Barcelona's former Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano insists meeting old foes Manchester United will not make tomorrow's UEFA Champions League final more special, but concedes Sir Alex Ferguson's side are one of the world's best teams.
Mascherano is relishing just being involved in this weekend's showpiece event at Wembley and believes the encounter will be one to remember. "It's a Champions League final - it's special anyway," he said. "Playing against United doesn't make it more special for me, but I played against them lots of times and in general terms they are a very strong team.
"Their defence has two centre-backs, [Nemanja] Vidic and [Rio] Ferdinand, that offer many guarantees and have huge quality. In general they are a great team and the statistics show that: in the last four years they have got to three Champions League finals and won three leagues. They are one of the best teams in the world today."
Mascherano also hailed United's Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez. "You know that when you play a final, especially against a team like United, that you're playing against some of the best strikers in the world," he said. "Rooney and Chicharito have enormous quality."
Mascherano arrived at the Nou Camp from Anfield last summer and took a while to win over the Barcelona faithful, but the Argentina international has impressed of late with some excellent performances in both defence and midfield. The 26-year-old had looked set to miss out on a starting berth at Wembley, as the entire Barcelona squad are now fit.
However, coach Pep Guardiola is reportedly unwilling to start with both Carles Puyol and Eric Abidal - who have both spent lengthy spells on the sidelines - against an intense and fast United side.
Mascherano is ready for whatever Guardiola decides. "It wouldn't be a disappointment not to play - not at all," he said. "With the great team-mates and great players there are in this team, I am honoured to be part it.
"I'm sure our coach will pick the best XI we have and I will try, as I have done throughout the season, to offer myself to the team and help my team-mates, be it on the pitch or off it."