Local ‘experts’ favor Barcelona over Manchester United

Barcelona and Manchester U face off starting at 11:30 a.m. local time in Santa Barbara on Saturday

Regardless of your soccer club allegiance, the match-up between FC Barcelona and Manchester United for the European Champions League title on Saturday (FOX, 11:30 a.m.) is about as attractive as it gets for afcionados.

Just look at the lineup of stars in this game: Messi, Villa, Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol for Barça; Rooney, Giggs, Scholls, Chicharito, Van der Sar for Man U.

The storylines are intriguing: How will Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson deal with the magic of Messi and Barcelona’s possession game? How much of an advantage does Man U have playing at “home,” at London’s Wembley Stadium? Is Barcelona vulnerable to Man U’s lethal counterattack, keyed by wily veteran Ryan Giggs in the midfield?

Presidiosports asked some of the area’s soccer “experts” to give their views and predictions on who will win Saturday’s titanic final.

From UCSB men’s soccer coach Tim Vom Steeg:

The conventional wisdom, of course, is that Barcelona is too good and, based on the way they possess the ball, if you tactically allow them free reign they will break you down and will win that type of game 9 out of 10 times.

However, if there is one team and one manager who has won enough to throw caution to the wind, it is Alex Ferguson and Manchester United. So, if there is a team that could beat Barcelona, it would be Manchester United.

However, if Ferguson and Manchester United have an Achilles heel, it’s the fact that Ferguson believes in playing the older players (Giggs, Scholls, etc,) and if they are going to tactically push into Barcelona they need to be younger, more athletic, and more active.

So, in conclusion, if Manchester United comes out like Arsenal (did against Barcelona in the second half of a 2-1 win in a Round of 16 game at Arsena) and pushes into Barcelona (but to do that they need to have the right personnel) they can absolutely win 2-1. However, if they bring out the “about to retire squad” and decide to defend on their half of the field then it’s Barcelona   2-0.

Not trying to be “wishy washy,” here but there is only one way to beat Barcelona, in my opinion, and playing (Real Madrid coach Jose) Mourinho ball was not going to do it. One last wrinkle is the fact that even if Man U. does everything right, Messi can pick up a ball and beat 2 players and score a goal so that is still the X factor.

In my final conclusion, if you are “betting the game,” you have to go with Barcelona, but I will pick Man U only because I feel like it’s their year and Alex F. is the best manager in the world.

From Paul Stumpf, UCSB women’s soccer coach:

Even though the game will be held in England, I am still picking Barcelona

This is an overused term, but Barcelona’s ability to possess the ball is incredible.  As they hold the ball more, they can close down the space, so when they do lose the ball with such limited space, they pressure the ball and win it back so quickly!

They will outchance Man U because of all the possession, and one of their special players will make the most of one or two of those chances to win the game.

It will be close 1-0, 2-1.

Daniel Torres, Carpinteria boys soccer coach:

First of all, I think Manchester United will win the match 2-1. They just cant afford to lose another CL final, and I believe the fact that they play in a tougher EPL gives them the upper hand as far as being game ready.

Barcelona can have control the ball for the whole 90, but as Real Madrid showed they can be kept from scoring.

Watching Man U play these last few weekends they have shown that they too can knock the ball around. Rooney is going to be the key player in the match. If he shows up to play, Man U will be lifting their second trophy in as many weeks.

I believe these two teams will give us a Final to remember. All the players that will be suited are first class and the two managers are the best at this moment. If the players do their part and play like they know how, I don’t think we will talking about the men in black (refefees) at the end.

From Rudy Ybarra, former Santa Barbara High coach now coaching with the Santa Barbara Soccer Club

Yes, this match up will be one of the best Champions League Finals in many years.

Both clubs have a great tradition in the world of futbol and are playing very well this season.

The talent on both sides is very good.

Here are my thoughts and predictions:

—Barcelona, in my opinion, will have more possession of the ball because they have a lot more time together as players 8 to 10 players all coming from their youth system and also play for current World Cup Champion, Spain …. Barca will keep the ball away from Man U and this will put Man U in their defensive half. This is something Man U is not accustomed, as they usually are the attacking team in the EPL.

—Barcelona will pressure Man U when losing possession and not allow Man U the time they get on the ball in the EPL. Barca is famous for this high pressure they developed in their youth system, which they adopted from the Dutch (Rinus Michels/Johan Cryuff). This will be a big key to the game: can Man U keep the ball and work around the Barca High Pressure!!! I personally do not think that Man U will be able to keep the ball as much as they are accustomed to do in most of their games.

— Man U must start the game strong, pressure Barca and try to force them to play faster than Barca wants to play, and also hope to get an early goal so they can sit back and counter attack Barca. Man U is very good at counter attacking and this could lead to another goal.

—Having a group grow up together and plays together for so many years, Barcelona is well coached from their youth years to the present day. In Barcelona, as on the Spanish National Team, this will be to their advantage. They are so cohesive as a unit on both sides of the ball.

—Messi/Villa for Barca and Chicharito/Rooney for Man U: pretty even but I would take the Barca midfield over the older Man U midfield. Barca midfield is younger and more creative.

— Defenders, I take the younger legs and attacking qualities of Barca over the older and less attacking defense of Man U. Edge to Barca.

—Goalkeepers, here Man U has a big advantage no doubt about it !

—Coaches/Managers, here Sir Alex has the edge of the younger Pep.

I pick Barcelona, 3-2

From Tovi Eliasen, former Dos Pueblos boys coach:

It’s almost boring to pick Barcelona, they have been so good over the last few years. But they deserve the praise they’ve received. It’s so rare in modern football that a team stays together as long as they have and has that unique understanding with each other when it comes to possession.

Manchester United have had a great season, easily the best in the EPL, and are capable of winning on Saturday. If they can somehow work hard enough to get the ball away from Barca, they’ll have a chance.

I think United come out guns-blazing for the first 15minutes, and they will NEED to score then. If Barca holds them off the first 15 minutes, Barca will win.

I don’t buy that having the game at Wembley will make any difference for a team like Barcelona, who have no problem winning big games in hostile environments (2-0 win at Real Madrid’s Bernabeu in Champions League semifinal).

In the end, I see Barca having a 2-0 lead most of the game, with United getting a late goal back to make the last 10 minutes edge-of-your-seat excitement, but Barca hang on for the trophy.

Barcelona 2, Manchester United 1

From John Sisterson, SBCC men’s and women’s coach, and a native of England.

It’s going to be a great final at Wembley, the birth place of soccer.

It will be 2-1, I hate to say 2-1 for Barcelona. i would love Manchester United to win, but I think it’ll be Barcelona.