Europe's leading coaches have been speaking to UEFA.com in the lead-up to Saturday's UEFA Champions League final, offering their views on how the Wembley showpiece between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC will unfold.
In his first season as Rossoneri coach, Massimiliano Allegri ended AC Milan's seven-year wait for the Scudetto, yet his first UEFA Champions League adventure was cut short at the round of 16 stage by Tottenham Hotspur FC.
Olympique de Marseille also exited the competition in the first knockout round, coming unstuck against Sir Alex Ferguson's United, although OM coach Didier Deschamps has extensive experience of Europe's elite club competition, having won it as a player with Marseille in 1993 and Juventus in 1996. He also guided AS Monaco FC to the 2004 final as coach.
Jean Fernandez was named France's coach of the season in 2009/10 as his AJ Auxerre side reached the UEFA Champions League group stage.
Massimiliano Allegri, Milan coach
I expect a very tight match. Both teams have world-class players so I expect to see plenty of goals too. The teams are both good as groups. They have a lot of quality individuals yet their squads are very strong as well. Lionel Messi and Wayne Rooney were definitely the two players who caught my eye most this season and I think they will be the main protagonists. However, the match will be won in midfield.
Sir Alex Ferguson already has his place in the history books – he is definitely one of the best coaches ever. Josep Guardiola is making a name for himself now too and is doing very well. As for my highlights of the campaign, the two semi-finals [Barcelona v Real Madrid CF and United v FC Schalke 04] offered a great portrait of this year's competition.
Didier Deschamps, Marseille coach
I love the competition and it was a huge joy to win it with OM and Juventus as a player. The Champions League is a chance to play against the biggest European sides.
Barcelona and United are great teams, the best in the world, with two different styles but one obsession, one aim: having the ball at their feet. With Barcelona, it's fabulous; with United, it's more controlled. The English side, unlike the Catalans, don't mind coming under pressure – they can hold tight 30 metres from their goal, lying in wait, and when they launch a counterattack they are so precise.
I prefer Barça because attacking play is the aim of football – getting the right result by having more possession than your opponent. They have played together for five, six, seven or eight years now. They are steeped in this style, it's natural to them. Watching their movement, you can only marvel at how they manage to instil their way of playing into players from all backgrounds – it is an impressive feat. Barça are strong in the middle with players like Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta and Sergio Busquets, and then spectacular attackers like Lionel Messi.
United defend very well and attack very sharply. Their plus point for this final will be Wayne Rooney because he is less tired than the others, he can make the difference. As well as being able to play four different positions, he never makes a mistake with his passing. He has great stamina and aggression.
The relationship between Rooney and Javier Hernández impresses me; in terms of movement, the latter is awesome. They always know where the other is, it is a perfect passing relationship. Playing them gave my players invaluable experience.
Jean Fernandez, Auxerre coach
There is no doubt this will be a very good game. Often, at the end of the season, teams are tired and the spectacle is not up to scratch, but that won't be the case this time. There is just too much individual talent in each side.
With Messi, Barcelona have the best player in the world, while Wayne Rooney gives United another dimension. Both teams will play to win so good defensive organisation will be required to hold off so much talent. Barcelona have a slight advantage. They are a team on top of their game. My only doubt is whether their defence will be up to the occasion. If not, United will have their chance with the stunning Hernández. United will certainly take their opponents' skills into account, but won't change their system.
The Champions League is the best competition in the world and I'm happy just to have been part of it with Auxerre this term. I'd have preferred to have a stronger team to take on the challenge because, despite the prestige, I still wanted to do better.
©UEFA.com 1998-2014. All rights reserved.