Champions League preview

Moscow stages first all-English Champions League final

Manchester United and Chelsea meet in Moscow on Wednesday to contest the UEFA Champions League final, a match which can be seen live on Sky Sports 1 and HD1.

The first all-English final promises to be an epic encounter as United look to secure their second Champions League success, while Chelsea are making their debut on the grandest stage of Europe's premier club competition.

United, who also lifted the old European Cup in 1968, will be hoping to paint Red Square an even stronger shade of crimson after the final whistle in the Luzhniki Stadium following a nine-year absence from the Champions League final.

However, Chelsea are out for revenge after being narrowly pipped to the Premier League crown by their domestic rivals and much has been made as to whether United's 10th top flight title will whet the appetite or hamper the Red Devils' digestion of more silverware.

In a style befitting Moscow, both United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and Chelsea boss Avram Grant will have strategically drawn their battle plans as they bid to avoid defeat in Russian territory which has accounted for many military generals throughout history.

Russian roulette

Neither Ferguson nor Grant, to coin a phrase, will be playing Russian roulette with their team selections and it is unlikely either leader will gamble on any sweeping changes to their first XI.

Having comfortably progressed from Group F, United accounted for Lyon, Roma and Barcelona on route to the final and Ferguson - who has made no secret of his desire to land another Champions League winners' medal - is expected to stick with the first-choice side which has served him so well this far in the competition.

Edwin van der Sar will maintain his place in goal and the near impenetrable centre-back pairing of captain Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic looks set to continue, while Wes Brown and Patrice Evra should occupy the respective right and left-back spots.

Michael Carrick ought to hold the fort in midfield, while Owen Hargreaves - who lifted old big ears in 2001 with former club Bayern Munich - will pull the strings alongside Paul Scholes as the United veteran is given a second chance for splendour after missing out on the 1999 triumph through suspension.

Wayne Rooney is likely to lead the United attack, while he is expected to be aided and abetted in breaking Chelsea's backline by the incomparable Cristiano Ronaldo - the top scorer in this season's Champions League with seven goals - and Carlos Tevez.

Heavyweight edge

If this were a boxing weigh-in, it is likely Chelsea - who boast six previous Champions League winners in their squad - would enjoy the heavyweight edge in physical presence and European experience.

And the Blues, who strolled through Group B before sending Olympiakos, Fenerbahce and Liverpool packing as they booked their final berth, are also expected to be boosted by receiving the all-clear on the fitness of Ashley Cole.

Under the raised eyebrows of Grant, Cole was clattered by colleague Claude Makelele in training on the questionable Luzhniki turf on Tuesday evening, but the full-back's swollen ankle looks set to have recovered in time for him to take his place in Chelsea's back four alongside skipper John Terry, Ricardo Carvalho and make-shift right-back Michael Essien.

With his knuckles firmly rapped by Grant, over-zealous midfielder Makelele looks set to slot in behind Michael Ballack and Frank Lampard - who could be making his final appearance for the Blues amongst rumours of a summer switch to Internazionale.

Chelsea are not only desperate to win the Champions League following three semi-final eliminations in the past four years, but the West London outfit are also keen to repay the investment of Russian owner Roman Abramovich in his homeland.

And Didier Drogba, who could also be heading for pastures new in the close-seaon after admitting a desire to play for Milan, will be charged with supplying the goals to fulfil Abramovich's dream as Joe Cole and Salomon Kalou offer support from the flanks.