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|Champions League Special: Bayern Munich’s Jupp Heynckes vs Chelsea’s Roberto Di Matteo – who will be tactically superior?|
It’s going to be an extraordinary day at the Allianz arena when Bayern Munich come face to face against Chelsea in their quest for European glory in a yet another exceptional year of Champions league football.
A tournament that has managed to conjure magical nights and miraculous results so often in the past and the present appears to be nearing a thrilling climax when the two European giants face off in the showpiece final come Saturday.
Whether it is the German giants who will win the coveted trophy for a prestigious fifth time at their home turf or is it going to be a dream comes true for Chelsea and Roman Abramovich remains to be seen. While Bayern are famous for their disastrous showing in the Champions league finals having lost it four times in the past, Roman Abramovich and the Chelsea team won’t brush off the excruciating pain they had to endure in Moscow few years ago.
To be fair, neither of the finalists have had a great season so far. Starting with Chelsea, it has been a miserable season for the Blues apart from the fact that Chelsea have gone on to beat Liverpool in the final of the FA Cup to ensure that they finish the season with some silverware. Chelsea seemed to be one of the contenders for the title at the start of the season with the appointment of the highly rated Portuguese manager – Andre Villas-Boas. Not to mention the huge outlay on transfers. Despite the influx of cash and personnel, Chelsea have struggled to keep up pace with the title challengers. Poor league form resulted in sacking of the young Villas-Boas, which saw his assistant Roberto Di Matteo take charge.
The Italian came as a breath of fresh air and rejuvenated the Chelsea team. The Italian’s philosophy of playing deeper as opposed to his predecessor has worked wonders for the Blues. The compact setup of Di Matteo has been a much better fit for Chelsea’ old guard compared to Villas-Boas’ philosophies. The Blues have been on a roll since then, especially in the cup competitions sweeping their opponents aside in style. Remarkable victories against Barcelona, Napoli and Tottenham have placed Chelsea on the brink of a memorable Cup double. Such has been the impact of the former Chelsea legend that fans and experts already want to see him at the hotseat next year as well. It has been Roman Abramovich's dream to win the Champions League since he took control of the club in 2003 which has been largely unsuccesful so far.
Di Matteo is the eighth boss to have worked with Abramovich, having replaced Andre Villas-Boas in early March. The events that have followed since the appointment of the Italian have been a complete footballing fairy-tale. Although it remains to be seen if he will be handed a permanent deal, but if the Italian can muster a victory in Munich it is likely to make Abramovich's mind up.
On the other hand, it has not been a great season for Bayern either. The German giants conceded the league title for the second year running to rivals Borussia Dortmund. Apart from being poor in the league, Bayern have not been in great form off late. The annihilation of the Bavarians in last week’ DFB Pokal final will have had a demoralising effect on the fans as well as the players. However, no team needs motivation to turn up for a game of this magnitude. Plus, the fact that the final is being played at the home of Bayern Munich will act as an extra boost to their morale.
Unlike Chelsea, Bayern have had a relatively easier route to this year’s final in Munich. Convincing performances at home has been the key to Bayern making it to the finale. Beating the likes of Manchester City, Basel and Real Madrid with comfortable ease, Bayern have turned their home into a fortress.
Manager Jupp Heynckes, who won the Champions League with Real in 1998, has had a pretty mediocre season and has seen his Bayern side crash out in the quest for the league title as well as the German cup.
However, Jupp Heynckes’ side has played wonderful attacking football throughout the Champions league tournament. With two explosive wingers in Robben and Ribery, Bayern has provided plenty of ammunition for the free scoring Mario Gomez who has found the net a dozen times in this year’s Champions league. High work rate of the central midfielders and the full backs, Schweinsteiger, Gustavo, Lahm and Alaba has been the key to Heynckes’ aggressive brand of football. The introduction of the dynamic young midfielder Kroos has worked wonders as well
While both teams achieved a remarkable pair of semi-final victories against Real Madrid and Barcelona, which will live long in the memory, they did come at a cost of key players who got suspended for Saturday's match. A total of seven players are suspended for the finals which include the charismatic Chelsea captain John Terry, who was sent off for kicking out at Alexis Sanchez. Although he will be allowed to lift the trophy should Chelsea win it, the Chelsea skipper is devastated on missing the chance of helping his side to their first ever European triumph.
Branislav Ivanovic, Ramires and Raul Meireles will join John Terry on the side-lines watching their teammates fight it out at the Allianz arena on Saturday.
Chelsea are expected to lineup with a five man midfield with John Obi Mikel partnering Lampard in central midfield and Juan Mata dropping off Drogba, with Kalou and Sturridge expected to start on the flanks. David Luiz and Gary Cahill are expected to come in for the suspended pair of Terry and Ivanovic with Cole and Bosingwa as the full backs.
Bayern will be missing the likes of Luiz Gustavo, David Alaba and Holger Badstuber who were unlucky enough to be suspended for one of the biggest games of their lives.
The Germans are likely to start with three men in the centre - Toni Kroos, Bastian Schweinsteiger in central midfield, with Thomas Muller in a slightly advanced role. Robben and Ribery will be the usual attacking threat down the flanks and provide the supply to the in-form Mario Gomez. Rafinha is expected to come in at full-back in place of Alaba. However, should Daniel van Buyten fail to pass the late fitness test, Anatoliy Tymoschuk is expected to slot into the centre of defence alongside Jerome Boateng.
Although its Jupp Heynckes' side who look a much more dangerous and dominant side tactically on paper, the game isn’t played on paper. However, it would be extremely naive to write off Chelsea’ chances completely. If the Chelsea defence can replicate the sort of performance they produced against Barcelona and Di Matteo manages to keep his side in a compact shape especially with Didier Drogba in inspired form, who knows the Champions league dream could well come true for the Blues.