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The key battles

Skysports.com considers three crucial match-ups

Last Updated: 26/05/09 3:57pm

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Titanic tussle: Messi (left) and Evra

Titanic tussle: Messi (left) and Evra

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On paper, Barcelona versus Manchester United looks the stuff football dreams are made of as the top sides of Spain and England get ready to battle it out in the final of the UEFA Champions League. Skysports.com considers three key battles which could determine whether the match lives up to its billing - as well as who will take the famous trophy home.

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PIQUE v RONALDO

The tall figure of Gerard Pique has become increasingly important in an often vulnerable Barcelona defence this season, and the youngster will be desperate to impress in Rome with a solid performance against his former colleagues. But he could hardly face a tougher test in Cristiano Ronaldo, the world player of the year who inspired United's European glory last season. Blessed with a box of tricks like no other, the Portuguese is frequently the man for the big occasion and must be stopped if the Catalan club are to have any chance of emerging triumphant on the night.

MESSI v EVRA

He was somewhat subdued in the semi-final, but class is permanent and Lionel Messi remains Barcelona's potential match-winner, his ability to turn a game in a split second with a moment of brilliance meaning that he must be closely monitored throughout. That job falls to Patrice Evra, who can also frustrate at times but on his day looks like one of the best full-backs in Europe. He did a sound job containing the prodigious flair of Theo Walcott in the semi-finals and will be hoping to put in a similar shift at the Stadio Olimpico.

XAVI v CARRICK

The enforced absence of Darren Fletcher means that Michael Carrick will shoulder additional responsibility in the United midfield with the dual role of defensive shield and creative catalyst which he fulfils so well. He has risen admirably to any task given him this season, but he may have met his match in the shape of Xavi, the heartbeat of the Barcelona team who was voted player of the tournament at Euro 2008. The elegant Catalan is hugely influential and nullifying his impact on the game could be what makes the difference between victory and defeat for United in Rome.

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