In five days, the crusading contingent from Old Trafford will take on the expedition of the season. These seeking souls will be presented with a providential prospect of re-writing the history of football for the land which they hail from - England; and the charismatic club they humbly serve - Manchester United.
These gallant knights from the proving grounds of Carrington Field will embark on a valiant quest to invade the Roman fortress of Olimpico, wherein await the Catalan knights from the Camp Nou and their horde of Spanish culers. But how did it all began? Where did it all turned for both clubs? What were the stones that shifted in order for this momentous event to fall into place?
It all began about a month ago on a fortuitous night during the campaign to raze the Emirates where United - led by Sir Alex Ferguson, produced an awesome and overwhelming attacking display to destroy Arsenal. Park Ji-sung's opener was a result of fate and preordained fortune coupled with the faux pas of a young individual by the name of Kieran Gibbs - whose name will be remembered by the United followers for a while.
At that point in time, the United contingent went delirious. They knew the prospect of Arsenal getting three to go through was so remote to be beyond comprehension. But if United's opener came courtesy of good fortune, their next was the result of sheer audacity and bold impudence mixed with soaring ability.
Ronaldo scored a crackling freekick from 41 yards. To even think of going for goal from the spot would be dismissed by most as rash and imprudent. As Ronaldo stepped back and waited, ready to unleash his missile, Almunia knew what to expect. Indeed, it could be argued that from such distances, Almunia should not have been beaten. But as Ronaldo let loose his projectile - with venom and vigour, infused with his bodily spite and malice, and watched his shot dip and flicker, Almunia was powerless to prevent it from ripping into the net.
The rest for that night was history. As Sir Alex's men capered in exultant glory and cavorted in triumphant glee, he ordered them to tone down their merriment out of respect for the conquered combatants. It was the only mercy the Red Devils showed all night. Yes, not the chivalrous knights of Old Trafford but in truth, the fiendish Devils in disguise. The victory however, came with a price.
Darren Fletcher - one of the most honest men under Sir Alex's command, was red-carded in that battle. He was the only casualty from that fateful battle and will now miss the invasion to Rome and the siege of Olimpico.
His was the result of an unfortunate decision by the match referee in the form of a war priest whose blessings for the champions before the conflict and deliverance during the scuffle ensued in an error of tidings and injustice.
However costly this casualty was, Fletcher will be remembered as United's martyr on the day the history books were opened to be re-written. The rulling must stay as was etched in the stars. The decision of the referee should be final no matter what as it would destroy the very fabric of football reality should a red-card decision in a match of such magnitude proportions be ever reversed.
In a way, it is like opening Pandora's Box if you can challenge every decision. When you rule that it is not a red card, you are also saying it is not a penalty, and therefore not a goal. What do you do then? Start changing the results of matches afterwards? It almost feels like heresy in football. It would destroy the very foundation of decades of match rullings.
As harsh as it was, it is not an excuse and the Reds will go marching onto the Roman plains in five days. United have a date with destiny and under the tutelage of Sir Alex himself, will take on Barca hoping to come out victorious but not unscathed. Difficult and impossible decisions will be made, strategies and tactics will be revised and retried, knowledge of the enemy will be hungrily extracted and no soul will be left untouched by the deciduous inquest of the Red Devils.
The key to success and the devil, is in the details...