Barcelona v Estudiantes
Club World Cup 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009,
Kick-Off: 20:00 local (16:00 GMT)
Zayed Sports City, Abu Dhabi
King Of The World
The talk right now all focuses around Barcelona’s sixth trophy. It’s almost as if they’ve already lifted it. Not so.
The Blaugrana meet Estudiantes in a bid not only to complete the best year ever contested by a club side, but also to become Europe’s third consecutive winners, following in the footsteps of AC Milan and Manchester United.
Barca last competed in this contest in 2006 when they fell against Internacional of Brazil. That was a bitter disappointment, and perhaps the beginning of the end of the Frank Rijkaard era. Fans will hope that things will change under Pep Guardiola.
For Estudiantes, this tournament is old hat, at least in its former incarnation. The Intercontinental Cup saw the La Plata side win against Manchester United in the notorious 1968 final, before losing the two subsequent finals.
All in all, it’s a fitting end to what has been so far an intriguing tournament – the first to be hosted in the UAE. Here’s hoping that the final is suitably exciting.
WON 3-1 (n) Atlante (Club World Cup, Dec 16)
WON 1-0 (h) Espanyol (Liga, Dec 12)
WON 2-1 (a) Dynamo Kyiv (Champions League, Dec 9)
WON 3-1 (a) Deportivo (Liga, Dec 5)
WON 2-0 (a) Xerez (Liga, Dec 2)
WON 2-1 (n) Pohang Steelers (Club World Cup, Dec 15)
DREW 0-0 (h) Chacarita Juniors (Apertura, Dec 3)
DREW 1-1 (a) River Plate (Apertura, Nov 28)
LOST 1-0 (h) Colon (Apertura, Nov 25)
WON 3-1 (h) Tigre (Apertura, Nov 20)
Andres Iniesta is out of the final after sustaining an injury against Atlante in the semi-final. Yaya Toure may enter the lineup in his stead, alongside Sergio Busquets. Xavi will provide the invention to Messi, ‘Ibra’ and Pedro – or perhaps Henry – further forward.
Probable Starting XI: Valdes; Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal; Toure Yaya, Sergio Busquets, Xavi; Messi, Ibrahimovic, Pedro.
Marcelo Carrusca is a long-term absentee up front, while Nunez may drop to the bench as Estudiantes look to shore up the wide areas.
Probable Starting XI: Albil; Rodriguez, Cellay, Desabato, Diaz, Re; Brana; Veron, Benitez, Perez; Boselli.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Lionel Messi. A hero to Argentines as much as he is to Barca fans, there will still be no love lost between Estudiantes and the little forward. Fresh from winning the Ballon d’Or, he has a great chance to cement his place in history.
Juan Sebastian Veron is the most recognisable player to non-Argentine spectators, and there’s a good reason for that. The former Manchester United man still has it despite his advanced age, and will be key to unlocking the Barca defence.
As in the semi-final, Barca may start slowly, but will eventually lift their sixth trophy of the year, despite spirited opposition from the ‘rat stabbers’.
Barcelona 3-1 Estudiantes
Ewan Macdonald, Goal.com