UEFA Champions League final: live build-up

Friday 27 May 2011, 21.30CET
Friday's blog is now closed, so come back on Saturday when UEFA.com's team of reporters will bring you the latest from in and around Wembley, London and the UEFA Champions Festival.

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Published: Friday 27 May 2011, 21.30CET

UEFA Champions League final: live build-up

Friday's blog is now closed, so come back on Saturday when UEFA.com's team of reporters will bring you the latest from in and around Wembley, London and the UEFA Champions Festival.

Friday's blog is now closed but UEFA.com's team of reporters will return on Saturday morning with all the latest in the build-up to the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley, which kicks off at 20.45CET.

Barcelona and United are both seeking a fourth European Champion Clubs' Cup, which would take them level with AFC Ajax and FC Bayern München and behind only Liverpool FC (five wins), AC Milan (seven) and Real Madrid CF (nine).

All times CET.

Friday 21.00, London
Mircea Lucescu's FC Shakhtar Dontesk were comprehensively beaten by Barcelona in the quarter-finals, but the experienced coach thinks the final being staged in England affords United an edge.

"United are a better-built team physically, with fast players who can play direct football; they are dangerous going up field quickly and on the counterattack," he said. "That power could decide this match, and they also have the advantage of playing in England."

Friday 20.35, Simon Hart at Wembley
Barcelona's players are now on the Wembley pitch after a press conference in which coach Josep Guardiola confirmed that Carles Puyol and Éric Abidal were both fit to feature in tomorrow's final. He also warned that his team would have to play better than they did in the 2009 final if they were to get the better of United a second time. "From a football point of view we want to be much quicker than we were in Rome," said Guardiola. "I am very happy about Rome but let's be honest we need to play much better than in 2009."

Friday 20.05, London
Graeme Souness is predicting one of the "great cup finals of all time" but believes Lionel Messi's presence makes Barcelona firm favourites to win their fourth European crown. "Messi is the best player that's ever played football," said Souness, a member of the Liverpool FC team which retained the European Champion Clubs' Cup at Wembley in 1978 against Club Brugge KV. "If he didn't play, it would be close to an even game – that's how highly I rate Messi."

As for the stadium itself, Souness added: "Wembley is a fabulous stadium. I've been there maybe half a dozen times and, for me, it's one of the great footballing stadiums of the world. It's a real football stadium. There isn't a better venue."

Friday 19.20, Tom Kell at the UEFA Champions Festival
Thronged by affectionate fans seeking autographs and photo opportunities, Gary Neville has come and gone from Hyde Park. Here in an ambassadorial capacity for Manchester United, Neville accommodated as many supporters as he could during a frantic stroll through the festival. Next on the agenda for fans is legendary Portuguese forward Eusébio, a European Champion Clubs' Cup winner with SL Benfica in 1962. The likes of Gareth Bale, Cafu and Giovanni van Bronckhorst will also be at the event before it closes at 22.30 local time. Gates to the event reopen again at 09.00 tomorrow and shut for the final time at 17.00.

Friday 18.50, Simon Hart at Wembley
The United players are now warming up on the Wembley pitch in their red training tops and grey shorts. Sir Alex Ferguson was joined at his press conference by skipper Nemanja Vidić and Rio Ferdinand, both of whom spoke about the importance of being properly prepared for tomorrow's showpiece. Sir Alex himself said "our preparation has been better" than before the 2009 final defeat by Barcelona.

Friday 18.37, Simon Hart at Wembley
Speaking in his press conference, Sir Alex Ferguson suggested that we could be about to see the best UEFA Champions League final of recent times. Asked whether this was a meeting of the sides of the past ten years, he replied: "The success both teams have had in the last decade has been enormous, it could not only be the final of the decade but the best final of the decade – the attraction of two great teams with a great history is quite obvious. It is an appealing final in terms of what could happen in the game. Anything could happen, there could be a lot of goals, a lot of excitement and a lot of good football."

Friday 18.30, London
United have learned the lessons of their defeat by Barcelona in the final two years ago, according to Ryan Giggs. "A lot of their players went on to win the World Cup so they're an experienced, world-class team," Giggs, United's record appearance maker, explained to UEFA.com. "But we've learned from that final and got better as a team. The sides aren't too dissimilar to a couple of years ago – they are both very good teams, the best in their country."

Friday 16.57, Simon Hart at Wembley
Several of today's English newspapers are running an interview with Arsenal FC midfielder Jack Wilshere reflecting on his experience of facing Barcelona in this season's competition. The key to stopping the Spanish club, he says in the Guardian, Independent and Daily Mail is to "get in their faces" and he believes United are better equipped to do this than Arsenal were. "United have a better chance than we had. They have players like Fletcher, Park, Valencia. They are all runners and they can stop players."

Wilshere suggests also that Barcelona can tire in the final 20 minutes of a game, a point repeated in the Daily Telegraph, which suggests that Sir Alex Ferguson has a Plan B prepared should his team fall behind – a switch from 4-4-2 to 3-4-3. All speculation, of course, and we can safely say Sir Alex will not be shedding any light on his tactical plans when he faces the press in just under an hour's time.

Friday 16.54, London
A two-time UEFA Champions League winner, Edwin van der Sar says occasions such as Saturday's do not "come any bigger than this", telling UEFA.com: I've experienced four [finals] before and to play this one at Wembley is very special, against such a great team as Barcelona."

The game will be the last of the 40-year-old's career. Scoring the first goal, he says, is essential. "We lost a goal in Rome [in 2009] and then it was quite difficult to come back so, if we can, we must change that."

Friday 15.44, London
Samuel Eto'o opened the scoring against United in the 2009 final, his last match for Barcelona before leaving for FC Internazionale Milano. Two years on and the Cameroon forward is looking forward to a "beautiful" match. "I definitely hope Barcelona win, but you never know what will happen," he told UEFA.com. "Both Manchester United and Barcelona have improved [since 2009]. I hope it will be a beautiful final."

Friday 14.47, Simon Hart at Wembley
Entering Wembley, I passed a long line of journalists at the accreditation centre at the entrance to the stadium − among them a silver-haired Hristo Stoitchkov, who knows all about the significance of this place to Barcelona, of course, as a member of their 1992 winning side here. The former Bulgaria striker was never the most reticent character on the pitch but would not be drawn regarding a prediction for tomorrow's game.

Friday 14.28, Andrew Haslam at Wembley
There is just over three hours to go until the first press conference here yet already the media are starting to gather as the stadium hubs with activity. There are cameras in the press conference room and the media working area upstairs is packed as journalists continue their research and ready their questions for Sir Alex Ferguson, Josep Guardiola and their players.

Friday 14.20, London
Javier Mascherano is preparing for his second UEFA Champions League showpiece, having featured in the Liverpool side which lost to Milan in 2007. "I have dreamed of getting to the Champions League final again, because it is very difficult to make it," the Barcelona midfielder told UEFA.com.

"For footballers that play at the big clubs like me, taking part in the Champions League every year is a normal thing, but not many make it to the last match, the final – it's like playing at the World Cup."

Friday 14.19, Álvaro Macho at Wembley
Two committed Barcelona fans are travelling to the match from Spain in a SEAT 600 car adorned with Azulgrana colours. They set off from Lleida, Catalonia, earlier in the week expecting the 1500km journey to take four days. They hope to arrive in London on Friday following a ferry crossing from France. We don't know whether they will achieve their aim.

Friday 13.15, Tom Kell at the UEFA Champions Festival
Pockets of Barcelona fans are already gathering here in and around Hyde Park. Sightseeing appears to be high on the agenda for many before tomorrow's big kick-off but there is no ignoring the festivities which have just got under way for the day in the park. Media interest has been ramping up all week and has gone up another notch today, one South American cameraman telling me his dream of a Manchester United winner by Mexico striker Javier Hernández. He did so while taking in the local cuisine, though, giving a big thumbs up for the fish and chips he had sampled for lunch.

Friday 12.51, London
Ole Gunnar Solskjær knows a thing or two about UEFA Champions League finals, having famously scored the winner for United in their dramatic comeback triumph against FC Bayern München in 1999.

"It's the ultimate stage for a player and the players at Manchester United are not scared of that game, they are looking forward to it," the former Norway forward, who expects an open encounter, told UEFA.com. "I don't think its going to be a tactical battle. It's about going out there with the right attitude, with the right belief and composure."

Friday 12.02, London
Like United (see 10.42), the Azulgrana have won European club football's most coveted prize three times, most recently when they defeated Sir Alex Ferguson's team 2-0 in Rome two years ago. However, they have also suffered disappointment on just as many occasions, as we recall here.

Friday 11.20, London
A second-string Barcelona side rounded off their domestic season with a 3-1 success at Málaga CF last weekend, when United received the Premier League trophy after defeating Blackpool FC 4-2. Sir Alex Ferguson's team have been in action since then, however, in Gary Neville's testimonial against Juventus.

A crowd of over 48,000 turned up at Old Trafford on Tuesday to pay tribute to the right-back, who retired earlier this year after almost two decades of service to the club. Wayne Rooney scored for a United XI which featured David Beckham, Phil Neville and Nicky Butt from the famed 1992 FA Youth Cup-winning side. The Bianconeri ran out 2-1 winners.

A wealth of domestic statistics relating to the final are available in our match facts.

Friday 10.42, London
Tomorrow's final will be United's fifth in the European Champion Clubs' Cup, and second at Wembley. Here we recall their three victories and also the one that got away, against their opponents on Saturday, Barcelona.

Friday 10.05, London
Having intended to arrive in England on Thursday, Barcelona flew into London Stansted Airport on Tuesday night amid concerns over the impact the ash cloud from the Grimsvotn volcano, currently erupting in Iceland. On Wednesday, the squad used Arsenal FC's training ground for a light session while on Thursday the club reverted to the original schedule of events it had planned. United, meanwhile, left the Cheshire town of Macclesfield on Thursday by train after a work-out at their Carrington training headquarters.

Friday 10.02, London
Keep up to date with all the latest news and exclusive interviews through our official Facebook pages for the UEFA Champions League and UEFA.com

Friday 10.00, London
Here are today's all-important press conference times. United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and a couple of his players will speak to the media at Wembley from 17.45, while Barcelona's Josep Guardiola, Víctor Valdés and skipper Carles Puyol will offer their thoughts at 19.15.

After briefing the press, each side will take to the Wembley pitch for one final training session. United are first up at 18.30, followed by their opponents at 20.00.


Last updated: 07/12/13 3.46CET