Champions League Final: First Take


After two shocking upsets in the semifinals, both of which were quite deserved, there are many questions about whether the teams can repeat their respective performances in the final. Notably, both defensive lines have been ruined by suspensions. On paper, then, it should be a wide-open attacking final, with quality players like Robben, Ribery, Gomez, Mata, and Drogba operating within the attacking third, but both teams have gained a reputation for being quite thrifty at the back.

There have also been questions about Roberto Di Matteo’s future at the club. After all he has proven, why take a risk on somebody else, even a big name like Guardiola? It will be a very hard transition for the former Barcelona manager, and nobody knows who he will do outside of Barca. Di Matteo, on the other hand, has proven himself many times this year.

Although perhaps not quite as dramatic as Mourinho facing his old club would have been, there will be plenty of interesting twists to the 57th Champions League Final:

-Chelsea’s old team, getting a last chance to win Abramovich’s much-wanted trophy, taking on a young Bayern squad full of future stars.

– This is perhaps the best possible final match-up in terms of goalkeeping. Again, there is the aging legend (Petr Cech) against the rising star (Manuel Neuer).

-Both teams have had very poor seasons in their domestic league, and, without ever playing their best, made the Champions League semifinals. Now, after two brilliant semifinals, each has a chance for redemptions.

-Could Roberto Di Matteo, an unknown four months ago, win a Champions League trophy in his first season in charge of Chelsea?

-How much will Bayern’s home-field advantage help?

-If Chelsea wins, Newcastle United, one of the season’s great underdog stories, behind only Chelsea themselves, would lose their Champions League place.


– Three of John Obi Mikel, Salomon Kalou, Michael Essien, and Frank Lampard will play in the center of midfield, and will need to be at the top of their games, to prevent Bayern’s midfield from taking over.

– The many replacements will be important. Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (or possibly a half-fit Daniel Van Buyten) will start at center-back for Munich, and will have to learn quickly. For Chelsea, defenders Jose Bosingwa and Gary Cahill will need to repeat their surprising performances against Madrid.

-If Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben are both at their best, a rare occurrance these days, the home team will have a dimension the Chelsea simply can’t match.

-Two great goalkeepers will start in the final, and Petr Cech will likely face more shots, and harder ones, then his opposite number Manuel Neuer.


1. Lack of Pressure: If only Abramovich weren’t in the owners box. The pressure will be on Bayern regardless, because they are huge favorites and playing at him. Chelsea, on the other hand, are desperate. They have nothing to lose by holding back- this is an aging teams’ last chance to win a Champions League, and to make it to next year’s tournament.

2. Tactical Discipline: If Chelsea takes the lead, through a Drogba counterattack, will Bayern really be able to score where Barca could not. Chelsea’s best shot at a win.

3. Can Bayern play against their style? And there could be a good chance that Drogba gets that goal. Bayern Munich are very unused to Chelsea’s physical, long-ball style. The Bundesliga doesn’t play like that. And Manchester City, a poor specimen of a Premier League team, is the only English squad Bayern have played in two seasons.

4. Let-down for Bayern Munich?: Meanwhile, Bayern is using a make-shift defensive line. They’ve played brilliantly in recent weeks, since the Dortmund loss, and it feels like time for a let-down. Chelsea aren’t going to let them play well. If Bayern walks into the stadium, after a energy-expending win over a much more talented Madrid team, expecting to win, they’ll let Chelsea impose their style on them, and that can only lead to bad things happening to them.


1. Chelsea’s depleted back line: Chelsea’s defense seems to be doing it mostly with mirrors. Now they have no John Terry. A half-fit Cahill and Luiz pairing doesn’t look good, and they may have to bring Bosingwa, an already weak right-back into center defense. Leaving who to play right back? Yes, they just smothered Barcelona’s attack. Don’t expect a similar performance in the final.

2. Neuer, Gomez, Robben, Ribery,…: Bayern Munich were the better team against Real Madrid, and looking at their lineup, you can see why. Gomez is in the form of his life, Neuer hasn’t allowed three goals in a game once this season and has a case for best goalie in the world, and when Robben and Ribery aren’t injured they are world-class wingers. Then there is Bastian Schweinsteiger, possibly the best midfielder in the world, and young German starlets Kroos and Muller, who took the world by storm at the last World Cup. Chelsea’s midfield is about to get run over.

3. Fast Starts: Unfortunately for Chelsea and their hopes of an early goal, Bayern Munich are the team that has gotten many fast starts this season. They did allow two early on to Madrid…

4. Chelsea’s EPL Games: The Bundesliga was decided weeks ago, and there are only a couple games remaining. Unfortunately for their opponents, the Blues  have four grueling Premier League games ahead of them, in which they face the uphill task of finishing in the last Champions League spot.


Bayern Munich 2-0 Chelsea

I was tempted to pick Chelsea here, after the incredible rise of Roberto Di Matteo, and Bayern Munich’s dud of a Bundesliga season.

But, on paper, this is almost as big a mismatch as Barcelona-United last year. Chelsea will keep it closer than it should be for about 70 minutes, and then the more talented team will win the title.

There is no way to stop Gomez right now.

There is no way to stop Bayern right now.


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