The climax of the European soccer season comes Saturday when Manchester United and Barcelona, two of the game's real giants, face off for the second time in three seasons in the UEFA Champions League final at Wembley.
It's a classic matchup, pitting Barcelona's gorgeous possession-heavy attack -- fueled by Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta, three of the game's most fertile stars -- against Manchester United's rugged explosiveness that features Wayne Rooney and Mexican star Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez.
No matter the result, Barca will continue to be thought of as the finest side on the planet -- nobody's really all that close -- and Man United will be considered overachievers if they can accomplish what they couldn't two years ago in Rome.
In that one, Samuel Eto'o and Messi scored in a 2-0 victory for the Catalans, who claimed their third title, equal to Manchester United.
Nobody on this continent will be watching as closely as Galaxy midfielder David Beckham, who grew up in Man United's youth system, played a decade with its first team and pulled on a Red Devils jersey earlier this week for Gary Neville's testimonial at Old Trafford.
Beckham, as they say, is a Red through and through.
“Barcelona are such a great team,” he said. “They're the best team of this generation, such great player, great experience. … But if anyone can beat Barcelona, Sir Alex Ferguson knows how to do it.”
Ferguson, of course, is Beckham mentor, and he's a wily coach who did one of his finest jobs in prodding Man United to this season's English Premier League title. He's expert at the tactical battles, and at putting his players into the perfect frame of mind.
“I know what it's like when you play against teams like Barcelona,” Beckham said, “and you need every kind of bit of confidence that you can get.”
He believes United, with legends Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes providing a foundation, will have the confidence it needs. His prediction?
“Hopefully, 2-nil to Man United,” he said. “That's wishful thinking, but you never know, you never know. … I hope Man United. Obviously, I'm a Man United fan. But it's going to be a great game of soccer, that's what's going to be the highlight. For it to be at Wembley and two great teams that play great football, they've got great passion.”
The perfect final, eh?
“Yeah. It really doesn't get much better than that.”
Fox (KTTV/Channel 11 in L.A.) begins coverage at 11 a.m. Fox Deportes' starts at 11:30. The game is set for an 11:45 kickoff.