UEF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL
Wednesday, May 21
Chelsea vs. Manchester United (-140, to win match; Palms) (ESPN2, 11:45 am PT): Moscow, Russia’s Luzhniki Stadium is the site of this first-ever, all-English UEFA Champions League final, a showdown between the top two clubs in the English Premier League (EPL), Manchester United and Chelsea.
Sir Alex Ferguson (Man U’s manager) won his 10th EPL championship two weeks ago as his Red Devils shut out Wigan Athletic, 2-0 to clinch the title in the last match of the season. Man U made it to Moscow by bouncing Spanish Premier League heavy Barcelona in the semifinals (1-0 aggregate).
Chelsea manager Avram Grant led the Blues to an 85-point season in the EPL, second to Man U (87), and qualified for this championship match by ousting EPL rival Liverpool in their semifinal legs (4-3 aggregate).
Man U boasts the EPL’s leading scorer (41 goals) and one of the most exciting strikers in the world in Cristiano Ronaldo. The 23-year-old Portugal international is surrounded by talent in Carlos Tevez, Ryan Griggs, Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney, who was cleared to play in this title tilt two weeks back.
Chelsea – recently voted as one of the most hated teams in professional sports in the world by Sports Illustrated – has its own share of scorers in Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack. The good news for the Blues is that captain John Terry (dislocated elbow), Drogba (knee) and defender Ricardo Carvalho (back) are all fit for this winner-take-all match in Moscow.
Besides the possible physical limitations, Chelsea must also deal with the baggage of suffering a late tie to Bolton in injury time in the last match of the season on a ball that deflected right between goalkeeper Petr Cech’s legs. Making its first appearance in a UEFA Champions League final may also weigh heavy on Chelsea who must also battle a confident Man U squad after winning the EPL crown and challenged by skipper Ferguson to go out and win the double now.
The pace should be nervous and quick in the first half with several near-misses and drama setting the stage for someone to become a big hero in the second half. The number of quality scoring chances should be limited by each team’s conservative style of play in such a big game choosing to put their energy into defense.
That commitment, combined with the teams’ unfamiliarity with this stadium likely means a low-scoring match, with a 2-1 outcome being the high end of the spectrum. And with the total set at 2½ goals (+155 over, -175 under, Palms) for the 90-minute result, the UNDER looks like the best of all plays in this match.
But the other odds offered on Man U are worth some play also, with MANCHESTER UNITED -140 (to win the match) on the moneyline worth a look, as well as MACHESTER UNITED -½, +135 (Chelsea + ½, -155) for the 90-minute result also worth a shot. A hardcore Reds fan might want to take MANCHESTER UNITED + ½, -250 (Chelsea -½, +200) and pull for a 1-0 or 2-0 Reds victory.
UNDER 2½ -175
MAN U -140 (Game)
MAN U -½, +135 (90 mins)
MAN U +½, -250 (90 mins)