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Nic Ladds 25th May 2009 - 8:14

Catalans no match for Emperor Fergie’s men in Roman showdown

Bookmaker William Hill cannot split the two best sides in Europe as Manchester United and Barcelona prepare to do battle in the Champions League final in Rome.

The Eternal City won't have seen a dust up like this since that poncy eunuch flapped his wrists in the direction of General Maximus Decimus Meridius and asked him to re-enact the Battle of Carthage. Or something like that.

As a Roman sun baked down on the dusty arena, hell was duly unleashed and good prevailed over evil, even if one or two of the bookmakers who laid "the Barbarian Horde" for absolute bombs at 7/4, before suspending betting at 10/11, were seen galloping out of the Coliseum stables before time with their sesterti-laden leather satchels.

No Gambling Commission in those days but you can be sure those scuttling non-payers, who probably listed their markets at an overround of at least 140%, would have been thrown to the lions at some later stage.

That was one of the best things about the old days, those who lived by the sword... and all that.

Funnily enough 10/11 is also the price bookies William Hill have slated up about either Manchester United or Barcelona lifting the Champions League trophy on Wednesday evening.

Manchester United have their own General of course, well actually more like an Emperor and with Sir Alex Ferguson overseeing matters I just can't see United doing anything other than winning this in style.

Hill's 17/10 90 minute odds about United winning (draw 21/10, Barça 17/10) look such a tempter.

Ferguson´s fully fit side are in magnificent form, have bags of big game experience and thanks to winning the Premier League with something to spare are now extremely well rested for their biggest game of the season.

The same cannot be said of Barcelona who have had the troubling news that Thierry Henry (now 9/1 first scorer) and hero of Stamford Bridge, Andrés Iniesta (currently 14/1 first scorer), are said to be doubts for the final. Do we believe the hype?

However, defender Rafael Márquez definitely misses this with a serious knee injury and full-backs Éric Abidal and Dani Alves are suspended.

United will be missing, erm, Darren Fletcher.

But let's not forget Barça´s squad runs very deep and have handed out some almighty hidings to class sides this term - Real Madrid 6-2, Atlético Madrid 6-1, Lyon 5-2 and with Lionel Messi (8/1 first goalscorer) and Samuel Eto'o (2/1 anytime scorer) on the pitch they will always pose a serious threat.

Many are billing this as the two best players in Europe going head to head - Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo (how can AC Milan's Kaká not be rated up there?) and those two are already attracting plenty of interest in the Goal Scorer markets.

Both feature heavily on any set pieces and I can just see Ronaldo stepping over an early free-kick within striking distance of the Barça goal, hmmm the 6/1 about Ronaldo scoring first makes definite appeal. And you can get 10/1 that he scores two or more.

With tall central defender Márquez out I have always thought that the Catalans have looked vulnerable to crosses into the box and that will surely interest backers of Nemanja Vidić who is available at 7/1 to score at any time.

The big Serb has scored six goals for United this season coming forward for corners and set pieces and he can take advantage of Barcelona's lack of height at the back.

It promises to be a fantastic occasion, so make sure you join us when the action gets underway as here at William Hill we will provide you with all the live betting opportunities you could ever wish for right up until the final whistle with our excellent betlive service.

Barcelona v Man Utd - Wednesday 19:45

Champions League outright


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