Everything Moscow

By Stephen Mills & Stephen Turner   Last updated: 19th May 2008  

Everything Moscow
UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL
Manchester United v Chelsea
6pm, Wednesday
Sky Sports 1 & HD1
Click here for live listings

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The top two sides in England are preparing to meet in the most eagerly-anticipated game of the season on Wednesday night.

Manchester United and Chelsea go head to head in the Champions League final in Moscow in a game that's too tight to call.

Will Sir Alex Ferguson complete a unique double and enjoy his second Champions League triumph or will Avram Grant lead Chelsea to the first European Cup in their history?

We asked our Soccer Saturday panel to give us their expert view ahead of the game and while some are backing United, others are expecting Red Square to be a sea of blue celebrations after the game.

But one thing is for certain - it is a game you cannot miss, so make sure you join us live from 6pm on Sky Sports 1 & HD 1 on Wednesday.

Here is what our experts said...

Jeff Stelling

What kind of game are you expecting?
I think it'll be very, very cagey, and I think one goal will settle it either way. Big finals are not necessarily showpiece games - the FA Cup final last season was... shocking. Hopefully the same two teams will produce a better game than that, but I do think it'll be cagey.

What are the key battles?
There are key battles and questions all over the field: how will Vidic and Ferdinand cope with Drogba? Who picks up Ronaldo? Is Carvalho fully fit? There are battles everywhere.

Put your neck on the block - who will win?
I was at Chelsea for the final day of the Premier League season, and they were terrible, but I just think they might get their revenge on United. I'll go for 1-0 to the Blues.

Phil Thompson

What kind of game are you expecting?
I'm hoping for a magnificent final because while United are the more attractive side, Chelsea have become more adventurous in the last couple of months and have reaped the rewards. The midfield will be packed and the two teams could cancel each other out, but I'm hoping we could actually see an attacking game.

What are the key battles?
Winning possession of the football in the midfield area will be very important. Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick and possibly Owen Hargreaves could be in a tight midfield three against Michael Ballack, Frank Lampard and Claude Makelele - and that particular battle between those six players has me licking my lips.

Put your neck on the block - who will win?
I'm hoping and praying we see a fantastic display from both teams and I'm calling it as 3-2 to Manchester United.

Charlie Nicholas

What kind of game are you expecting?
I genuinely do think it's going to be an open game. Fergie was cautious the last time they won the Champions League and he got away with it, but I don't think he'll be cautious this time, especially after the defeat at Stamford Bridge a few weeks ago. Fergie will throw all his big guns into the team - Ronaldo, Rooney, Scholes, Giggs - and tell them to go for it. I think Chelsea are happy with the balance of Ballack and Lampard in their side at the moment and their win over United in the league will make Avram Grant's mind up - that was a really good footballing performance, so why be cautious?

What are the key battles?
There's so many matchwinners in this game that it's hard to say. The key battle will probably be Drogba up against Vidic and Ferdinand because he'll occupy the pair of them and provide scraps for Ballack and Lampard. United might have a better passing side, but Chelsea have a physical edge, especially in terms of aerial threat.

Put your neck on the block - who will win?
It's the most difficult final I've ever looked at to try and pick a winner. Two weeks ago I'd have said Man United, but for some strange reason I've switched back to Chelsea and I'm going for them. With all the focus that's been on Avram Grant, I feel he could make history for the club and the physical threat of Drogba, Lampard and Ballack could end up being the difference.

Paul Merson

What kind of game are you expecting?
It will be a very tight game between the two best teams in the Premier League - and now the two best teams in Europe. When you get two sides who are that good, you can generally expect a tight game unless there is a very early goal.

What are the key battles?
The midfield. I'm not sure if Man United's midfield will be able to cope with Lampard and Ballack when they go forward because they're are two of the best attacking midfielders in Europe when it comes to finishing. It's one chance, one goal with those two. Man United might track them 30 times in the game but the two times they don't then Chelsea are liable to score. United will probably have to change their team and play as they did in Barcelona if they are going to avoid being over-run in midfield.

Put your neck on the block - who will win?
I think Chelsea will win 2-1 because they'll be too strong in midfield. I can see it being settled in normal time because there's too much quality in both teams and there's bound to be goals.

Chris Kamara

What kind of game are you expecting?
It'll be very, very close. Chelsea never play an open game of football and I don't think Manchester United will want to be expansive and make the pitch too big. Cristiano Ronaldo will tuck in behind the striker, presumably Wayne Rooney, and Paul Scholes will be at the heart of a midfield four. So it will probably be cagey - I can't remember too many outstanding Champions League finals full of goals.

What are the key battles?
There's so many. Paul Scholes will try to dictate the midfield and he plays a bit deeper these days so he'll be able to track Frank Lampard. But the key battle is probably United's two centre-halves on Drogba. On his day, Drogba is unplayable and could slaughter both Ferdinand and Vidic if he's on top form. Also Chelsea have got to keep Rooney and Ronaldo quiet, so Terry and Carvalho will have a big job to do.

Put your neck on the block - who will win?
I'm sitting on the fence on this one. I think it will be a draw in normal time and will go all the way. Someone will either nick it in extra-time or it will go to penalties.

Alan McInally

What kind of game are you expecting?
Chelsea will be the more aggressive side. We saw how Sir Alex decided to approach the Barcelona game in the Nou Camp. I was out there and I couldn't believe it - they were really defensive, and they weren't much more aggressive at Old Trafford. I think, maybe, defensively United are better equipped to play that way than Chelsea are, so I think you'll see Chelsea having plenty of possession and United playing on the counter attack.

What are the key battles?
The defences are key. Can Chelsea break down United the way they did at Stamford Bridge? And can their defence keep out the likes of Ronaldo, Rooney, Scholes etc? Defensively, United have shown against Barcelona they are very, very solid - that's what won them the title.

Put your neck on the block - who will win?
I just think Chelsea will do it. I don't know whether it's the Abramovich connection - what are the chances of Chelsea getting to their first Champions League final in Moscow? But I just think there's going to be a big party in Red Square that's going to be the colour of blue.

Tony Cottee

What kind of game are you expecting?
I'd love to think they'll both go gung-ho, but... I actually really enjoyed the league game at Stamford Bridge, when Chelsea had to go for it. I think it'll be different this time because there's so much at stake. I don't think there'll be too many goals and a 1-0 either way wouldn't surprise me. I hope I'm wrong, but I just can't see it.

What are the key battles?
As a forward I always look at the forward players. United need to get Ronaldo to play, create and perhaps get a free-kick. For Chelsea, it's Drogba. The key will be which of those two performs better for their team on the day. Whoever does, that team will probably win.

Put your neck on the block - who will win?
I really don't think you can split them, but if I had to go for one I'd probably be 51% Chelsea and 49% United. If you gave me a tenner it would probably go on Chelsea.

Tony Gale

What kind of game are you expecting?
If United approach it as a tight game, they'll come unstuck. United have to go at Chelsea - they tried to keep it tight at the Bridge - totally against the grain for Sir Alex - and they lost. I think if they go for it, United will win. If they don't, then I think the strength of Chelsea may win it at a set-piece. I'm hoping Sir Alex sticks to his guns and plays the entertaining football he's played for most of the season.

What are the key battles?
The key will be how the full-backs of Chelsea deal with Ronaldo, who will be switching from one flank to the other. You're looking at whoever plays there - Michael Essien and Ashley Cole, probably - and how they deal with him.

Put your neck on the block - who will win?
I would say Chelsea, because I think United will go cagey and the strength of Chelsea - particularly at set-pieces - might tell. But my heart says I want United to go and win it, because they're the attacking force.

Alan Smith

What kind of game are you expecting?
I hope it's going to be an open one. We all thought Chelsea v Liverpool was going to be cagey in the semi-finals, but it was quite open in the end. Hopefully we'll see that again. Manchester United certainly like to attack and Chelsea have been in some good form attacking wise, apart from in the last game against Bolton, so I hope that continues.

What are the key battles?
I think the key is how Chelsea deal with Ronaldo. I would expect him to line-up on the right and drift inside so that could mean he has a go at Ashley Cole - and those two have had some classic confrontations in the past. But he likes to drift all over so Chelsea will have to try to handle him in general. Also, Drogba is Chelsea's talisman and can push them forward so there's a job for Ferdinand and Vidic - but there's not a better combination in England at the moment and they'll feel they can handle him.

Put your neck on the block - who will win?
I think United might do it. They haven't been close enough since winning it in 1999 and Fergie is desperate to have it on his CV, so I think he'll inspire them towards a win.

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Comments (8)

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Ryan T (Manchester United fan) says...

Man United will pip it 2-1. I think the Chelsea faithful seem to forget they beat a very peculiar Man United team afew weeks ago on the strength of a silly late penalty. Im glad we're going into this as 'underdogs'. Personally, I would like to see Paul Scholes lead the team out as captain because not one player in Europe deserves to lift that trophy more.

Posted 19:13 20th May 2008

Carl Jackson (Chelsea fan) says...

I think man utd are scared of chelsea more then any other team in europe because we have proved time and time again we can beat them. Chelsea's midfield will be the key to the game and and god help utd if the drogba we all know turns up in moscow which i believe he will. ashley cole will keep ronaldo locked up all game again like he has done endless number of times ronaldo has never been in the game against chelsea. the only worry i belive chelsea have is tevez, hes always worried chelsea's defence. chelsea to win 2-1

Posted 17:34 20th May 2008

Simon Li (Manchester United fan) says...

While Drogba is always a threat, the recent performances of Lampard, Ballack and Essien are Chelseas' biggest strength. United cannot afford less than a battling midfield capable of winning the ball, holding it and putting in well-timed tackles. For this reason, if Sir Alex plays Scholes instead of Anderson, that will be the most telling move - in favour of Avram Grant! While Scholes is at times a good distributor of the ball, he does not win tackles nor the ball, often loses the ball and most tellingly will slow down United's one-touch passing that so often launches lightning penetration into the opposition's 12 yard box. United's best defense is attack against Chelsea's surging midfield trio. 2-1 to the Blues if Scholes plays, and 2-0 to the Red Devils if not.

Posted 17:21 20th May 2008

Matt Rowe says...

Man U will win, because they have the best players in the world in each position. Rio and Vidic have easily proved their worth as the best central defenders in the world, and with the ever improving Wes Brown and incredibly Patrice Evra controlling the flanks, i can't see Drogba and co causing too many problems. If Ferguson plays Anderson and Hargreaves in central midfield, with Paul Scholes just in front of them, i sense that the pairing of Anderson and Hargreaves will be more than strong enough, to deal with the force of Lampard and Ballack, With the added incentive for Paul Scholes to collect his first European Cup medal, and so with Ryan Giggs, this time the incentive to break his club's all-time appearance record, i feel these two players will play to their full capacity and will make sure of the win. In addition to this, we also have, of course, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez to choose from in order to score the vital United goals which will be needed to seal the cup, and with a total of over 70 goals between them for the season, i cannot see Chelsea's dodgy defence (Carvalho's and Terry injuries) being able to cope.U N I T E D

Posted 07:19 20th May 2008

Robert Croome (Manchester United fan) says...

I think this game could go one of two ways; it will either be a cagey close encounter which Chelsea will win due to the strength of players like Lampard, Ballack and Drogba whom you can keep out for 88 minutes but will punish you if you give them a single opportunity. Or it will be a Man Utd show, with long periods of possession for them and a resounding final score. Man Utd and Chelsea have played each other several times over the past few seasons and we have never seen one of these matches, but Man Utd have never had the team they do now. Im hoping for an entertaining game and also a comfortable 3-1 scoreline, but i live in hope.

Posted 22:59 19th May 2008

Jason Kavanagh (Manchester United fan) says...

I have to disagree with Stephen Porter on his comments. How can he say that Chelsea have the mental strength when it comes to the crunch. When it came down to the crunch in the premiership title race they bottled it and in the last two seasons they have said it was there year in the champions league. Considering they are not even a big club what gives them the right to even think they deserve to win the competition. They bottled it in both there semi finals against a very poor Liverpool side.

Posted 22:29 19th May 2008

Mickey Walsh (Blackpool fan) says...

So most of the pundits have gone for Chelsea, i am a neutral but i hope Man U win, i love to watch them play although not lately and not against Barca or Chelsea in the league, it was strange to see Utd being so defensive, i think they will give it more of a go in the final, i hope so, i would never like to see Rooney as a defensive right sided midfielder again as in Barcelona, what a waste! If they go for it its Utd for me, if they try and play an alien defensive game, its Chelsea's, please not a final won by a set piece unless its a free kick masterpiece!

Posted 20:01 19th May 2008

John Jackson (Chelsea fan) says...

I feel it is going to be a tight game with a tight call but after 92 minutes, it is definitely going to be John Terry raising the trophy. The hunger for that title is on them, and the anger will rage, the blues will rain sulpur and limestone on the man utd's defence, and with Ballack already roaring like the injured lion I think he will be unstoppable. There are 5 champions league winners, and they know what it takes to exploit opponents in final, hence I think chelsea will come out on top. Secondly, Ronaldo has been very formidable this season and currently antagonising Messi as the world best. But in top games and against top teams he has been muted way, making me think he is awya discussing transfer. His opponent A Cole has been a long time customer and should have no difficulty even though the boy is in form, handling him, but I think the danger man in man utd is Tevez, Man utd winning the title was the quality of Tevez, and he is the key man in such a game, but I think Terry who we all know is a defender who declares himself ass a living dead in this kind of game, he will give even his last blood for the team, and I think his presence in this game would be the key at the blues heart. Carvalho, another key who has been inflicted with curse of scoring against man utd, he is a world class defender who can also starts a counter attack. Essien four world class players in one man. I just think the physical threat of Chelsea and anger in them would visit, see the game and conquer. Anelka is a slicky runner and when he plays with Drogba upfront, they are likely to tear the defences apart as they did in the Liverpool game. I am definitely going for Chelsea to win 2-0 it may be surprising but from the mistake learnt against man utd in stamford bridge and against Liverpool, I think the blues defences will not permit any unentertainable entertainment of any red player in that blue defence.

Posted 15:47 19th May 2008

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