- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 21, 2008

MOSCOW (AP) - Manchester United and Chelsea are making history with the first all-English Champions League final - and the one with the latest starting time.

Kickoff at Luzhniki Stadium today is 10:45 p.m. (2:45 p.m. EDT), which is 8:45 p.m. for television viewers in Western Europe. If the game goes to overtime and a penalty-kick shootout, the new champion won’t be crowned until about 1:30 a.m. Trains on the Moscow subway system are running two hours later than usual to accommodate fans.

“We’ve only had two days here, so there is no adjustment,” Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard said. “Our body clock is basically ready to deal with that time.”

United has been playing in European soccer for more than a half century but has never kicked off this late.

“Even if we had it at 4 in the morning, that’s not really going to bother me,” United defender Rio Ferdinand said. “It’s not something that has played on our minds. We will just deal with it.”

By kickoff, 40,000 English fans who traveled to the match should have had plenty of time to down a pint - or perhaps a few. Because most hotel rooms were booked up months ago, many supporters are taking chartered flights, will go to the game and then fly home at breakfast time tomorrow.

“We don’t care how late it kicks off as long as we win,” said Man U fan Jimmy Westmancoat, who flew out from England on Monday.

United its seeking its third Champions Cup following victories in 1968 over Benfica and 1989 against Bayern Munich. Chelsea is in the final for the first time.

The matchup comes in the 50th anniversary year of the plane crash in Munich that killed eight United players and 15 others Feb. 6, 1958. And it comes 10 days after Manchester United won its second straight English Premier League title, finishing two points ahead of Chelsea. The Red Devils won 2-0 at Wigan on the final day of the season, while the Blues were held to a 1-1 tie at home against Bolton.

English weather was expected - with rain, gusts and thunderstorms forecast, according to the Moscow weather center.

A new grass field was installed at Luzhniki, where England’s national team lost on the regular artificial surface in October, a defeat that helped eliminate the English in European Championship qualifying. The field was uneven as the lines were being painted Tuesday, and the new sections of grass were easily visible.

“This is the most prestigious club game in Europe, and the players really deserve a top quality surface,” FIFA executive committee member Franz Beckenbauer said.

The teams split their league matches, with United winning 2-0 at Old Trafford in September in Avram Grant’s first game after replacing Jose Mourinho as Chelsea’s coach. The Blues won 2-1 at Stamford Bridge last month.

In the Community Shield at Wembley in August, Manchester United won 3-0 on penalty kicks following a 1-1 tie.

Manchester United is led by Cristiano Ronaldo, who has 41 league and cup goals this season; Wayne Rooney; and Carlos Tevez. Chelsea has Lampard, Didier Drogba and Michael Ballack.

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