Before we get to tomorrow's mammoth clash, I'd like to give my congratulations to United, Inter, Madrid, and Bayern for winning their respective leagues. None of those victories seemed "wrong" or unexpected in any way. In every case, it was clearly the best team that won.
The same goes for Porto and Lyon, but here I'm not sure if I should be offering my congratulations or my condolences. Yes, they won their leagues, but now they can look forward to having their quality players stolen by teams from the "Big Three" leagues.
Three things I've been thinking about during this lengthy hiatus:
1. Both the Serie A and the EPL had fantastic finishes, with the league hanging in the balance until the final Sunday. And in both leagues, it was the favorite who finished on top and the persistent underdog who fell short. I found it particularly fitting the way United and Inter won their last games, with Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic, the true offensive catalysts and stars of their squads, rising to the occasion and breaking the deadlock. Both players have often had their pedigree in important matches questioned, and it was a real coup for both to secure a championship for their respective sides. I don't completely agree with my esteemed colleague that Inter were uncatchable; scoreless at the half against a team desperate to stay up in monsoon weather had to have even the most staunch Inter supporter nervous. But as soon as Mancini called for Ibrahimovic off the bench, you could see Nerazzuri confidence rise. And with good reason.
(Also, for those who watched that match, has it ever been more apparent that a player would score from the moment he was brought on? Zlatan's first touch was an attempt at goal which went wide, but if you watched closely, I'm pretty sure you could actually see him mentally adjusting his scope.)
2. Barca are in absolute disarray. In any other year, I'm sure Juan and I would have been leaping at the chance to jot down some thoughts about El Clasico, but there was a shocking gulf in class this year between the two old rivals, and it really showed. Pep Guardiola has his work cut out for him, and things won't get any easier if they lose half the players that have already been mentioned in transfer rumors: Gaucho, Titi, Sammy, 'Brotta, Magico, Gio, Kolo Jr., etc. Who's going where will be a good topic to accompany the Euros this summer.
3. I'm extremely optimistic about tomorrow's match. These are definitely the two best teams in Europe. Chelsea-United has admittedly been a borefest for the last few years (hell, Chelsea-anyone has the potential to become sports tryptophan), as both teams warily try to avoid committing that killer error instead of actually taking chances and being creative in the hopes of scoring, but their recent, enthralling showdown at the Bridge gives me hope. As some have already said, an early goal would be extremely welcome, as it will naturally up the tempo and urgency of the match.
Arsene Wenger cobbled together starting lineups with spit and duct tape and Denilson and somehow the team dragged its ass over the finish line in third or fourth.