JUST in case you missed it, Manchester United meet Barcelona tonight for the right to be crowned European champions.
Admittedly that’s unlikely because the newspapers seem to have been previewing this match for weeks: ‘Dream Final’ and ‘Match of the Century’ typical of the headlines.
Even United haters are bound to concede it has a mouth-watering sound to it because of (a) the illustrious histories of the clubs and (b) the sparkling football both are capable of producing.
Surely a game graced by superbly gifted individuals like Messi, Ronaldo, Iniesta and Rooney should be a classic.
I say should because in finals, you never know.
After all, we had a string of Champions League finals that ended 1-0 and were dull as ditch water.
But Barca have scored 104 goals in La Liga alone and dozens more in cups, but they do have a soft centre.
United’s frailties have also surfaced when the Ferdinand-Vidic partnership has been broken up, or when either has an off day.
Rome’s Stadio Olimpico is a vast, open bowl with plenty of space to exploit the slightest error, which is why I think the likes of Ronaldo and Henry, if he plays, could have a field day.
I remember Henry scoring a brilliant hat trick in a 2002 Champions League game for Arsenal in Rome.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s dossiers will have reminded him of that too, and he will have been working out ways to get the better of his own former centre-back Gerard Pique and his fellow defenders.
Fergie used to moan that United didn’t have enough Champions League trophies on their CV to reflect their standing in the game, but a win tonight will make it four to nudge them up alongside those other giants Bayern Munich and Ajax.
Barcelona’s much younger coach Pep Guardiola must feel the same way.
Successes in 1992 and 2006 seem scant reward for perennial challengers.
Having successfully tipped Shakhtar Donetsk to overcome Werder Bremen last week in the last UEFA Cup final, I’m going for a double with United.
BY NOW, you’ll be sick of hearing the laments for Newcastle United and their humiliation in being condemned to trips to Scunthorpe and Barnsley.
I look at it another way.
They deserved to go down because of dreadful mismanagement and matching performances on the field.
No club has a divine right to stay at the top for ever, past achievements count for nothing, and even Manchester United were once relegated, so Newcastle’s demise can be encountered by anyone.
With other once big names suffering too – Norwich, Charlton, Southampton and Luton all down and Leeds failing to come up – there’s a harsh truth to be learned.
Apart from the big four, no club can take anything for granted any more hence fixtures next season like Plymouth v Newcastle, Leeds v Exeter, and Wycombe v Southampton.
Oxford (1986) and Luton (1988) won the League Cup.
Next season they come face to face at the Blue Square level of the game.
So although ‘How the Mighty are Fallen’ is an appropriate tag for Newcastle, we should not be altogether surprised.
Indeed if they had survived it would only have been because of the shortcomings of Hull or Sunderland, who were equally poor.
Indeed none of the bottom five deserved to stay up on their lamentable form of the past few months and that does nothing for the credibility of our national game.
As Leeds have discovered, it’s not easy to climb straight back and I’ll guarantee Newcastle will have a cup final on their hands wherever they play in the Championship.
Shame they haven’t got a cup final on their hands this weekend.
That prerogative belongs to Everton and Chelsea, or if you live north of the border Rangers and Falkirk.
There’s a little bit of romance about the latter simply because it bears the traditional hallmarks of David and Goliath, something we love in Britain.
I can’t say I’m massively enthused by the prospects for Wembley.
Guus Hiddink has my utter admiration for his abilities as a coach and he transformed Chelsea’s season.
Everton’s David Moyes is now being recognised as a potential heir apparent to Ferguson at Old Trafford for his motivational skills and shrewd team building.
In some ways the coaches are more fascinating than the players taking the pitch on their behalf.
I suspect Chelsea have more potential match winners.
Drogba could sign off in style – surely he’ll be sulking and shouting at a camera lens somewhere else in Europe next season – and Everton’s ambition may have already been realised in just reaching the final.
Lampard, Terry and the rest were devastated by the way they lost to Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final and will be desperate for some medals to show for a fine campaign.
Victory for them will mean a clean sweep for the platinum card members of the Premier League yet again but did we ever expect anything else ?