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Champions League analysis

Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Ricardo Carvalho and John Terry

UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL
Venue: Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow Date: Wednesday, 21 May Kick-off: 1945 BST Coverage: LIVE on ITV1 and Sky Sports 1, BBC Radio Five Live, BBC Radio London 94.9, BBC Radio Manchester; BBC Sport website.


When Chelsea and Manchester United meet in the Champions League final on Wednesday, much of the focus will be on the attacking talents on display.

The cameras will inevitably zoom in on the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Didier Drogba.

But the path to the Luzhniki Stadium has been built on solid defensive foundations from both sides. The centre-back pairings of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic and John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho will be key to the outcome in Moscow.

BBC Sport football pundits Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson, who formed a superb centre-back partnership for Liverpool's dominant side of the 1980s, assess the strengths and weaknesses of each pair.

HANSEN ON MAN UTD'S VIDIC & FERDINAND

Alan Hansen
Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic are the best centre-back partnership in the Premier League.

They earned that tag because the defence conceded only 22 goals in the league this season.

That statistic speaks volumes about the job they've done because they're playing in a very, very attacking side.

If the team had scored, say, 38 goals in the league, then you would say it's a defensively minded team anyway.

But this side were the top scorers with 80 goals, so it makes their feat all the more impressive.

FERDINAND & VIDIC STATS
Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand
Combined transfer fee: 37m
Played together (07-08): 41 games
Goals conceded (07-08): 21
Conceded per game (07-08): 0.51
Total games together: 55
Total goals conceded: 31
Conceded per game: 0.56

Ferdinand, in particular, has had an unbelievable year. I think, without a shadow of doubt, he was United's best player in the last three months of the season.

Rooney and Ronaldo took the plaudits but when it came to the nitty-gritty, he was head and shoulders above everybody.

Ferdinand has really developed as far as his concentration is concerned. If he concentrates and is confident then he'll have a great game against Chelsea.

Both Ferdinand and Vidic are very powerful defensively. Ferdinand is strong on the ball and Vidic is probably more aggressive in the air. They play well off each other and they're good positionally.

They rarely get separated from each other - they just don't allow space to develop between them.

The Chelsea pairing of Terry and Carvalho hasn't played a lot together this season because of injuries. But in any case, I'd say the United partnership is better.

606: DEBATE
BBC Sport's Jonathan Stevenson

If either Ferdinand or Vidic missed the final, then there would be a big hole in the team.

Wes Brown has come in and done really well, but it's an absolute fact that if one member of a good centre-back partnership goes missing then it's a detriment to the side.

They've got great cover, but if either were to be absent then United would not function well.

The other reason why they both need to play is because of the threat of Drogba.

There's no question that Drogba is difficult to play against and would give most defences the run around, but I think Ferdinand and Vidic will handle him.

LAWRENSON ON CHELSEA'S CARVALHO & TERRY

Mark Lawrenson
John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho are a very good fit because they are both pessimistic footballers - a great quality for defenders to have.

They both expect their colleague to miss the ball, increasing their sense of danger and their ability to deal with it.

They complement each other well in that Terry will attack everything, which is absolutely fine, and Carvalho will drop off and deal with anything that comes in behind.

They are also very good decision-makers as defenders.

Carvalho also has the pace to dovetail with Terry's power and I actually think he has been the better of the two this season.

TERRY & CARVALHO STATS
Ricardo Carvalho and John Terry
Combined worth: 19.85m
Played together (07-08): 18 games
Goals conceded (07-08): 16
Conceded per game (07-08): 0.88
Chelsea total games: 60
Total goals conceded: 42
Conceded per game: 0.7
Terry has had a few injuries, and has particularly suffered with a back problem which often leads on to leg injuries.

I also honestly think Chelsea will take a big risk by playing Terry in the Champions League final just 10 days after dislocating his elbow against Bolton.

I can speak from personal experience, because I dislocated a shoulder about three weeks before Liverpool's European Cup final against Juventus at the Heysel Stadium in 1985.

I played a practice game, which I could have got through on one leg never mind with a bad shoulder, then started the final. I lasted until I got my first knock, which came after about 80 seconds and had to go off.

You use your arms to jump, there will be physical contact and obviously you can fall and hit the ground.

These will all be risks for Terry, and I will be watching with great interest to see how he gets on.

It is fine going on about having a high pain threshold, but it is just the sheer physicality of the game that can be the real test.

If Terry and Drogba are fit, I think Chelsea will nick it. But if they are not, then I'm not so sure.

It is that close to call, but I do feel Chelsea will be taking a gamble by playing Terry so soon after such a nasty dislocation.

Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson were talking to Phil McNulty and Saj Chowdhury


see also
Man Utd v Chelsea
21 May 08 |  Europe
Chelsea and Man Utd set for final
21 May 08 |  Football
Roman's Moscow homecoming
21 May 08 |  Europe
Final is Ballack's golden chance
18 May 08 |  Chelsea
Routes to Moscow
19 May 08 |  Football
A fan's view of Moscow
19 May 08 |  Europe


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