One of the biggest matches in club football takes place tomorrow evening as Bayern Munich take on Chelsea for the chance to lift the famous European Cup at the home of the Bavarians, the Allianz Arena.
The build-up to the final has been an exciting one as both sets of fans travel to Munich in high hopes after their respective campaigns in the competition. Bayern Munich will be looking to clinch their fifth European crown in their own back yard whilst Chelsea have another opportunity to become European champions for the first time in their history after their disappointment in 2008.
Bayern will be slight favourites coming into the match due to their strong home record however Chelsea will have plenty to say after their rollercoaster season. Starting with the Germans, they come into the match from the back of a 5-2 defeat to Borussia Dortmund in the German Cup Final and a second place finish in the Bundesliga. Bayern were always going to be one of the favourites to win the Champions League before the competition began in September. They had to get through some tricky ties including the likes of Marseille and Real Madrid however with their terrific counter-attacking abilities, they are in the final for the first time since 2010 when they eventually lost to Inter Milan in Madrid.
The 2001 champions play with a 4-3-2-1 formation with top scorer Mario Gomez as the only striker who has had an incredible season scoring 42 goals in all competitions where 13 of them coming in the Champions League. The former Stuttgart striker will be looking to carry on his tremendous form into the final who has been keeping up with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the European scoring charts. With that in mind, the 26-year-old will be a massive threat for the Chelsea defence where he is commonly known for being in the right place at the right time and a top class finisher. Another player to watch for Bayern is a certain Dutchman who used to wear the blue of Chelsea back in the José Mourinho era. This is of course Arjen Robben. The left-footed craftsman has been in flying form this season scoring 19 goals with eight assists in all competitions. Robben is a nightmare for any right-back as he loves to use his skills to conjure up chances galore where he usually plays on the right hand side of midfield and make use of cutting inside of defenders.
Meanwhile, for Chelsea it has been a topsy-turvy campaign with the dismissal of André Villas-Boas after just eight months at the helm with the Blues facing the fear of not finishing in the top four. Villas-Boas’ assistant Roberto Di Matteo was announced as the interim first team coach in mid-March and his presence in the hot seat has got the West London club believing in gaining success again. Chelsea were lying three points of fourth place when Di Matteo took over and since then, he has turned the club right around into a potential Champions League winning team. The Italian guided the club to their fourth FA Cup triumph in six seasons with a 2-1 victory over Liverpool at Wembley and now can complete a tremendous double on Saturday evening.
Di Matteo’s first Champions League game was a daunting task with the second leg of his side’s Champions League Last 16 match against Napoli where they were trailing 3-1. A thrilling match ended in Chelsea beating the Italian side 4-1 on the night which meant they went through to the quarter-finals after winning 5-4 on aggregate. Di Matteo has regained confidence in the squad and in their abilities where those factors would be vital after an impressive 3-1 aggregate win over Benfica in the quarter-finals. Chelsea would face their old nemesis Barcelona in the semi-finals where there were two very tense games for their fans. Didier Drogba scored the goal to give the Blues a narrow advantage into the second leg at the Nou Camp. A needless sending off from captain John Terry gave his side a cause for concern before half-time with the Blues already 1-0 down on the night however that lead was soon doubled. The second half would be an unforgettable one for Chelsea as goals from Ramires and Fernando Torres along with an incredible defensive display, sent the West London club through to their second ever Champions League final.
In terms of players to watch for Chelsea, Juan Mata has had a wonderful maiden season in England with his talents are likely to be spotted by Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque for a call-up to his squad for Euro 2012. Following fellow Spaniard David Silva to the Premier League, Mata has also lived up to fans’ expectations for his trickery and excellent passing. Mata, 24 has conjured up an outstanding 20 assists this season along with netting 12 goals since moving to Stamford Bridge from Valencia last summer. Didier Drogba is a striker that any defender would hate to face against with his terrific goalscoring form throughout his entire career. If the service is right, you know the Drog will be on the end of it to get the ball in the back of the net. He has scored some very important goals in his career and tomorrow night may join that list if he can get on the scoresheet.
Overall, I think it will be a very interesting match tomorrow evening. Bayern Munich would be wanting to win the Champions League in their own stadium which if they do, they will be the third team to do so after Real Madrid and Inter Milan in 1957 and 1965 respectively. On the other hand, Chelsea will be willing to not to have a repeat of what happened in the 2008 final against Manchester United in Moscow. John Terry, who missed that vital penalty that night, is suspended for the match after his sending off against Barcelona and I feel Chelsea will lose a big voice in the team even though they have the experience of Frank Lampard who is likely to take over the captain’s armband. I can see end-to-end action in this match tomorrow due to their counter attacking abilities however Chelsea will need to defend just as well as they did against Barcelona in order to beat the force of Bayern Munich. I’ve watched a few matches involving Bayern in the Champions League this season and they are one of the best attacking teams that I’ve seen and on that front, I’m predicting the Bavarians to win 2-1 tomorrow night.