|05-17-2006, 12:32 PM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Lexington, Kentucky
Champions League Final Today @ 2:45 : Arsenal v. Barcelona
Asides from the World Cup, this is the biggest single sporting event in the entire world. I'd love to know how many hundreds of millions will be watching this match today. I predict Barcelona wins 3-1. Ronaldinho is such a joy to behold; truly the best player in the world today.
(match is on ESPN2, BTW)
Updated: May 16, 2006, 12:11 PM ET
Barcelona v Arsenal: PreviewPA
Cesc Fabregas admits the pressure is heaped on Barcelona ahead of Wednesday's Champions League final because they are desperate to win another European Cup.
The Catalan club have a proud and glittering history but have only claimed Europe's top club competition once - in 1992. This is dwarfed by the record of their great rivals Real Madrid, who have lifted the famous trophy nine times.
Arsenal, on the other hand, will be playing in their first Champions League final in Paris.
Fabregas said: ``I'm from Barcelona and I can tell you the pressure is very high. They've been trying to win it since 1992. They've lost three finals and the pressure is high.
``But also for us, it's the first time and if we can make it one from one it would be the best thing for us.''
Barcelona won the last European Cup final before its name and format changed to the Champions League. They have lost three finals over the years - to Benfica in 1961, to Steaua Bucharest on penalties in 1986 and to AC Milan 4-0 in 1994.
Fabregas, 19, grew up in the Barcelona youth ranks before moving to London three years ago.
He has many friends still at the Nou Camp, including Lionel Messi who is fighting an ankle injury to be fit for tomorrow's game.
Fabregas said: ``It's going to be difficult and they are a great team. They have shown that in the last two years.
``They have great players - players like Carles Puyol, Xavi and Andres Iniesta who have come from the youth team. We should admire them because I can tell you that is not easy.
``The Barcelona press say they are favourites but it's been like that for us through the competition. Against Real Madrid and Juventus we were not the favourites.''
The midfielder has no regrets about turning his back on the club he supported as a boy.
Fabregas said: ``Everyone was scared of leaving Barcelona because it's one of the best teams in the world.
``Everyone thought there could be nothing better than this and there was no reason to leave. I thought the best decision was to come here. Now I only think about Arsenal.''
The main dilemmas facing manager Arsene Wenger are in defence, where he must decide whether to include recently returned centre-back Sol Campbell in the heart of the Gunners defence, at the expense of Philippe Senderos.
Also, with Ashley Cole fit again after a thigh injury, Wenger has to weigh up whether he values the England man's experience over Mathieu Flamini's stellar performances in the competition so far.
Barcelona centre-back Rafael Marquez will have the support of a whole nation behind him in the Champions League final in Paris.
Should Barca beat Arsenal, Marquez would become the first Mexican to win the European Cup, with the legendary Hugo Sanchez having failed to do so in an otherwise impressive 11-year spell in the Primera Liga with Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.
``There's a lot of expectation back home,'' Marquez told PA Sport.
``People are excited and looking forward to this game and I hope I can give them joy by winning the title.
``If my team wins, I will no doubt dedicate the title to Mexico and to all my compatriots.''
Marquez, who was at Monaco for four years before joining Barcelona in 2004, is looking forward to returning to the Stade de France, where he won the French Coupe de la Ligue in 2003.
``I have very fond memories of that stadium,'' he said.
``I am happy to go back and play there because it's one of the best stadiums I've played in.''
The Mexico captain is under no illusions as to the size of the task awaiting Barca when they play the Gunners.
And despite Arsenal's superb defensive record in this season's competition, Marquez is particularly fearful of an attack led by France maestro Thierry Henry.
``What I fear most about Arsenal is their sheer speed up front,'' he said.
``They have great players and they have a lot of quality in attack.
``We've done a lot of good work defensively in the past few games and our aim is to continue in this manner in order to stop the likes of Henry.
``We also have a lot of attacking potential and I hope we are able to show it.
``Whatever happens, this is going to be a great final between two teams that fully deserve to be in Paris and that have played some great football throughout this competition.''
Lionel Messi trained on Tuesday morning after recovering from a thigh injury and is in contention to form a three-pronged attack for Barca alongside Samuel Eto'o and Ronaldinho.