Chelsea has been in this position before. Going into an important, ‘must-win’ European match as the underdogs is something Di Matteo’s men have become familiar with this season.
This Saturday they will look to overcome that label once again and be crowned Champions of Europe for the first time in the club’s history. Yet it certainly won’t be an easy feat against a strong Bayern Munich side at their home, the Allianz Arena.
Overall, Bayern deserve to be favourites heading into this contest regardless of the fact that the final is on home soil. Runners-up in both the German Cup and the Bundesliga (beaten by Borrusia Dortmund in both competitions), Bayern have had comfortable domestic season when compared to Chelsea’s woeful 5th place finish. Both clubs will be looking to ease the pain of their respective domestic failures by winning the European crown.
Whilst many have written Chelsea off, primarily due to the loss of John Terry through suspension, the Blues cannot be easily discarded in this contest. Having overcome the tricky Napoli in the knockout rounds before outclassing Barcelona over two legs, Chelsea has certainly not had an easy ride to the final.
Key for Di Matteo’s side is that Didier Drogba performs at the same level he did in the Nou Camp – the Ivorian striker dominated the game, fulfilling the ‘unplayable’ description given to him by Jamie Carragher.
In addition, both Ashley Cole and Jose Bosingwa will have their work cut out for them in preventing Bayern’s lethal wing play, whilst Luiz and Cahill will also have the difficult job of handling poacher Mario Gomez. Yet Chelsea cannot afford to play this like an away game. Mata and Lampard in the midfield will be integral in pushing their Chelsea team forward to avoid them sitting in their own half.
Just because Chelsea possess the personnel and ability to win this game doesn’t mean Bayern aren’t credible opponents. The devastating wing combination of Robben and Ribery will keep Chelsea’s defence occupied all evening, whilst Gomez and Muller will provide genuine attacking threats for Chelsea’s Terry-less defence. In addition Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger are a dangerous midfield partnership, both going forward and defending, that Chelsea must take account for.
However, Bayern’s attacking qualities could leave the German side lacking at the back. With the suspensions of Badstuber and van Buyten, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk will move into a central defensive role leaving Bayern without a recognized defensive midfielder. Left-back Diego Contento has also been positionally suspect at times for Bayern and could be a weak link that Chelsea aim to exploit.
Having beaten Bayern in the 2004-2005 Champions League semi finals, Chelsea have a rough idea of what it takes to defeat the four time European winners.
Bayern are the obvious favourites due to it being at home and their more impressive domestic results, yet Chelsea will be confident after wins at the Nou Camp and Wembley. I’m going to take a Chelsea win by one goal (2-1 or 3-2 maybe?) not for patriotic reasons but because Di Matteo’s men have proven themselves on Europe’s biggest stage time and time again this season.
With Abramovich getting more and more impatient without European glory, the time is now or never for Chelsea. Bayern’s 5th crown will just have to wait for another year.
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