Friday, May 21, 2010

Looking ahead to Triple Crown Saturday

Tomorrow's Champions League final is ripe with storylines:

* Can Jose Mourinho finally deliver European glory to Inter for the first time since 1965?

* In a battle of master vs. apprentice, will Louis Van Gaal outwit his former assistant at Barcelona in Mourinho?

* Can Bayern Munich continue their stunning run without the suspended Franck Ribery?

Aside from those very juicy subplots, some pretty serious history is going to be made on Saturday evening in Madrid.

The big one is that one of these clubs is going to become just the sixth team in the history of the beautiful game to claim the treble: winning their domestic league title, domestic cup and the Champions League. No team from Italy or Germany has recorded such a treble, so that will be another first.

We don't have to look far to see who claimed this magnificent feat last, as Barcelona smashed their way through the competition last year en route to the treble. The Catalan Giants went on to fill their trophy cabinet with three more pieces of silverware in achieving a first ever sextuple, but those others are an afterthought.

Don't let Barca's dominance fool you, this doesn't come around very often. Their treble came ten years after Manchester United did it in 1999 thanks to one of the greatest Champs League finishes of all time - with two late goals against Bayern Munich no less.

Now here comes your lame, useless stat of the day: These trebles come around just once every decade. The first came in 1967 from Celtic, followed by Ajax in 1972 and PSV in 1988. The 90's were represented by United in '99 and Barca took care of that last nameless decade we lived through in 2009. Our current decade will be represented by the winner of tomorrow's game. By using some completely flawed logic, I'll boldly claim that we're not going to see another treble until atleast 2020.

One more tidbit that makes this final so good, and this time it's not lame: Mourinho and Van Gaal have both tasted European glory before. Mourinho won with Porto in 2004 and Van Gaal with Ajax in 1995. Only two other managers have won Europe with two different clubs.

There's a lot on the line in tomorrow's Champions League final. History is guaranteed to be made on the pitch at the Bernabeu.

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