Bayern Munich fans have waited for May 19th 2012 since the Allianz Arena was named as the venue for the final of the 2011-12 Champions League, hoping and praying their team would be playing. After beating the likes of Manchester City and Real Madrid en route, the Bavarian fans have rushed to buy Champions League final tickets for their date with destiny against Chelsea, but can Die Roten live up to expectations and become kings of Europe once more?
There is everything on the line for both sides this Saturday, as Bayern and Chelsea look to salvage their seasons and gain reward for exceptional European campaigns to date. Despite mediocrity domestically, both teams have excelled on the continent, and although the German outfit are favourites, the game promises to be evenly-matched.
Bayern have fallen away domestically in the second half of the season, as inconsistent form and an excellent run of Borussia Dortmund form has caused Bavarian heartache for the second consecutive year. A 5-2 thumping by the Bundesliga champions last weekend in the DFB Pokal final is far from ideal preparation for Jupp Heynckes men, and the hosts must now claim victory against Chelsea to avoid another trophyless campaign.
Bayern’s road to the finale has been breathtaking at times, and the German team rightly go into the game as favourites; Die Roten have won all six games on home soil in the tournament this term. In Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery they have proven matchwinners, and the Dutch winger will look to add Chelsea to his list of former club scalps after playing a key role in Real Madrid’s elimination. Finally, in Mario Gomez Bayern have an in-form marksman the Germany international has hit the back of the net 12 times in this season’s Champions League and will look to continue his rip-roaring form into Euro 2012.
Bayern’s only real concern is at the back, and with Holger Badstuber and David Alaba suspended Heynckes will need to get his team selection correct to foil the likes of Didier Drogba and Juan Mata.
Chelsea meanwhile have had a dramatic upturn in fortunes since they replaced Andre Villas Boas with Roberto Di Matteo, and the Italian has been the architect of Napoli, Benfica and Barcelona’s exit from Europe’s top club competition. The interim manager sends his side out knowing that it may well be his last game in charge, and will hope for victory to force Roman Abramovich’s hand in his favour.
Di Matteo is not the only one potentially facing a swansong, as out of contract forward Didier Drogba will lead the Blues’ line with his contract expiring in the summer. With periods of Bayern onslaught expected, the African targetman will be crucial in holding up the ball and giving his side reprieve, whilst he will also provide the English team’s biggest goal-threat.
The Stamford Bridge club are suffering from the rigours of the lead up to the final, with Raul Meireles and Ramires suspended and not available to feature. More importantly, both John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic are also ruled out due to ill-discipline and the return of fitness of crocked duo Gary Cahill and David Luiz is critical to the west London team’s chances.
With Chelsea finishing a disappointing sixth in the Premier League this term, the additional motivation of inclusion in next season’s Champions League comes into play, with the club’s ambitious plans in the upcoming transfer market being fuelled or scuppered dependant on Saturday’s result also.
A final that no-one predicted, glory is within the reach of Bayern and Chelsea, with the under-fire pair trying desperately to wrangle it into their grasp.
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