FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC will descend on Wembley Stadium, London on Saturday 28 May each seeking to write another chapter in their long and rich history.
In a city resonant with past glories, these modern-day superpowers have their eyes on European club football's greatest prize. It was the same two years ago, when goals from Samuel Eto'o and Lionel Messi earned Barcelona victory against United in Rome. As UEFA.com delves through the archives, however, it is abundantly clear there really is little to choose between the sides.
1 Previous encounters
United and Barcelona have met on ten previous occasions, winning three games apiece and drawing the other four since beginning their rivalry in the 1983/84 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup quarter-finals. They have also met in two UEFA finals; aside from Barcelona's 2009 triumph, they also met in the 1991 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup final in Rotterdam when United ran out 2-1 winners – Sir Alex Ferguson's first European trophy at Old Trafford. Former Barça striker Mark Hughes was the United hero, twice beating goalkeeper Carlos Busquets, father of Sergio.
The sides were paired in the UEFA Champions League group stage in 1994/95 and 1998/99, drawing three games with Barcelona winning the other, and United prevailed when they met in the 2007/08 semi-finals. Barcelona enacted swift retribution in their last meeting in Rome though ominously for Barça, neither side has ever won back-to-back meetings.
2 Wembley experience
United are obviously no strangers to Wembley, scene of nine of their FA Cup final victories, though the north London venue also commands a place in Barcelona's affections. Indeed, as Europe's premier club competition returns to Wembley for a record sixth time – the first in the UEFA Champions League era – fate has pitted together the two sides that claimed their maiden European Cups there.
In 1968 United became the first English club to lift the trophy with a 4-1 extra-time victory against a Eusébio-inspired SL Benfica. The Catalan giants also needed an additional 30 minutes when they met UC Sampdoria 24 years later in the last final before the dawn of the UEFA Champions League era. With Josep Guardiola among the starting XI, Dutch international Ronald Koeman finally broke the deadlock in the second period of extra time with a trademark free-kick.
3 European pedigree
Both sides have three titles apiece and are aiming for a fourth to move level with AFC Ajax and FC Bayern München in the all-time list – behind only Liverpool FC, AC Milan and Real Madrid CF. United had a 100% record in finals before Rome in 2009, defeating Benfica (1968), Bayern (1999) and Chelsea FC (2008).
Barcelona have won three out of six, victories against Sampdoria (1992), Arsenal FC (2006) and United balanced out by losses to Benfica (1961), FC Steaua Bucureşti (1986) and Milan (1994). For the Blaugrana, triumph would bring their third European Cup in six seasons, making them the first team to win the UEFA Champions League three times this century.
4 Sir Alex v Guardiola
Guardiola was seven when a 36-year-old Sir Alex embarked on his first European campaign as a manager with Aberdeen FC in 1978/79. What followed for both men is well documented, and victory at Wembley would give the Scot his third European Cup – equalling a record held by compatriot Bob Paisley, who guided Liverpool to glory in 1977, 1978 and 1981.
Guardiola is one of only six men to win the European Cup as player and coach, adding his name to the pantheon of greats in 2009: Miguel Muñoz, Giovanni Trapattoni, Johan Cruyff, Carlo Ancelotti and Frank Rijkaard preceded him. Of those, only Muñoz and Ancelotti guided sides to two titles.
5 Anglo-Spanish finals
English and Spanish sides have met in 15 UEFA club competition finals, Spain winning seven and England eight since Tottenham Hotspur FC got the ball rolling with a 5-1 victory against Club Atlético de Madrid in the 1962/63 Cup Winners' Cup. England initially held sway, prevailing in six of the first eight meetings including Liverpool's 1-0 victory over Real Madrid CF in the 1980/81 European Cup.
Spain, though, have had the better of recent contests. Sevilla FC swept aside Middlesbrough FC 4-0 to claim the 2005/06 UEFA Cup, their first major honour, and a week later in Paris, Barcelona beat ten-man Arsenal in the UEFA Champions League showpiece, winning 2-1. The Catalan giants repeated the dose three years later, with Manchester United the unwilling recipients, while Atlético defeated Fulham FC in the first UEFA Europa League final in Hamburg last May.
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