Twenty four hours from kickoff in Moscow, and the focus has been on just about everything but the game:
- Will Ronaldo leave United for Real Madrid?
- Is Drogba playing his final game at Chelsea?
- Wither Avram Grant?
- Is Sir Alex coming back if United wins?
against the United troika of The glamorous matchup is Chelsea's back line of Terry, Carvalho, Essien, Ferreira and CechRonaldo, Rooney and Tevez. Can Ronaldo be stopped? Can Chelsea afford to focus solely on No. 7, only to allow Rooney and Tevez to roam wild. And does the Blues have the luxury of sending one man to monitor Ronaldo's movements? All legitimate questions, but this one may not be decided there, but at the other end of the field.
Rio, Vidic, Brown and Evra I think are a stronger back four than what Chelsea offers; look at what they did to a pressing Barcelona in the semifinals! Say what you will about Barca's failings this year, Barca came to play in the semis and Rio, Vidic et al stood tall. I think the scenario to watch is how Ballack and Lampard press the United midfield and serve Drogba and even Joe Cole.
And how about depth? As well as Chelsea's playing, Grant's boys haven't dug too deeply into the bench, while United as a dangerous set of subs in Park Ji-Sung, Giggs, Nani (if he doesn't start) and even Anderson. Anelka is one to watch off the Chelsea bench.
The wild card may be Grant. With a couple of weeks to think about this one, will he out-coach himself? Will he mess with the team's continuity and rhythm and say, put Anelka out wide or go on a hunch and insert Kalou or Malouda?
Another wild card: the pitch and the crowd. Reports are mixed on the conditions, but word is that it's a new pitch and sod requires time to take. You hate to see a game of this magnitude decided by a shady bounce. Reports are mixed too on the crowds. The Russian government capitulated on the visa situation, opening the doors for anyone with a legitimate ticket. Hopefully this keeps the sideline distractions to a minimum. It's an odd to choice to put the final in Moscow; here's hoping it's a non-issue.
So who wins?
How about United, 2-1, with a late goal from Sung off the bench; just a gut feeling.