Bayern Munich v Chelsea, Champions League final, 7.45pm Saturday 19 May
Roberto di Matteo will aim to do on Saturday what Jose Mourinho, Avram Grant, Luiz Scolari, Guus Hiddink, Carlo Ancelotti and Andre Villas-Boas all failed to do and give Roman Abramovich the trophy he most craves, the Champions League.
The Interim manager has already rescued a disastrous season for the Londoners by delivering the FA Cup to the Stamford Bridge trophy cabinet and he will put questions marks over his own future aside for one last night to bring home European’s Football top prize.
While success may not be enough to land the post on a permanent basis , the Italian will be keen to show his managerial and tactical skills on such a prestigious stage and there is no doubt that the 41 year old will be in hot demand whatever happens on Saturday.
Of course there are so many side stories to this final that it is hard to almost focus on the task at hand, in one corner you have an ageing side that like a punch drunk boxer has come out fighting for the final round with the likes of stand in captain Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Petr Cech all vying to complete their medal haul with the suspended Mr Chelsea, John Terry watching from the stands.
In the other corner, you have the resolute Germans, an institution of European Football, playing the final in their own back yard, the Allianz Arena, in front of their home fans.
Jupp Heynckes’ side lost their last appearance in the final when they down to Inter Milan in 2010 and with their status as the Bundesliga’s second team now confirmed following the recent success of Borussia Dortmund, a fact further enhanced by their humiliating 5-2 defeat in the DFB-Pokal final, the team will be out to their show they their worth.
In many ways both sides have a lot to prove with Chelsea’s domestic form mirroring the failure of Bayern, although whereby Manchester City’s money has led to their new found success, Borussia Dortmund has built a strong team on a fraction of the budget brilliantly managed by Jurgen Klopp.
Both sides over achieved in the semi finals knocking out Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively on their home patches to deny what many thought would have been the dream final, a European final “El Classico”.
Chelsea will be without the suspended John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, Ramires and Raul Meireles while Florent Malouda should be fit to take his place in the squad after he trained with the side on Friday.
Gary Cahill and David Luiz will form the centre back pairing for Chelsea despite missing the last few weeks through injury and only returning to training on Tuesday.
There have been rumours that Roberto di Matteo could opt to include Ryan Bertrand should Malouda fail to prove his fitness with the Italian keen to offer a more defensive back to Ashley Cole on the left wing and suffocate the threat of Robben and Phillip Lahm.
Bayern meanwhile will be without suspended trio Luiz Gustavo, Holger Badstuber and David Alaba.
Chelsea – Didier Drogba
Despite the ongoing speculation over his future, the 34 year old will be very much the key man up front for Chelsea. Drogba has scored the same number of goals, five, in the Champions League in 7 appearances has he did in 24 in the league and with his contract up in the summer he has given everybody a reminder of his talents with his end of season form.
His winner in the first leg of the semi final against Barcelona laid the foundations for the 3-2 aggregate win and his physical presence up front will cause the Bayern back line no end of problems.
Drogba looked sluggish and disinterested during the early part of the season as he struggled to fit in to Villas-Boas system not to mention rotation policy however he looks a different proposition under di Matteo has scored 5 goals in 12 games.
Drogba is a big game player and his end of season form has included, in addition to his Champions league semi final heroic’s, a goal in the FA cup final win over Liverpool , the semi final win over Spurs and the Champions league quarter last 16 clash with Napoli.
Of course the ugly side of Drogba’s game, the penchant to fall over at the slightest of touches, sometimes detracts from his obvious talents and there is no doubt that the Bayern defenders will have to be careful with their marking of the Ivory Coast international.
Bayern Munich – Arjen Robben
Despite having the likes of Tomas Muller, Frank Ribery, Sebastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Gomez the biggest threat to Roman Abramovich’s hopes of lifting the European cup will come from the man he sold to Real Madrid, Arjen Robben.
The Dutch winger has scored four goals in the Champions League this season and has one assist but as Gary Cahill can testify the 28 year old when on form is a real threat. Robben scored two goals against England when the sides met in February and his finishes were a timely reminder of his talents.
The winger was recently linked with a return to England with Manchester City reportedly interested following an alleged spat with Ribery however he has since quashed that speculation by signing a new deal and will be keen to show what the Premier League is missing out on.
Of course with Chelsea’s backline weakened through the absence of Terry and Ivanovic, Gomez will also be a real threat. The 26 year old has scored 40 goals this season for Bayern including 12 in the Champions League.
The sides have twice previously met in Champions League when a then Jose Mourinho managed Chelsea managed to beat Bayern 6-5 on aggregrate in the quarter finals. A 4-2 win at Stamford Bridge was followed by up by a 3-2 loss in Munich.
Chelsea have never won Europe’s premier cup competition and lost their only previous final to Manchester United in 2008.
Bayern meanwhile have plenty of European pedigree with four trophy’s in the cabinet and a further four runners up medals.
Their last success came in 2001 when they beat Valencia. Their most memorable loss however came at the hands of an English club, injury time goals from Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer handing Manchester United a 2-1 win in Barcelona while they also lost to Aston Villa in the 1982 final.
Chelsea’s Path to the final:
Round of 16 beat Benfica 3-1 on aggregate
Away result: Won 1-0
Home result: won 2-1
Quarter final beat Napoli 5-4 on aggregate
Away result: lost 3-1
Home result: won 4-1
Semi final beat Barcelona 3-2 on aggregate
Home result: won 1-0
Away result: drew 2-2
Group stages results –
Chelsea topped group E with 11 points from 6 games
Match day 1 beat Bayern Leverkusen 2-0 home
Match day 2 drew 1-1 with Valencia away
Match day 3 beat Genk 5-0 at home
Match day 4 drew 1-1 with Genk away
Match day 5 lost 2-1 to Bayern Leverkusen away
Match day 6 beat Valencia 3-0 at home