Barcelona vs. Manchester United: Chime with your thoughts on the Champions League final here
BARCELONA 2, MANCHESTER UNITED 0
FULLTIME: BARCELONA WINS Barcelona is your 2008-09 European champions. It's Barça's second title in four years and its third overall.
Did Manchester United even show up? This was a poor showing by arguably the most complete squad in the world. The Red Devils were a shadow of themselves and were honestly, soundly beaten by a better team.
I'm really shocked. I had picked Man U to win, though I thought Barcelona had a decent shot to pull an upset. But if you had told me before the game that Barça would win running away by a 2-0 score line, I'd have said you drank too much limoncello.
That's it for us. Congratulations to Barcelona, European champions, Spanish champions and Copa del Rey champions. It's a dream finish for the most exciting team in the world. Tune in on Thursday for on-the-scene color from SI.com's Gabriele Marcotti, and I'll be back on Monday with my World Power Rankings.
92': Barcelona hero Andrés Iniesta comes out to a standing ovation. This guy has been clutch and deserves to lift that trophy.
92': Ninety seconds to go. Sir Alex Ferguson has that same, blank look on his face. You'd almost think United were winning.
91':Lionel Messi nearly gets through for a last-minute shot. Barça corner.
90': The Blaugrana faithful can smell it. Three minutes of extra time.
90': Clock is ticking. This has been a comprehensively dominant performance by Barcelona. For all the plaudits of its offense, its defense has been the part of its game to suffer the most criticism. Not today.
87':Dimitar Berbatov heads the ball way over the goal. Time's nearly up for Man U.
86': United is desperately searching for a goal, launching lead balls forward. It's not working. Second straight corner coming up. Are we going to see keeper Edwin van der Sar come up soon?
85': Amazing. Barça has its foot on United's throat, yet it's still pushing.
85':Carles Puyol nearly had the highlight of his career as an attacker, with a loose ball along the right side of the box. His shot is calmly swallowed by van der Sar.
82': Early choice for Man of the Match? Xavi, by a mile. Barça's main playmaker has been positively brilliant, assisting on both goals and calmly distributing through Man United's hapless midfield. It's the same thing he did throughout the entirety of last summer's European Championship.
80': Iniesta takes a rip from the left side -- and why not -- but it's saved by van der Sar. Paul Scholes puts a nasty tackle on Sergi Busquets, though, and is dealt a yellow.
That's a bad choice by Scholes. He could have hurt Busquets.
80': As noted by the ESPN commentators, Man U is looking very, very frustrated.
76': Scholes in for Ryan Giggs. That's a 34-year-old in for a 36-year-old. And there, in a nutshell, might be part of what's undoing United right now.
75': We still have yet to see Man United mount much of a consistent challenge. Meanwhile, Barcelona looks confident, well-organized and undaunted. Amazing coaching effort by rookie manager Pep Guardiola.
74': Good save by van der Sar off Puyol's header from Xavi's free-kick. Still cracking me up to see Puyol so far upfield, even for set-pieces.
73': Up 2-0, Barça likely will sit back and try to kill this off. And that should be interesting. For as well as Barcelona attacks, let's not forget, this patchwork unit hasn't played much together. One mistake or a miscommunication could make this interesting.
72': Great save by Víctor Valdés on Cristiano Ronaldo. Man United hasn't given up.
72':Seydou Keita in for Thierry Henry.
71': That was Messi's first goal against an English team, and it may be the clincher for Barça. United has its work cut out for it now.
70' GOAL BARCELONA... Messi with an amazing header off Xavi's cross. Instant candidate for goal of the tournament.
68': Man U is back to basics with a 4-4-2. Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney on the wings, Carlos Tévez and Berbatov up top. Might as well go with what works.
67': Ronaldo drills Puyol in the air, and the Barça captain goes crumpling to the ground. Ronaldo is living dangerously with his antics.
66': As predicted, Berbatov in for Park Ji-Sung.
65': I predict the next goal will come off a counterattack. Barça is desperately pushing for a dagger, while United is pushing up the field on its own. Somewhere, someone's going to slip up.
64':Nemanja Vidic can't get to the corner. Looks like Berbatov is readying himself to come in for United. This could be interesting. Can't imagine Park will be out there much longer.
63': Tévez with a great lead ball down the left to Rooney, but Roo's cross doesn't find anyone and is cleared out for a corner.
61': First time I can remember that Man United comes forward with numbers ... and it's sloppy. Ronaldo has a nice stepover, but Rooney can't get to the lead ball.
59': Pleasant surprise No. 1: how well Puyol is playing at right back. The Barcelona captain is far too slow to be a classic wingback -- he only moved over from his center back position to fill out the depleted numbers -- but he is acquitting himself well. A little weird to see him in the attack, but Man U actually does look concerned.
56': Ronaldo sends in a cross from the right that Park just can't reach. Crowd boos for a foul. There sure seemed to be some pushing in there.
54': The score right now easily could be 3-0. If Man U finally breaks through, Barça will be kicking itself.
53': Off the post! WOW. Xavi's free-kick bounces off the left post. Brilliant curving ball around the wall.
52': Finally, Barça gets the call. Andrés Iniesta gets taken down at the top of the box. Not sure that merits the foul -- some incidental contact from Tévez, who was sprinting back.
50': Ooooooh. Samuel Eto'o threads one to Messi, who may have been held on that. Messi is pleading for a penalty call.
50': Will be interesting to see how Henry plays this half. Let's not forget, he was on the losing end of a Champions League final in '06 when his Arsenal lost to ... Barcelona.
49': Great chance by Henry, who had Rio Ferdinand beat badly. Good save by van der Sar.
46': Second-half kickoff. Indeed, Tévez in for Anderson, which will shift Ronaldo deeper in the attack.
That's a final-third quartet of Tévez up front, Rooney and Park on the wings and Ronaldo as a deep striker. Somewhere, Luiz Felipe Scolari is smiling: The Diamond offense lives on.
SECOND HALF: Looks like Man U is bringing in Tévez. This might be the shot in the arm it needs.
HALFTIME: Barcelona leads 1-0 at the break. The Blaugrana midfield is carving the defending European champions to pieces. Not surprisingly, it's Spanish national-team studs Xavi and Iniesta doing the damage. Manchester United looks disheveled, and disorganized. It is trying to find a way to somehow grab possession. Sir Alex no doubt will have to make some major adjustments, because if things keep up like this, it's just a matter of time until Barcelona doubles its lead.
44': ESPN's much-maligned Tommy Smyth says Barcelona is "passing [United] to death." It's hard to disagree.
40': I do not recognize this Manchester United team. It's getting absolutely dominated in possession and hasn't been able to organize the attack at all. I foresee a red-faced Ferguson giving his troops the business at halftime.
39': I take it back. Seeing that on replay, Ferdinand's "clearance" is a dumb backheel that bounces off his thigh. With the finishers Barça has, you don't want to be fooling around like that.
38': Great little overheard flick by Messi in the box, but Ferdinand makes a nice play to clear it.
37': Ronaldo's pleas for a foul go disregarded by the refs. He's clearly rattled.
36': Xavi's corner just misses Gerard Piqué's dome. The central defender is a dangerous weapon on set-pieces. He needsto marked better.
34': Puyol comes forward! He tries his luck, but his shot is deflected by Vidic.
33': Patrice Evra with an ambitious cross, handled easily by Valdés. The Frenchman is one player I think can really do some damage with Barcelona's weakened back flanks. But Evra needs to get more involved and needs more service.
31': Man United's midfield is invisible right now. APB on Michael Carrick.
28': Messi gets the second of what will probably be many calls. When you're 5-foot-7 and look like a little kid among 6-foot-plus defenders, you'll get the refs' attention.
27': Xavi's free-kick just misses, sailing barely to the left of van der Sar. A lot of near-misses going on here.
26': Barely a foul on Iniesta by Anderson.
24': Man United looks disorganized and a little downtrodden. I don't think they expected such a furious effort from a patchwork Barcelona lineup. Sooner or later, though, I think, someone will slip up and give the Red Devils an opportunity.
23': Valdés is fine. Ronaldo can't corral a corner kick. Man United resets.
21': Valdés is down -- looks like he pulled something.
20': Good kick save by Valdés off a lovely lead ball by Anderson, just out of the reach ofPark.
19': Thus far, Barça has proved better on possession and it's shown. Messi drills a shot from 20 yards out and doesn't miss by much.
17': Giggs' free kick is way over the bar. Maybe Ronaldo should get the call next time?
16': Horrible mistake by Piqué, and his resulting foul on Ronaldo results in a yellow. Piqué is a great player, but he's young (22) and inexperienced. That could be a weak point for Barcelona.
13': OnMessi's first touch, more or less, he is brutalized. You have to favor Man United's bigger back line against "The Flea." But the Red Devils need to get their attack in order in a hurry.
11': Manchester United is not used to playing from behind. It will be interesting to see how they respond. That Barça contingent in the Stadio Olimpico is unbelievably loud right now.
10' GOAL BARCELONA ... Eto'owith a brilliant finish off a lead ball from Xavi. The Cameroonian is deadly in the box. If Man U can't find a way to contain him, that's trouble.
9': Ronaldo isn't taking this lightly. He's all over the place.
6': I love Puyol, but right back isn't where he belongs. You've gotta favor Rooney in that matchup.
2': Wow. Ronaldo narrowly misses on a free-kick -- where he's deadly -- and Anderson sends it over the bar. Barça breathes a sigh of relief. Not a great stop by Valdés, but what a start to the game.
2:47 p.m. ET: And here we go. To quote Special1TV's Rooney puppet, "Ooohhh, can't wait, can't wait!"
2:42 p.m. ET: Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli kicking it off, singing over the hackneyed Champions League hymn. Nice touch.
2:37 p.m. ET: Kickoff just a few minutes away! Get pumped with this awesome ITV trailer, voiced by Man U legend Éric Cantona and with a little Traffic in the background. Check out the insane mid-sprint juggle by Ronaldo about 55 seconds in.
2:25 p.m. ET: Hardly a predictable battle in the midfield, with Man United putting Anderson, Michael Carrick, and Ryan Giggs up against Barça's trio of Sergi Busquets and Spanish national-team heroes Xavi and Andrés Iniesta. Those include two players (Anderson, Busquets) with almost zero experience on this big stage, but both are flanked by guys who are some of the most experienced in the game. Is this the key to the final? Give us your thoughts.
2:12 p.m. ET: South Korean national-team player Park will make history as the first Asian to play in a Champions League final. The Manchester United attacker will get the start as well, operating on the flank opposite Rooney. In front of them will be Cristiano Ronaldoas the central attacker, where he has been employed regularly by Ferguson in Champions League play. Compare that to Barcelona's attack trio of Messi, Henry and Eto'o, and that's quite a pair of triple trouble up front.
2:05 p.m. ET: Wow, that's a surprise: Banged-up Iniesta (recovering from a thigh injury) and Henry (knee) both are in Barcelona's starting lineup. That means Barça's midfield linchpin and hero in the semis against Chelsea will play, as will its most experienced and decorated attacker. That's a huge boost for Barça, but is the duo they healthy enough to make a difference?
1:25 p.m. ET: Sky Sports is reporting that Barcelona and Manchester United season-ticket holders are being refused entrance into the Stadio Olimpico because the RFD chips embedded in their tickets aren't being recognized by the scanners at the turnstiles. Hard to tell how widespread an issue this is, but that's cause for major concern.
1:15 p.m. ET: This game has been picked apart aplenty, and expertly so by SI.com's own Gabriele Marcotti here. I've been psyched for this matchup for weeks, even though I wish we'd have a full-strength Barça on hand. The Blaugrana will be without Dani Alves and Éric Abidal (both ruled out by red cards) and Rafa Márquez (out for the season with a knee injury), I'm not sure how it'll match up with so many defenders missing.
Man United, meanwhile, is almost at full strength and has the deepest team in the world. But as we've learned in years past, it's usually an unsung hero who makes the difference in Champions League finals. Who's your pick to win? Tell us here.
1 p.m. ET: There's a smorgasbord of TV available to U.S. viewers leading in to this match, not least of which is Fox Soccer Channel's seven-hour pregame coverage that includes a direct feed to Sky Sports News. Some good coverage of the scene in Rome, including the ridiculous attempt to ban alcohol sales in the Eternal City (yeah, like that ever would have worked), and some of the pre-match violence that we've come to expect.
Also not surprisingly, ESPN is all over the game, including tout after tout on SportsCenter. (It's fun to hear American anchors mispronounce the living daylights out of European and South American names, isn't it?) That's in addition to Messi gracing the most recent cover of ESPN the Magazine, two months after Kobe Bryant was on the cover in a Barcelona uniform.
No surprise, since the Worldwide Leader is carrying the game in the U.S. and is expecting big ratings to match up with its good numbers off the European Championship last summer. Enjoy it while you can, because FSC gets the big game starting next year, Max Bretos and all.
11 a.m. ET: Manchester United vs. FC Barcelona. English champion vs. Spanish champion for all the marbles. Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Lionel Messi for "Best Player in the World" bragging rights.
This is arguably the sexiest Champions League final of all time, and it'll almost certainly be the most watched: More than 200 million around the world are expected to tune in for European soccer's Super Bowl.
Here in the U.S., of course, we're unfortunate that this matchup falls during the work day. So if you're one of those stuck at your desk and can't sneak away for Wednesday's final (2:45 p.m. ET, ESPN), tune in here for my live commentary of the Champions League final.
Also, please post your comments and thoughts on the game here, and follow along with SI.com's Bryan Armen Graham on his Twitter feed @armenarmen.