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Two stories fit for champions – Eric Abidal and Darren Fletcher



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So it’s Manchester United versus Barcelona at Wembley on May 28th in a rerun of the 2009 CL final which saw Lionel Messi and Samuel Eto’o ensure the trophy went to Barcelona. This time round Manchester United will be looking to exact revenge and with Wayne Rooney in good form, there is no reason why they cant be the team to put Barca to one side.

The game features two of the greatest managers ever, Sir Alex Ferguson is perhaps the most successful manager ever and has maintained a solid and glorified Manchester United for several years. His rival tactician Pep Guardiola is by his own rights on the same level as Sir Alex although he has only managed for three years, in the year they beat Manchester United, Pep became the first manager ever to win a sixtuplet capturing all six trophies possible.

On the field, Barcelona have the three best players in the world aswell as all round quality where as Manchester United have a team built on solid foundations that never give up.

Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Pedro, Villa, Rooney, Hernandez, Evra, Van Der Sar, Puyol, Ferdinand, Vidic and the best player in the world Lionel Messi will light up Wembley like never before.

For two players not mentioned in that star studded list, the Champions League final is a chance to put behind them what for any of us would be a terrible ordeal.

Eric Abidal and Darren Fletcher, although on either side share similar stories, Abidal no doubt will take to the field for Barca if fully fit and Fletcher would almost certainly be involved somehow. But a few weeks ago, neither could of imagined the prospect of playing again this season.

Darren Fletcher return could not have come at a better time for Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson. The Scottish international has been suffering from a stomach virus for four weeks, in which time he had significantly lost weight and at one point left United and their staff extremely worried.

His return against Schalke in second leg semi final, has made journalists and people quickly predict that Ferguson will use Fletcher to man mark Lionel Messi, something he failed to do in 2009 as Fletcher was suspended. That ultimately allowed Messi to run free and destroy the United defenders that night.

Sure, Fletcher would follow Messi everywhere but watching the machine that is Real Madrid’s Pepe fail to knock the small Argentine off the ball raises eyebrows as to whether Fletcher can.

But for Fletcher to return to at such a time and be given the responsibility of man marking the best footballer ever is a really good end to a terrible few weeks for the Scot.

Eric Abidal, was enjoying the form of his life until March when he was unexpectedly diagnosed by Barcelona doctors to have a cancerous liver tumor. It was announced he would have surgery to remove the tumor and although surgery went very well. Barca and Abidal knew his return would not be immediate.

Worldwide get well messages and wishes were sent to the French international, and it was those messages, wishes and his teammates that helped his shockingly return at the Camp Nou against Real Madrid in the semi final second leg.

Although a brief cameo, coming on in the 90th minute to a rapturous applause and standing ovation made all the tension, diving, fouling and controversy quickly disappear that night. The post match celebrations followed with Abidal given the bumps and the Catalan crowd of 98,000 people roared their approval.

Now Abidal, who has been buoyed and encouraged by the support he has been showed has set his sights on the final at Wembley, he along with Dani Alves was banned for the 2009 final which makes Abidal’s story all the more special.

Following the Champions League tie with Arsenal a few weeks ago, Xavi explained that following the win in a meeting was announced in the dressing room.

“it was the worst moment ive ever experienced in a locker room, but he was just like he always is, he gave us encouragement”.

His words show a great respect for Abidal but also show how important the Frenchman is to Barca, surely for Xavi and the many fans, family members and general football public. The view of Eric Abidal walking out at Wembley in his number 22 football shirt, will be a delightful end to an amazing story.

Wembley has its stories before the final has even kicked off, it looks set to be the possibly the greatest Champions League final in a very long time.

Also see: Champions League Final Tickets 2011.

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