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The nuts and bolts of ‘dream final’

sports Updated: May 26, 2009 23:51 IST

With a three-pronged strike force of Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto’o and Thierry Henry, backed by the creativity of Andres Iniesta and Xavi in midfield, the Spanish champions have unrivalled attacking potential. The English champions have an outstanding defence, are a more complete package overall and have that little bit of extra quality on the bench.

Barcelona have compensated for fragility in defence this season with their sparkling goal feats, but suspensions to full backs Eric Abidal and Dani Alves and the injury that has ruled out Rafael Marquez leave them looking vulnerable.
United have shown few weaknesses this season, although they do have less invention than Barca in midfield.

Carles Puyol is tipped to move across to the right flank with Yaya Toure used again at centre back and another converted midfielder, Keita, taking Abidal’s place on the left.
United’s defence should be at full strength with Rio Ferdinand expected to shake off a calf problem to take his place in the centre alongside Nemanja Vidic. Frenchman Patrice Evra, rated one of the top left backs in the world at the moment, is likely be called upon to stop Messi.
United’s Edwin van der Sar has had a fine campaign and went 14 league matches without conceding a goal.

Iniesta’s ability to shake off a knock will be key to Barca’s chances as they are not the same team without the man who’s goal against Chelsea put them in the final.
If Sergio Busquets is employed as the holding midfielder he will need to show maturity beyond his 20 years.
United may have a tad less inspiration in the centre, but Park’s bottomless energy and Carrick’s ability to read the game could swing the match by suffocating the Catalan’s sources of play. Ryan Giggs is favourite to come in for the suspended Darren Fletcher.

United’s defence will need to be at its formidable best to keep out Messi, Eto’o and Henry, who is expected to be fit after a knee problem. But the English side’s expected starting pair of Rooney and Ronaldo also packs a punch.