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|Champions League Special: Lahm & Tymoshchuk vs Cahill & Luiz - Which ship won't leak goals?|
With both Bayern and Chelsea missing key defenders due to suspension, SoccerAnchor’s Kieran Francis looks at how the two defensive units stack up against each other ahead of the Champions League final.
BAYERN MUNICH'S DEFENCE
With the suspensions of defensive midfielder Luiz Gustavo and defenders David Alaba and Holger Badstuber, the Bavarians defence will need a considerable restructure in time for the commencement of the final.
The only position in the back four that is cemented will be former Manchester City defender Jerome Boateng at centre-back. Because of the suspensions to Gustavo and Badstuber, there is two candidates for the other centre-back role; Belgian veteran Daniel Van Buyten and Ukrainian stalwart Anatoliy Tymoshchuk.
Van Buyten is a man mountain at 197cm tall, and while he has lost considerable amounts of pace, his physicality and strength will be the perfect match for Chelsea talisman Didier Drogba. Unfortunately for Bayern's sake, Van Buyten has only played 62 minutes of football for Bayern's reserves since missing four months with a metatarsal fracture. Playing the Belgian would be a big risk as his match sharpness and fitness could be lacking.
The player widely expected to get the nod is 33 year-old Tymoshchuk. The Ukrainian is predominantly a defensive midfielder but has previously been a makeshift central defender. The worrying thing about Tymoshchuk is that he is 9cm shorter than Drogba, who stands at 189cm. Drogba's height and aerial prowess could be a pose a significant problem to the shorter, less robust Ukrainian. Roberto Di Matteo would surely look to isolate on Drogba on Tymoshchuk and take advantage with a direct playing style.
In the full back roles, despite Alaba being suspended, Bayern does have some versatility. Superstar right-back Phillip Lahm can also deputise in Alaba's left-back position but doing this would destroy the symmetry he has with Arjen Robben on the right side of the pitch. In this scenario, Brazilian Rafinha would take Lahm's right-back position. However it's far more likely that Lahm will play in his favoured position and young German full back Diego Contento, who has only made seven starts this season, will line up at left-back.
These defensive scenarios could mean that Bayern will be unsettled and exposed at the back. Jupp Heynckes will surely be worried that Drogba's presence will unsettle Tymoshchuk and will be hoping Van Buyten proves himself fit. But there is also a risk with handing Van Buyten the start in such an important game and after a significant injury lay-off.
Starting Contento may also leave the Bayern defence unsettled. The German hasn't featured often this season and there is question marks over his positioning. Being likely stationed at left-back, Contento will have to contend with the qualities of Chelsea playmaker Juan Mata. Any lapses in concentration from Contento could be punished by a player of Mata's ability.
The Bayern defence selected will be hoping that their attacking team-mates dominate possession to lift the pressure off makeshift back four. If Chelsea are able to press Bayern, then should be able to carve out some chances. It remains to be seen if the selected Bayern defence can stand up in what is their biggest game of the season.
While Bayern's suspensions are posing a problem to their defensive selections, Chelsea arguably have a bigger defensive issue due to their own suspensions. Captain John Terry, versatile Serbian Branislav Ivanovic and defensive midfielder Raul Meireles will all miss the final due to indiscretions committed in the semi-final versus Barcelona.
The two men in line to start in central defence for Chelsea, Gary Cahill and David Luiz, haven't played for the Blues in several weeks due to injury. Cahill limped off in the second leg of the semi-final versus Barcelona while Luiz has missed a month with a hamstring strain. If passed fit, the duo will be a partnership that has barely featured together because of Terry being a permanent fixture in the back four.
Luiz is a robust defender who is famous for his marauding runs through the centre of the pitch. Pundit Gary Neville once famously said that Luiz played like he was “controlled by a 10 year-old on Playstation” after he was caught out during a loss to Liverpool earlier this season. The Brazilian has been constantly criticised by the British media for having poor positioning. If he plays, his discipline levels will be key to the organisation of Chelsea's defence.
Cahill has been solid since signing from Bolton Wanderers in January. His first big test as a Chelsea player was successful when he played an important role in the 1-0 win over Barcelona in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final. Unfortunately, Cahill was substituted because of injury only six minutes in the Champions League second-leg against Barcelona and was unable to further state his big-game credentials. If the English defender can stand up to task alongside Luiz, then Chelsea's defensive pairing could be in good shape.
Any fitness concerns that keep Cahill or Luiz from starting could be a big concern for Chelsea. Ghanaian midfielder Michael Essien has proven adept at slotting in at centre-back and will be called upon if Luiz or Cahill aren't passed fit. Other central defensive options are light with right-back Jose Bosingwa being an option along with English youngster Sam Hutchinson.
In the full-back positions, durable veteran Ashley Cole will start at left-back and Bosingwa will most likely start at right-back. Cole has been arguably the best left-back in the world over the past ten years but will be up against the dynamic duo of Lahm and Robben threatening his flank. Bosingwa has been the second choice at right-back all season to Ivanovic and he will be keen to make a statement to the club management. The Portuguese defender has often been criticised for being too attacking and if he finds himself out of position against Franck Ribery, the creative Frenchman could destroy him.
The Chelsea defence will have their hands full trying to contain the triple threat of Ribery, Robben and prolific goalscorer Mario Gomez. If Chelsea try to defend deep, then Bayern have that physical tall striker, in Gomez, who can score a header or put away a chance from a cross. If the Chelsea back four can keep the Bayern attacking threats under relative control, then they will have chances at the other end to win the match.
With both teams defensive options ravaged by injury, both look considerably weak. This suggests that there could be quite a few goals in the match. On paper, Chelsea's defence looks considerably more sound than Bayern's back four. However, the Bavarians have the benefit of playing at home and arguably a better midfield to help shield their unsettled defence. This all leads me to suggest that while Bayern should be favourites to win, Chelsea can not be written off in these circumstances.
Follow Kieran Francis on twitter: @kieran_francis