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Rome ready to welcome European superpowers

FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC will descend on Rome's Stadio Olimpico for the 2008/09 UEFA Champions League final with each club seeking to write another famous chapter in their long and rich history.

Barcelona and Manchester United are aiming to win the UEFA Champions League trophy
Barcelona and Manchester United are aiming to win the UEFA Champions League trophy ©Getty Images

FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC will descend on Rome's Stadio Olimpico for the 2008/09 UEFA Champions League final each seeking to write another chapter in their long and rich history. In a city resonant with ancient glories, these two modern-day superpowers have their eyes on European club football's greatest prize.

• For Barcelona, victory would bring their third European crown – and earn coach Josep Guardiola a place on the privileged list of men who have won the trophy as both player and coach.

• Holders United are on a record-breaking 25-match unbeaten run in the competition and are aiming to capture their fourth European Champion Clubs' Cup – and, with it, become the first team to retain the trophy in the UEFA Champions League era.

• If successful, their manager Sir Alex Ferguson would take his place alongside Liverpool FC's Bob Paisley in the record books as the manager with the most European Cup wins following his previous successes with United in 1999 and 2008.

• A final deep in subplots also brings the neutral the opportunity to observe in direct competition two of the world's most celebrated attackers in United's Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi of Barcelona – first and second in the FIFA World Player of the Year vote for 2008, and leading scorers in the UEFA Champions League last year and this year respectively.

• Barcelona are seeking a third European Cup triumph in what is their sixth final. Their previous appearances were:
1960/61 SL Benfica 2-3 lost
1985/86 FC Steaua Bucureşti 0-0 (0-2 pens) lost
1991/92 UC Sampdoria 1-0 won
1993/94 AC Milan 0-4 lost
2005/06 Arsenal FC 2-1 won

• The Catalan club advanced to Rome after Andrés Iniesta's strike three minutes into added time at Stamford Bridge earned them a 1-1 draw at semi-final opponents Chelsea FC and progress on away goals following a first-leg stalemate. Prior to that they had recorded emphatic aggregate victories against FC Bayern München (4-0 home, 1-1 away) and Olympique Lyonnais (1-1 away, 5-2 home) having topped Group C with a record of W4 D1 L1.

• Barcelona have hit 30 goals in 12 fixtures from the group stage onwards – a scoring rate of 2.5 per game. It is the most prolific goal output by any team en route to the final since United hit 27 in ten matches in 1998/99, a rate of 2.7 per match.

• Barcelona will hope the parallels with 1999 do not end there. Having already lifted the Copa del Rey and the Spanish Liga title, Guardiola's team can become the first Spanish treble winners with victory in Rome – a feat United achieved in 1999 after winning that year's UEFA Champions League final at Barcelona's Camp Nou stadium.

• Guardiola was a member of the first Barcelona team to win the European Cup with a 1-0 victory against Sampdoria at Wembley in 1992. He appeared in the final again two years later but finished on the losing side against Milan in Athens.

• If he leads Barcelona to the trophy, Guardiola will become the sixth man to have experienced European Cup success first on the pitch and then in the dugout. The five members of that exclusive club include the coaches of Barcelona's two previous winning teams:
Miguel Muñoz, player with Real Madrid CF 1956,1957; coach with Madrid 1960, 1966.
Giovanni Trapattoni, with Milan 1963, 1969; with Juventus 1985.
Johan Cruyff, with AFC Ajax 1971, 1972, 1973; with Barcelona 1992.
Carlo Ancelotti, with Milan 1989, 1990; with Milan 2003.
Frank Rijkaard, with Milan 1989, 1990, with Ajax 1995; with Barcelona 2006.

• United travel to Rome in pursuit of a fourth European Cup and hope to maintain their 100 per cent winning record in finals:
1967/68 Benfica 4-1 won
1998/99 Bayern 2-1 won
2007/08 Chelsea 1-1 (6-5 pens) won

• The English titleholders reached the final with a comprehensive 4-1 aggregate victory against Premier League rivals Arsenal FC (1-0 home, 3-1 away). They had previously disposed of FC Porto (2-2 home, 1-0 away) and FC Internazionale Milano (0-0 away, 2-0 home) after finishing top of Group E with a record of W2 D4 L0.

• United are looking to become the first side to win back-to-back European Cups since Milan, winners in 1989 and 1990.

• Besides Milan, seven other teams have recorded successive triumphs, starting with the great Real Madrid side of the late 1950s:
1956/60 Real Madrid
1961/62 Benfica
1964/65 Inter
1971/73 Ajax
1974/76 Bayern
1977/78 Liverpool
1979/80 Nottingham Forest FC

• United are the first team since 1997 and only the fourth since the inception of the UEFA Champions League to have reached the final again 12 months after lifting the trophy. On each occasion the holders fell at the final hurdle:
Milan Winners 1994, runners-up 1995
Ajax Winners 1995, runners-up 1996
Juventus Winners 1996, runners-up 1997

• In previous years, Benfica (1963) and Liverpool (1985) also reached the final as defending champions but lost.

• A United victory would make Sir Alex the tenth coach to have retained the trophy, following in the footsteps of: José Villalonga (1956, 1957), Luis Antonio Carniglia (1958, 1959), Béla Guttman (1961, 1962), Helenio Herrera (1964, 1965), Stefan Kovács (1972, 1973), Dettmar Cramer (1975, 1976), Bob Paisley (1977, 1978), Brian Clough (1979, 1980) and Arrigo Sacchi (1989, 1990).

• Moreover, it would give the Scot this third European Cup – equalling the three that Paisley won with Liverpool in 1977, 1978 and 1981.

• If United emerge victorious it will be the third time they have won the European Cup without losing a match – having managed the feat previously in 1998/99 and 2007/08. Like United, Ajax (1971/72 and 1994/95), Liverpool (1980/81 and 1983/84), and Milan (1988/89 and 1993/94) have been unbeaten champions twice previously.

• There is a considerable gulf between the respective coaches when it comes to age and experience. The 67-year-old Sir Alex embarked on his first European campaign as a manager with Aberdeen FC in 1978/79 when Guardiola was just seven years old. Three decades on, Guardiola, now 38, is in his first season as a coach in Europe.

• The only winning coach in European Cup history older than Sir Alex is now was Belgian Raymond Goethals who was 71 years 232 days old when his Olympique de Marseille side defeated Milan in 1993.

• This is the second major final between these clubs, following their duel for the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in Rotterdam in 1991.

• United ran out 2-1 winners in that contest to give Alex Ferguson, as he was then, his first European trophy while in charge at Old Trafford. Former Barça striker Mark Hughes was the United hero with two second-half goals before Ronald Koeman halved the deficit for a Barcelona side reduced to ten men by defender Nando's late dismissal.

• It was the second time Sir Alex had claimed silverware at the expense of Spanish opponents after his Aberdeen side defeated Real Madrid 2-1 to capture the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in Gothenburg in 1983.

• Carlos Busquets, father of Barcelona midfielder Sergio, was in goal for the Catalan outfit that night while Aitor 'Txiki' Beguiristain, Barcelona's technical director, featured in their midfield. Brian McClair and Mike Phelan – now both coaches at Old Trafford – were among United's starting lineup.

• The full lineups for that final on 15 May 1991 were:
Barcelona: Carlos Busquets, Nando, José Alexanco (Antonio Pinilla 72), Ronald Koeman, Albert Ferrer, Juan Goicoechea, José Maria Bakero, Eusebio Sacristán, Aitor Beguiristain, Michael Laudrup, Julio Salinas.
Manchester United: Les Sealey, Denis Irwin, Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister, Clayton Blackmore, Mike Phelan, Bryan Robson, Paul Ince, Lee Sharpe, Brian McClair, Mark Hughes.

• This is the tenth meeting between the sides and the record so far is two wins for Barcelona, three for United and four draws.

• The rundown of previous encounters is:
1983/84 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup quarter-final
Barcelona 2-0 Manchester United (Hogg og 35, Rojo 90)
Manchester United 3-0 Barcelona (Robson 21 50, Stapleton 51)
United won 3-2 on aggregate

1990/91 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup final
Barcelona 1-2 Manchester United (Koeman 79; Hughes 67 74)

1994/95 UEFA Champions League group stage
Manchester United 2-2 Barcelona (Hughes 19, Sharpe 79; Romário 33, Bakero 49)
Barcelona 4-0 Manchester United (Stoitchov 2 59, Romário 45, Ferrer 88)
Barcelona advance, United eliminated

1998/99 UEFA Champions League group stage
Manchester United 3-3 Barcelona (Giggs 16, Scholes 24, Beckham 63; Anderson 47, Giovanni 59pen, Luis Enrique 70pen)
Barcelona 3-3 Manchester United (Anderson 1, Rivaldo 57 73; Yorke 25 68, Cole 53)
United advance, Barcelona eliminated

2007/08 UEFA Champions League semi-final
Barcelona 0-0 Manchester United
Manchester United 1-0 Barcelona (Scholes 14)
United won 1-0 on aggregate

• United became the third English team in four seasons to eliminate Barcelona from the UEFA Champions League when they defeated them 1-0 on aggregate in last season's semi-finals. Paul Scholes, scorer of the only goal in the second leg at Old Trafford on 29 April, actually made his debut in the competition against Barcelona in the clubs' 2-2 draw at Old Trafford in October 1994.

• United midfielder Ryan Giggs is another survivor of the sides' group-stage meetings in 1994/95, while Barcelona coach Guardiola featured for the Blaugrana.

• Giggs and Scholes scored the opening two goals of the 3-3 draw between the teams in September 1998 at Old Trafford, while Gary Neville and Scholes figured in the return at the Camp Nou two months later.

• Barcelona defender Gerard Piqué was an unused United substitute in last season's semi-final first leg between the teams in Spain. He did not make the bench for the second leg nor for the final against Chelsea. Piqué joined United in 2004 after spending seven years in Barcelona's youth ranks. He made 23 appearances in all competitions for the Old Trafford club, scoring two goals – both in last season's UEFA Champions League, including United's goal in a 1-1 group-stage draw at Roma on Matchday 6 – before rejoining Barcelona last summer.

• Barcelona's overall record against English clubs is: W20 D17 L15.

• United's overall record against Spanish clubs is: W10 D16 L11.

• The Old Trafford team have recorded five goalless draws in their last six matches against Spanish opposition.

• Curiously, given his impressive scoring feats in the UEFA Champions League, Barcelona forward Messi has not found the net in ten games against English opponents in the competition. The same goes for Ronaldo in his six previous outings against Spanish sides, the Portuguese international missing an early penalty at the Camp Nou in last season's semi-final first leg.

• Barcelona forward Thierry Henry spent eight years with United's Premier League rivals Arsenal (1999-2007) and scored nine goals in 18 appearances against the Old Trafford outfit for the Gunners.

• Eidur Gudjohnsen (Chelsea, 2000-2006), Aleksandr Hleb (Arsenal, 2005-2008) and Sylvinho (Arsenal, 1999-2001) also know all about United from their time in England.

• There have been nine previous Anglo-Spanish finals in UEFA club competition with English teams holding a 5-4 advantage:
2006 UEFA Champions League, Barcelona 2-1 Arsenal
2006 UEFA Cup, Sevilla FC 4-0 Middlesbrough FC
2001 UEFA Cup, Liverpool 5-4 Deportivo Alavés
1995 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, Real Zaragoza 2-1 Arsenal
1991 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, Manchester United 2-1 Barcelona
1981 European Cup, Liverpool 1-0 Real Madrid
1980 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, Valencia CF 0-0 Arsenal (5-4 pens)
1971 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, Chelsea 2-1 Real Madrid (replay after 1-1 draw)
1963 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, Tottenham Hotspur FC 5-1 Club Atlético de Madrid

• This is the fourth European Cup final staged at the Stadio Olimpico. Two of the previous three have brought an English triumph:
1976/77 Liverpool 3-1 VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach
1983/84 AS Roma 1-1 Liverpool (2-4 pens)
1995/96 AFC Ajax 1-1 Juventus (2-4 pens)

• Barcelona coach Guardiola knows the arena well having spent the 2002/03 season with Roma.

• Barcelona have visited the Stadio Olimpico twice before. In 1975/76 they were 3-0 winners at S.S. Lazio in a UEFA Cup second-round tie, but they lost by the same score to Roma in the UEFA Champions League second group stage in 2001/02.

• United won at this stadium last season, following that draw with Roma on Matchday 6 by beating the same opponents 2-0 in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals with goals from Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney. Rooney was also on target at the Stadio Olimpico at the same stage of the competition 12 months earlier, although on that occasion United went down to a 2-1 defeat against the Giallorossi.

• Another individual in the spotlight is United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar who is hoping to collect a third UEFA Champions League winners' medal at a stadium where he finished on the losing side in the 1996 final with Ajax. Ajax went down on penalties to Juventus then, but it was Van der Sar's spot-kick save from Nicolas Anelka which secured United's victory in another final shoot-out against Chelsea 12 months ago.

• The Dutchman could taste UEFA Champions League success 14 years after winning with Ajax in 1995. Milan's Paolo Maldini holds the record for the longest span between his first and final European Cup successes – recording triumphs in 1989 and 2007.

• Barcelona's Víctor Valdés, Carles Puyol and Samuel Eto'o all started their 2006 final win against Arsenal. Iniesta came on at half-time while Xavi Hernández and Sylvinho were unused substitutes. Eto'o scored Barça's equaliser in a 2-1 win against an opposing side that included Henry and substitute Hleb, now both Barcelona players.

• The full Barcelona lineup for that last final appearance on 17 May 2006 was:
Víctor Valdés, Oleguer Presas (Juliano Belletti 71), Rafael Márquez, Carles Puyol, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Deco, Edmílson (Andrés Iniesta 46), Mark van Bommel (Henrik Larsson 61), Ludovic Giuly, Samuel Eto'o, Ronaldinho.

• United's starting lineup for their final win against Chelsea in Moscow on 21 May last year was:
Edwin van der Sar, Wes Brown (Anderson 120), Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidić, Patrice Evra, Owen Hargreaves, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes (Ryan Giggs 87), Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tévez, Wayne Rooney (Nani 101).

• Giggs and Neville are the only survivors of the United's 1999 UEFA Champions League-winning team, Scholes famously missing the final through suspension.

• United full-back Patrice Evra tasted UEFA Champions League final defeat with AS Monaco FC in 2004, and forward Dimitar Berbatov suffered the same fate as a substitute for Bayer 04 Leverkusen against another Spanish side, Real Madrid, in 2002.

• Barcelona's shoot-out record in UEFA club competitions is:
5-4 v Lech Poznán, 1988/89 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup second round
0-2 v Steaua Bucureşti, 1985/86 European Cup final
5-4 v IFK Göteborg, 1985/86 European Cup semi-final
4-1 v RSC Anderlecht, 1978/79 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup second round
3-1 v Ipswich Town FC, 1977/78 UEFA Cup third round
5-4 v AZ Alkmaar, 1977/78 UEFA Cup second round

• United's record is:
6-5 v Chelsea, 2007/08 UEFA Champions League final
3-4 v Torpedo Moskva, 1992/93 UEFA Cup first round
4-5 v Fehérvár, 1984/85 UEFA Cup quarter-finals

• Ji-Sung Park, who is hoping to become the first Korean footballer to appear in a UEFA Champions League final, took Korea Republic's final spot-kick in their 5-3 shoot-out victory against a Spain side featuring Puyol and Xavi in the 2002 World Cup quarter-finals. Xavi also found the net in the shoot-out.

• Carlos Tévez, Michael Carrick, Owen Hargreaves, Nani, Anderson and Ryan Giggs all converted their penalties in last season's final, but Ronaldo had his shot saved.