Nerve ends are jangling in all corners of the globe as two of the most famous and best-supported teams in world soccer prepare to collide in a titanic Champions League final on Wednesday.
Manchester United and Chelsea are sworn enemies and should serve up an enthralling contest at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Here is the Yahoo! Sports guide to what to look out for as some of the finest players in the world seek the most high-profile prize in club soccer.
1. THE ROAMING RONALDO
All eyes are on Cristiano Ronaldo to see if the world's best player can produce when it matters the most. His level of performance this season has been remarkable, but some critics still claim he has yet to prove himself on the biggest stages.
Look for the Portuguese youngster to use his full repertoire in search of the Holy Grail of club soccer. Chelsea will try desperately to shut him down, and to counter that, Sir Alex Ferguson is likely to give his star plenty of freedom to roam.
Expect Ronaldo to roam from one flank to another if things are slowing down and also to drop back occasionally into deeper positions from which to make his jinking runs.
2. DROGBA'S POST-UPS
Didier Drogba's brilliance can come to the fore at any time. Chelsea's Ivory Coast striker has the ability to look ordinary for large portions of a game, then suddenly burst into life and turn the contest on its head.
He is at his most dangerous when running across the face of goal and away from the near post as the ball approaches from the right. From there, he can take the ball behind him and shoot first-time, making it impossible for even the most fleet-footed of defenders to catch up.
Drogba's two goals against Liverpool in the second leg of the semifinals came in this fashion. United's central defenders Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic will be on red alert.
3. THE UNPREDICTABLE BOUNCING BALL
The spectacular sights of the city of Moscow have been buffed and gleaned in preparation for the arrival of sporting royalty. However, the Luzhniki Stadium field will not be in such good shape.
To the despair of English groundsman Matt Frost, the original turf was planted just before the start of the Russian winter and failed to knit properly. Replacement grass had to be imported in 15 days ago, but there is not enough time to repair much of the standard transportation damage.
"The problem is not the strength. The main problem is the aesthetics," Frost said. "There are a lot of burned out areas. … There will not be a consistency of a ball roll."
4. THE BRAIN GAME
Avram Grant's tactical nous has come into question ever since he took over for Jose Mourinho last September, but he has been talking a big game ahead of the final.
Grant seems to have enjoyed his verbal sparring with Ferguson in the news conferences leading up to the contest. His mental skills will be put to the ultimate test after coming up with the right plan against Liverpool in the semis.
Having taken criticism for months from all quarters, Grant is taking a ruthless and bloody-minded approach to the job. Ferguson clearly fancies his chances of out-smarting Grant and getting under his skin, but he can't afford to underestimate the quietly spoken Israeli.
5. TERRY'S ELBOW ROOM
John Terry's dislocated elbow has been the most discussed body part in English soccer since Wayne Rooney's foot injury ahead of the 2006 World Cup. Terry will try to fight through the pain to take part in the biggest game of his career, but it remains to be seen how much the ailment will restrict his ability.
While the central defender's bravery has never been doubted, Chelsea fans will be nervous that an unfortunate bump or a heavy fall could curtail his involvement in the game.
- Cristiano Ronaldo
- Manchester United
- Didier Drogba
- Sir Alex Ferguson