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Bayern Munich vs Chelsea - Match Preview


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There are only few instances in history when a football club’s future hinges on 90 minutes of football. Liverpool in Istanbul 2005 and Manchester City’s dramatic title win last week comes to mind and now at the end of another pulsating season, Chelsea Football Club face a similar predicament as the footballing world gathers for one last time to witness the 2012 Champions League Final. Alex put it aptly when he said – “We are knocking on the doors of greatness”

The Competitors

Chelsea – After making a meal of the group stages, Chelsea secured their place in the knock-out rounds of the Champions League thanks to their home form as wins against Bayer Leverkusen, Genk and Valencia at Stamford Bridge made up for a winless away run.

In the round of 16, Chelsea were drawn against Italian giant-killers Napoli who had beaten the now Premier League champions Manchester City in the group stages. Widely regarded as one of the most attacking teams across Europe, Napoli stung Chelsea in a lethal home performance in the first leg. A Ezequiel Lavezzi on either side of an Edinson Cavani strike meant that Chelsea had to chase the tie in the second leg. But in the second leg, Napoli came up against a different animal. With AVB long gone and the ice-cool di Matteo in charge, Chelsea turned the tie around with the so called “Old Guard” effecting 3 of the goals before Branislav Ivanovic popped up in extra-time to smash home the winner to spark bench-clearing celebrations.

In the quarter-final, Chelsea played SLBenfica and came away with a precious 1-0 lead from Portugal after an efficient away performance. In the return leg, Chelsea were given a wake-up call when Javi Garcia cancelled out Frank Lampard’s first-half penalty but Benfica’s spirited fightback was shot down in stoppage time when Raul Meireles lashed home to book Chelsea’s place in the semifinals where Barcelona lay waiting.

With Barcelona regarded as one of the best football teams ever and Chelsea struggling in the Premier League while balancing a daunting fixture list, almost nobody gave Chelsea a chance in the semi-finals. With the odds firmly stacked against them, Chelsea produced a truly heroic performance to take the lead in the first leg at Stamford Bridge through a classic break-away goal from Didier Drogba on the stroke of half-time. After a flurry of blocks, last ditch tackles and great saves in the second half, Chelsea had something to take to Spain. Still, not many believed that Chelsea could repeat the performance at the Camp Nou and sure enough, Barca seemed to be on course when Sergio Busquets brought Barca back into the tie early in the second leg while Gary Cahill was forced off due to a hamstring injury. Then, in a moment of utter madness, Chelsea had lost its captain and best defender to a red card. Things went from bad to worse when Iniesta scored with 5 minutes left in the first half and at this stage, the most ardent of Chelsea fans would have been forgiven for giving up but Chelsea struck within minutes (again on the stroke of halftime) to give themselves hope in the second half. Messi missed a penalty and a goal was ruled out for offside in a chaotic second half as Chelsea defended for their lives. Drogba was at left back, Ramires was at right back, Bosingwa at the centre of defence as formations and tactics flew out of the window. Time slowed to a crawl as Chelsea held on and then in stoppage time, with Barcelona desperately pushing for the winner, Ashley Cole chested the ball down in his own area and dumped it long. In a flash, Fernando Torres was free and running at Victor Valdes with no Barcelona shirt in sight and the rest is history….. Revenge was gained, a footballing empire was rocked and a date with destiny in Munich was booked.

Bayern Munich – Bayern Munich came through the group of death unscathed defeating Manchester City and Napoli along the way. They faced Basel in the first knockout round and the Swiss side took a shock lead in the first leg. Jolted by this, Bayern turned on the style in the second leg to demolish Basel 7-0 with Mario Gomez making merry. In the quarter-finals, they beat Marseille 4-0 on aggregate after clinical performances home and away.

Bayern came up against a resurgent Real Madrid side in the semifinals. The Bavarians left it late in the first leg but grabbed a 2-1 lead thanks to goals from Franck Ribery and Mario Gomez. But much like Chelsea, Bayern Munich went into the second leg at the Bernabeu being the much unfancied side and with less than a quarter of an hour into the second leg, Real Madrid threatened to run away with the tie as a Cristiano Ronaldo brace propelled them to a 2-0 lead but after Mario Gomez was upended in the area, Arjen Robben squeezed his penalty in to bring Bayern back into the tie. As the game wore on and the players grew tired, both teams looked more interested in tightening their play and avoiding mistakes and inevitably the game went to penalties. Jose Mourinho looked crestfallen as Ronaldo, Kaka and Sergio Ramos missed their spotkicks as the Germans lived up to their reputation in shootouts and booked a place in the final at their own backyard.

Head to head

Bayern and Chelsea have drawn each other only once in their history back in 2005 in the quarter-final stage. The first leg at Stamford Bridge ended 4-2 which included a truly world class Frank Lampard goal. In the return leg, Chelsea edged Bayern out 6-5 on aggregate despite losing 3-2. If those encounters are anything to go by, we are in for a goal-fest this weekend

Match Facts

- Chelsea have played 15 times against German sides in the Champions League winning 8 of them (D3 L4)

- Chelsea have scored in each of their last 13 Champions League game (25 goals) and haven’t lost in the last 5 after Roberto di Matteo took over as manager

- Chelsea are aiming to become only the second team to win the FA Cup and Champions League in the same season (Manchester United in 1999 was the other)

- Mario Gomez has 20 goals in his last 17 Champions League games

- This is the 3rd European final for Juup Heynckes after the UEFA Cup final in 1980(Monchengladbach) and the Champions League win in 1998 with Real Madrid

Team News

Unless you have been living under a rock this past month, then you need no reminding that Ivanovic, Meireles, Ramires and John Terry are ruled out of the final through suspension. Same goes for Bayern’s Luiz Gustavo, David Alaba and Holger Badstuber.

But in better news, Gary Cahill and David look set to start the final at the centre of defence for Chelsea. Bastien Schweinsteiger said earlier this week that he is confident of being fit for the final

Probable XI’s

Chelsea - Cech Bosingwa Cahill Luiz Cole Mikel Lampard Sturridge Mata Kalou Drogba

Bayern – Neuer Lahm Boateng Tymoschuck Contento Schweinsteiger Kroos Robben Muller Ribery Gomez

Jupp Heynckes speaking before the final

I knew of the history between the clubs, and that Barcelona always have a difficult time when they meet. And, in that final phase of the second leg, Barça were not this 'fresh force' we have come to know. They seemed knackered, and [Lionel] Messi was not himself. But that does not diminish Chelsea's performance. I have watched and coached in the Spanish League. I know how hard it is to beat Barcelona. And now I'm left to wonder if Barça can't beat Chelsea, how can we?

Roberto di Matteo

I just have a big drive and a big motivation to do something extraordinary for this club and that's all I want to do. And whatever comes afterwards -- well, there's always a reason for things that happen.

Ashley Cole after the semifinal second leg

At the end of the day we all believed, not many did but us as a group of players we believed that this would happen. 3-4 months ago, no one thought we had a chance. We lost a few games in the Premier League but we always believed and we knew we were good enough to be here. You can’t beat that desire and fight that you saw out there

Ashley Cole sums up Chelsea’s campaign there. Forget for a moment that this Chelsea squad is a shadow of the side that won the double in 2010…. Forget for a moment that the final is at Bayern’s home and that we have 4 of our influential players suspended because rest assured, the boys contesting the final will fight for every blade of grass on the pitch to bring the trophy home just like they did against Valencia, just like they did against Napoli and just like they did against Barca. KTF

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