16 May 2006

CL Final: Barcelona-Arsenal Buildup

It's not been a quiet few days; there's been an FA Cup final and the World Cup Teams were announced. But for me, it all takes a back seat to the Champions League final. There's no way that this game would be anything but huge to Arsenal fans, but events this season have conspired to make the Champions League the solitary focus of our hopes. Everything from a successful season, to a fond farewell to Highbury, to our hopes of keeping Thierry Henry have been wrapped up into this tournament.

And it all comes down to this. The best part is that it's truly an exciting match to think about, for the neutral as well as the fan. Barcelona have earned their status as favorites through fantastic play and attacking flair. Arsenal have built Champions League success on tight defense, but they also come out to play and have the capability to attack as well as anyone.

Which is not to say that this must be a thrilling, end-to-end game. Like most cup finals, this game will probably begin conservatively, with both teams afraid to take early risks. An early goal would change everything, with both teams picking up the pace. My gut feel is that an early Barcelona goal would be very dangerous for the mindset of the young Gunners, while an early Arsenal goal would bring Barcelona out and herald a classic contest. But my gut says that the game could well remain scoreless until deep in the second half.

Time will tell. Of course the British press are covering the heck out of the game, particularly now that the FA Cup is awarded. A collection of some interesting articles:All are worth a read. I conciously avoided the numerous stories about the future of Arsenal's players, in particular Ashley Cole, Robert Pires, and Thierry Henry. There will be plenty of time for that after the game is complete; for now, the correct focus is on the match at hand.

And what a match it will be. I'll offer a tactical analysis tomorrow. For now, I'll say that I like Arsenal's chances, but in no way do I expect an easy game. I will predict a traditional victory: 1-0 to the Arsenal.

The tension is building. This is huge.

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