Manchester United and Chelsea take power battle to Moscow

May 20th, 2008 - 7:01 pm ICT by admin  

Moscow, May 20 (DPA) The European balance of power has already tilted England’s way. Now the seat of power will be determined in Moscow. Manchester United attempt to win a third European Cup title when they take on Chelsea, a club chasing their own piece of European history, in the Champions League final at the Luzhniki Stadium here Wednesday nighr. Both teams arrived in Moscow Monday evening and will be trained at the stadium Tuesday as the city geared up for invasion of some 40,000 English fans.

Neither side has any injury concerns, with Chelsea pair John Terry and Didier Drogba expected to play after overcoming injuries.

The first all-English final was on the cards for some time after Premier League sides reached the previous three Champions League finals and made up three of the semi-finalists last year and this time around.

Foreign ownership, investment and players have seen the Premier League benefit from football’s globalization, but there are many in the game who sniff at the cost of England’s present supremacy.

That won’t concern coaches Sir Alex Ferguson and Avram Grant, two men with differing backgrounds and histories, in charge of sides who between them have now won the last four Premier League titles.

Ferguson, 22 years in charge at United and with more than two dozen career titles as a coach, pits his wits against Grant, who has enjoyed club success in Israel but only took over as Chelsea manager in September last year.

Ferguson has been buoyed by his side edging Chelsea to the Premier League title for a second successive season.

“If we’d lost the title, it would have been a great knock but we are bouncing into the Champions League final,” said Ferguson after claiming his 10th title with United.

Ferguson is now hoping to claim a second Champions League crown after the dramatic 2-1 victory over Bayern Munich in Barcelona in 1999.

The match also comes 40 years after United won their first European Cup and 50 years after the Munich air disaster that killed
23 people, including eight United players.

Ferguson says his biggest challenge now is to decide who to leave out - not just from the starting line-up but also off the subs’

“I know my team, I think, but I haven’t enjoyed picking it. Some very good players will miss out and it’s not easy to tell them that,” he said. “The whole squad has contributed to the season and some will be disappointed.”

The last time the two teams met in a final was the 2007 FA Cup, and Ferguson admits that defeat to Chelsea in that game still hurts.

He predicts a very different game on Wednesday to last year’s dire affair, when United were tired and Chelsea under Jose Mourinho were out to stifle the game.

“I think it will be a British affair, but it will be different from the FA Cup final,” Ferguson said.

“I’m absolutely certain of that. We will be fresher, and with that being the case I expect a better performance from us.”

Chelsea won’t be expected to change their well-organized approach, even though Russian owner Roman Abramovich turned to Grant for a more attractive way of playing.

A win in Moscow will not only bring Chelsea a first Champions League title (they have won the old Cup Winners’ Cup twice), it will also help Grant quell the persistent rumours that he will need the title to guarantee he stays at the club.

“Every time you create history, you want it to be the base for the future,” Grant said.

“We are very, very happy that we are in the final for the first time in the history of Chelsea, but we don’t want to be happy just
with this.

“We want to go on and make others. First we have a game on Wednesday and we will speak about the future after that, but I can promise you that the future will be very good at Chelsea.”

Meanwhile, Moscow was gearing up for the influx of English fans, many of whom began heading to the city centre where a programme of activities has been laid on at Red Square.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Russia has allowed all fans with a valid ticket to enter the country without a visa.

Russian authorities said they would be doing everything to prevent trouble, with fans being ferried to and from the city’s airports in a fleet of 700 police-escorted buses.

Around 6,000 policemen and soldiers are on stand-by for the match, but Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said last week there would no heavy-handed approach.

“It will all be done in a very polite way. If they act and behave respectfully, there will be no problems,” he said.

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