemed to be headed towards a fantastic second half. But is was Messi's blast from range at the 54 minute mark that put Barcelona ahead and then David Villa removed all doubt ('69).

Barca had 68 percent of the possession and out-shot Manchester United 22 to 4. Man U didn't have a single corner kick opportunity in the game. Here's a video of the Messi goal.


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UEFA Champions League Final: Lineups For Manchester United And FC Barcalona

Heading into the UEFA Champions League Final, Manchester United have a completely healthy squad from which manager Sir Alex Ferguson can select his starting 11. The main decision Fergie will have to make will be whether to isolate Rooney up front in order to bolster his midfield and give his side the best chance at combating the triumvirate of Barcelona puppeteers - Xavi, Iniesta and Messi - or to give Barca coach Pep Guardiola food for thought by starting 22 year old striking sensation, Hernandez, up front with Rooney.

In midfield, Korean international, Park Ji-Sung, is likely to partner Carrick in the middle while Antonio Valencia will spend his time attacking the Barca left back from the comfort of the right wing. The most decorated United player, Ryan Giggs, will likely be given opportunity to put his off the pitch woes behind him as he occupies the left wing. There aren't too many signs of him slowing down despite being 37 years old and Barca will be well aware of the threat he poses having played against them in the 2009 final.

Defensively, Ferguson will be looking to start his solid central parring of Vidic and Ferdinand while it would be a shock to see anyone but French international, Evra, take up residence on the left hand side. The starting right back spot is still open with Brazilian twins Rafael and Fabio Da Silva eagerly awaiting the nod over his brother.

Standing between the sticks for the final time in his 21 year career, Edwin Van Der Sar will aim to bow out by keeping a clean sheet and by raising the Champions League trophy for the third time in his career. Van Der Sar was brought in by United in 2005 to replace the increasingly erratic Tim Howard (who has since changed his fortunes and been in excellent form for Everton) and has provided a solid foundation from which the rest of the team can push forward from. Romantics amongst you will be pulling for the big Dutchman to end his career on a high but there are at least 11 players lining up against him who will be doing their best to prevent that from happening...

Probable Barcelona line-up:

Victor Valdés is the Barcelona number 1 and will undoubtedly be looking to keep Manchester United out in the CL Final for the second time in his career. The Spanish shot stopper has experienced first team football for the Catalan giants since the 2002/03 season in which time he has proved himself time and again by making important saves. Like his opposite number, Valdés will be eyeing his third Champions League winners medal when the final whistle blows.

Defensively, Barcelona have experienced some uncertainty in the last month with Puyol sidelined through a combination of hamstring and knee injuries while Eric Abidal was forced into spending time away from the game as he battled cancer. Heroically overcoming his illness has put him in the frame to start at left-back even though Puyol has declared himself fit and is possibly the favourite to gain the starting position.

Pique and Alves will fill the right and left back roles respectively to round out the back four.

Busquets and Mascherano will both be hoping that they are the one to claim the key defensive midfield role in an otherwise attacking Barca midfield and with Busquets holding that role while Mascherano moved to the back four recently, Guardiola may favour the born and bred Spanish international over the former Liverpool man.

Pedro, Iniesta and Xavi will man the engine room in the biggest game of the season and with Messi and Villa due to start up front, there is no end to the attacking ability Barcelona possesses.

[Update 05/28/11 11:02 AM MST ]

The final lineups have been announced. The big surprise is Puyol on the bench.

Barcelona: Valdes, Dani Alves, Mascherano, Pique, Abidal, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Villa, Messi, Pedro.

Subs: Oier, Puyol, Bojan, Keita, Afellay, Adriano Correia, Thiago.

Man Utd: Van der Sar, Fabio Da Silva, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Giggs, Park, Rooney, Hernandez.

Subs: Kuszczak, Owen, Anderson, Smalling, Nani, Scholes, Fletcher.
Referee: Viktor Kassai (Hungary)

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LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 27: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona controls the ball during a Barcelona training session prior to the UEFA Champions League final versus Manchester United at Wembley Stadium on May 27, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

The UEFA Champions League Final will be broadcast in the U.S. on Fox with kick off onSaturday, May 28 at 2:45 p.m. ET / 11:45 a.m. PT. Live online streaming is available (for a fee) at Foxsoccer.tv. The game will be played at Wembley Stadium in London.    

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UEFA Champions League Final Set To Break Global Viewing Records, 300 million Expected

The 2011 UEFA Champions League Final between two of the world's most popular sports teams is poised to shatter the viewing record set by the 2011 NFL Super Bowl. FC Barcalona of the Spanish La Liga and Manchester United of the English Premiere League will square off in a duel of giants. It's hard to put this match on the scale of American sports but it would be something like the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Yankees joining forces to play the Dallas Cowboys and Boston Red Sox. 

Super Bowl XLV set a record with 162.9 million viewers while the 2011 UEFA CL Finals is expected to reach over 300 million TV watchers. The match features the world's most popular clubs who happen to currently have most of the top players including Lionel Messi and Wayne Rooney. It doesn't get any bigger than this according to reports from BBC.

BBC Sport - Football - Champions League: Live - Barcelona v Manchester United
BBC sports news correspondent Dan Roan: "Some say this could be the biggest single game of football ever played, such is the size and popularity of these two sides." That appears to be backed up by the view of one fan outside the stadium who said: "I am willing to spend £800 on a ticket". Asked if that was as much as it was worth, she replied: "It's worth more than that, but that's all I can afford."  

Olly Foster on BBC World News: "It is expected that 300 million people will tune in to watch the game on TV tonight. That would be more than double last year's audience. This is THE match to watch and it should be a cracker."

The match starts at 8:45 p.m. in London which is 2:45 p.m. Eastern Time and 11:45 Pacific Time. In America it will be broadcast in HD by Fox Sports on their regular, main broadcast channel. Live online streaming is available on Foxsoccer.tv (for a fee).

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LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Barcelona fans enjoy the atmosphere ahead of the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

For news, opinion, and feature articles leading up to the UEFA Champions League final, bookmark this StoryStream and check it often. We'll have new posts right here throughout the week, during the game, and after the game. For more on the entire world of footy, check out SB Nation Soccer. Manchester United fans should head over to The Busby Babe, whileBarcelona fans should check out Barca Blaugranes.

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UEFA Champions League Final: TV Schedule, Online Viewing, Updated Odds

We are just hours away from what all football (soccer) experts are predicting will be an epic battle between Spain's FC Barcalona and England's Manchester United in the 2011 UEFA Champions League Finals played at Wembley Stadium in London. The match schedule calls for a 20:45 start time on Saturday. That's 2:45 p.m. ET and 11:45 p.m. PT in America where the duel will be broadcast on Fox TV and available for live online streaming at Foxsoccer.tv.

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Suggested Reading:

Barca Favored But Man United Has A Secret Weapon

Mexico's Young Star, Chicharito Provides North American Flair To UEFA CL Final

* Official Lineups

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This 2011 UEFA Champions Finals match features an assortment of the world's top players including the 2009 and 2010 FIFA Ballon d'Or winner, Lionel Messi (Barcalona). The Argentinian forward, only 23, is perhaps the best individual athlete on the planet in any sport. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone else as dominant in their sport at this point in time. Messi plays with an array of talented mates such as Xavi, Iniesta, and Alves. The Red Devils of Man United feature Englishman Wayne Rooney and their own young Latin star, Mexican Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez.

Sports book Bodog has updated odds with FC Barcalona as the favorite at -105 and Machester United at +300. The spread is Barca -1 with the over/under for the match set at 2 1/2 goals.

The UEFA Champions League Final will be broadcast in the U.S. on Fox with kick off onSaturday, May 28 at 2:45 p.m. ET / 11:45 a.m. PT. Live online streaming is available (for a fee) at Foxsoccer.tv. The game will be played at Wembley Stadium in London.

For news, opinion, and feature articles leading up to the UEFA Champions League final, bookmark this StoryStream and check it often. We'll have new posts right here throughout the week, during the game, and after the game. For more on the entire world of footy, check out SB Nation Soccer. Manchester United fans should head over to The Busby Babe, while Barcelona fans should check out Barca Blaugranes.

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BARCELONA SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 14: David Villa (R) of Barcelona celebrates scoring his sides second goal with his teammate Lionel Messi during the UEFA Champions League group D match between Barcelona and Panathinaikos on September 14 2010 in Barcelona Spain. Barcelona won the match 5-1. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

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UEFA Champions League Final: Barca Favored But Don't Discount Man U's Secret Weapon

The very definition of a UEFA Champions League final takes place at Wembley on Saturday (schedule and TV info) as league winners from England, Manchester United, face off against Spanish title holders Barcelona. The Champions League has long been criticised for accepting and allowing teams who finish as low as fourth in their domestic leagues, to compete in the competition thus making a mockery of the term 'Champions'.

But this year there can be no complaints over credentials as the two teams primed and ready to do battle in the much anticipated final are arguably the best in Europe. Barcelona have brushed aside any and all comers en route to the final, even stamping on the heart of their fierce local rivals Real Madrid in the semi-finals while Manchester United can boast of similarly impressive victories during their campaign, as they were drawn against Premier League rivals Chelsea in the quarter-finals, a battle which saw United walk away 3-1 victors.

As United and Barca take to the pitch to contest the final, there will be flashbacks to the 2008/9 season when the two teams met at the same stage of the competition, on which occasion the Spanish giants outfought their English opponents and lifted the trophy following a 2-0 victory. In that win, they were led by the diminutive Argentine genius, Lionel Messi, a man for whom every superlative has been used and who has been continually brilliant as he has notched a ridiculous 49 goals in 52 games in all competitions this season.

Supporting Messi again this season is the midfield duo of Xavi and Iniesta and it is through this trio of footballing artisans that much of Barca's best play occurs - something United will need to stifle if they are to have any chance of gaining revenge for the 08/09 Final.

For the Premier League champions, this year will be their third finals appearance in four years (a feat last achieved over 15 years ago by AC Milan) and unlike La Liga winners Barca, their most potent weapon isn't on the pitch but rather in the stands where Sir Alex Ferguson holds an unparalleled amount of experience and knowledge with which to battle the Catalan club.

Fergie has attempted to divert attention away from his club leading up to the final, a commonplace tactic by the master of mind games, but with the off pitch antics of long serving Ryan Giggs undermining his manager's efforts and proving an unwanted distraction, the wily Scot will need to call upon all his years of experience in order to get his squad focused on stopping the footballing equivalent of a runaway train and prevent the seemingly inevitable.

Saturday is as big an occasion as there is in European football and although Barcelona are the favourites to lift the trophy thanks to their clinical style of football, there is simply no way a Manchester United side that has rarely failed to rise to the occasion under the guidance of Sir Alex, can be ruled out.

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MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 24: Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson speaks to his press officer during a press conference ahead of the UEFA Champions League Final against Barcelona at the Carrington Training Ground on May 24, 2011 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Editor's Note: This article was provided by an English friend of ours who did a very good job keeping his bias out of the narrative. 

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UEFA Champions League Final: Many Eyes On Rooney And Messi, But Don't Forget About Chicharito

The dramatic conclusion of the European soccer season fast approaches, and while FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Manchester United's Wayne Rooney figure to be front and center in a matchup of power clubs for the Champions League title, FC Barcelona will have another forward of which to be mindful: Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez.

Chicharito is the one guy plenty of folks in our part of the world can relate to most. FCB and MU have their fans, but Chicharito, who will pair up top with Rooney Saturday in the final, is from Mexico; he's well known in North America and will certainly be a major draw for potential viewers in the U.S. and Mexico.

Plus he can play. Chicharito, just 22, is the first Mexican to play for Manchester United ever. On January 4, not six months after signing with Manchester United, he became the all-time leading Mexican scorer in English Premier League history. In his first season in England with the storied Red Devils, Chicharito scored 13 goals in 27 EPL matches played and four more in UEFA Champions League match play.

"I played against him in the World Cup (2010) and he also scored against us," Messi, a native of Argentina, told Goal.com. "He's a very fast player, a very intelligent striker and adapted well at a great club like United in a short space of time."

That description sounds a lot like Messi, the diminutive yet irrepressible offensive force for Barca who scored against Man U in the UEFA Champions League final in 2009 in Rome, which FCB won 2-0.

Messi, the FIFA 2010 Ballon d'Or winner as the World Player of the Year, has 11 goals in current Champions League play. He also has a technically superior and high-scoring team around him, making FC Barcelona the favorite to lift the trophy. 

Rooney's Red Devils have a very strong defense, and Rooney himself isn't quite the prolific scorer that Messi is. But Rooney has a knack for scoring at key moments, and can use the attention paid to Chicharito to his advantage in the counter-attack. 

Rooney's movement off the ball makes him the more versatile player compared to Messi, whose strengths are his wizardry with the ball and his quick-strike ability.

For news, opinion, and feature articles leading up to the UEFA Champions League final, bookmark this StoryStream and check it often. We'll have new posts right here throughout the week, during the game, and after the game. For more on the entire world of footy, check out SB Nation Soccer. Manchester United fans should head over to The Busby Babe, while Barcelona fans should check out Barca Blaugranes.

READ MORE: uefa champions league tv scheduleuefa champions league final 2011uefa champions league 2011,Lionel Messi (F - Argentina)Wayne Rooney (F - England)EnglandArsenalChelseaBarcelonaReal Madrid

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