So here we are, it is May 22nd, and after a tournament full of big upsets and some fantastic goals Europe’s most prestigous club competition culminates in Madrid.
The location is ironic indeed, given Real Madrid’s unprecedented spending spree last summer got them no further than than the round of 16. It is also ironic that the two clubs in the final at the Bernabau, Bayern Munich and Inter Milan, have been driven by two Madrid castoffs from the summer that brought in the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Xabi Alonso and Karim Benzema.
Dutchmen Welsey Sneijder and Arjen Robben have been nothing short of brilliant for their respective clubs this campaign, and have shown it on the biggest stage. So who wins this titanic clash between two of the most famous clubs in Europe?
Let’s look at at the biggest storylines.
Jose Mourinho vs. Louis Van Gaal. It will be a classic chess match between two men who know each other very well. Mourinho was an assistant under Van Gaal at Barcelona, and along with Bobby Robson the “Special One” credits Van Gaal for helping mold the mind of arguably the greatest manager in the world.
Maicon vs. Robben. For my money, there is no better right back in the world. Maicon is a rarity among modern day world-class full backs, in that his defensive prowess equals his exceptional ability going forward. As I mentioned earlier, Robben has been lights-out and the German outfit simply would not be here without his late strikes against Fiorentina and Manchester United in the knockout stages. Expect to see Robben attack from both flanks throughout the contest, as he will try to catch the Brazilian off his guard on the counter. Easier said than done though, ask that Messi fellow how that worked out for him.
Howard Webb. The infamous referee is known for deflecting the attention from the game to his massive ego. Webb and Mourinho have had their share of run-ins in England, but let’s just hope we won’t be talking about Webb tomorrow. Webb’s performance has been much-maligned this season, and has done nothing but further speculation that he favors the top clubs.
My prediction: 2-1 Inter. Mourinho’s ability to expose the weaknesses of any squad is uncanny. This along with the incredible discipline of his own squad and having one of the top 3 keepers in the world in Julio Cesar will provide too tough for Bayern Munich. The German club has played beautiful football all season long, but to be fair, they have been pretty fortunate to make it to this point. The Special One ends the 45-year run of European futility for the Nerazzurri, and expect Jose to start next season where he will end this one in triumph (wink wink).