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Who will make it to the 2012 Uefa Champions League Final?

In the 20th year since changing its name from the European Cup, the Uefa Champions League final is the climax of the European club football season. Europe's top clubs are united in one daunting task: try to find a way to stop Barcelona.

The final will take place on May 19 in the Allianz Arena in Munich (although UEFA won't like you using the word Allianz, as the company is not an official Champions League sponsor!). It's slightly earlier in the football calendar due to the Euro 2012 finals in Poland and Ukraine (www.uefa.com).

Bayern Munich fans would love their side to be a finalist at their home ground, but it might be a little optimistic to expect the Bavarian giants to make another final. They had the indignity of having to go through a qualifier stage before joining the top sides in the tournament group stages.

Even the most fervent German fans will acknowledge that their club is some way behind the present Champions League holders. As if Barcelona's squad were not formidable enough, they invested over 50 million euros in the summer in signing a couple of the most exciting footballers in the world.

The arrival of Cesc Fabregas from Arsenal has been expected for the last 2 seasons. The acquisition of the Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez from Udinese, a player coveted by all the top teams in Europe, showed that Barcelona are committed to strengthening their already magnificent squad.

In 2010, Internazionale upset Barcelona's plans, and the Italian clubs may present the strongest opposition this season. Signs are that AC Milan, the 7 times champions of Europe, are ready to challenge again.

From England, Manchester United are in the process of integrating younger players, and may find this a transitional season, although they have started very strongly. Their neighbours Manchester City have spent some of their vast resources assembling a stellar line-up of forwards. If Roberto Mancini can knit together a coherent team quickly, it's not entirely impossible that they could make a surprise run all the way to the Uefa Champions League final.

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