When UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino and Paul Breitner (UEFA Champions League final 2012 ambassador), conducted the quarter-final and semi-final draw, football experts were quick to predict a Real Madrid – Barcelona final in Munich.
Football, as a sport, might have evolved a lot since its originated, but one thing has always remained constant; its unpredictable nature, and thankfully so. It is this trait of this beautiful game, which has kept romanticism alive. It is this trait that has seen APOEL succeed in Europe, Newcastle leading big money spenders in the English premier league and perhaps the most fairytale story this season in Europe – a semi-professional team like US Quevilly reaching the final of the Coupe De France.
After the semi-final line-ups were confirmed, Bayern Munich v Chelsea was perhaps the most improbable final. But this just showed that the most inconceivable results are still achievable in football, while the seemingly divine footballers are mortals after all and most importantly, it showed that heart and desire can win over flair and ascendancy. Two teams struggling in domestic leagues, have shown great mental strength to fight against all the odds.
Contrary to what many neutral fans might believe, Bayern Munich v Chelsea match up in the final will be more exciting than the much anticipated El Clasico final. Barcelona and Real Madrid might be the two of the best teams in Europe at the moment, but Bayern and Chelsea final will be devoid of the undesirable events that usually accompany an El Clasico.
Last time these two sides met, it was back in 2005 in the quarter final stage. It was a terrific game of football, with lots of goals. Chelsea won the tie over tow legs with a 6-5 aggregate scoreline. But lots of water has flown under the bridge for both the clubs since then.
TheHardTackle will statistically and tactically analyze this upcoming spectacle, which promises to be an excellent football match above all.
Chelsea – Branislav Ivanovic, John Terry, Ramires and Raul Meireles.
Bayern Munich – Luiz Gustavo, David Alaba and Holger Badstuber.
It is a shame and another example of UEFA’s farcical ‘Laws’. In the final of one of the greatest sporting event on earth, one would hope that both the teams are at their full strength. While John Terry is suspended for a straight red, the other six players will miss out for accumulating yellow cards over the Champions League campaign.
One has to feel sorry for the players, who will miss out on the biggest game of their career so far. International players’ union FIFPro pleaded to UEFA over leniency regarding the players. But Platini and Co has rejected it saying “The regulations of the competition are established at the beginning of the competition and remain in place for the duration of the season”.
The above suspensions weakens both the team’s defense considerably. On hindsight, Chelsea has suffered more than Bayern. Losing their captain, who has been inspirational in the last two ties, is a big blow for the London club. Ramires, has been an unsung hero for the Blues this season; his energy and tireless running have provided most of the impetus in the midfield. Chelsea will have to do without him in the final.
Bayern on the other hand, will also struggle lining up a proper back four. Alaba has been one of the finds of this season for the Bavarian giants; he has been good in defense and excellent going forward. Bayern will lose some of that attacking threat without this 19 year old full back. Luiz Gustavo and Badstuber’s absence will affect the German team tactically, which will be highlighted later.
Bayern Munich are better at keeping the ball, infact the interesting fact about this match is that Bayern are better with the ball while Chelsea are better off it. One can be deceived by the number of shots conceded per game for Chelsea, but it must be put under consideration that this number is inflated firstly by the matches played under AVB, when the Blues were a far more open side and secondly because of the match against Barcelona.
One interesting point one can note is that both the side prefer the left hand side of the pitch while conjuring up an attack, hence Bosingwa and Rafinha will come under lot of pressure for their respective sides.
Chelsea and Bayern Munich will line up in similar formations, 4-2-3-1. In regards with Chelsea, one must not consider the tactics they used against Barcelona, because that was an exception. They needed ‘exceptional’ tactics and defensive organization to defeat the technically superior Catalans.
The good news for Di Matteo is that both Cahill and Luiz are expected to be fit for the final. This will mean Bosingwa, Cahill, Luiz and Ashley Cole will form the back four. The forced changes due to suspension will be that of Salomon Kalou and Daniel Sturridge coming in the team in the place of Meireles and Ramires.
Expected Chelsea Starting Line-up: Cech; Bosingwa, Cahill, Luiz, Cole; Mikel, Lampard; Sturridge, Mata, Kalou; Drogba
For Bayern, things are a bit complicated. Due to the absence of Alaba, Lahm will be moved to the left back spot, with Rafinha playing as right back. The midfield and defensive combination will depend a lot on who will replace Badstuber as the center back.
Bayern has two options –
1> To play van Buyten as the center back. There are off course huge question marks on whether he will gain full match fitness in time for the final. This will allow Anatoliy Tymoshchuk to play as a holding midfielder beside Schweinsteiger, replacing the suspended Gustavo in the team. While Tony Kroos will continue playing as the play-maker.
2> If van Buyten fails to recover in time, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk will play as a center back. This will mean, Kroos will have to drop down to the holding midfielder role alongside Schweinsteiger, while Thomas Muller will get a start in his favored center attacking midfielder postion.
Jupp Heynckes will be hoping van Buyten recovers in time, as the Belgian international’s experience and physical strength will come in handy against Didier Drogba. This would also allow Tymoshchuk to play as the holding midfielder, where he will provide far more defensive stability than Tony Kroos. Kroos and Schweinsteiger can both play the role of deep lying playmaker, but neither of them are good as ball winners.
Expected Bayern Munich Starting Line-up: Neuer; Rafinha, Boateng, van Buyten, Lahm; Tymoshchuk, Schweinsteiger; Ribery, Kroos, Robben; Gomez
Key Tactical Battles
- Bayern boast of containing two of the best wingers in the world. Heynckes plays them as inverted wingers. This means, both of them cut inside from the wings, which not only allows them to exploit the space between the defense and the midfield, but also allows the full-backs room to move forward. Mikel and Lampard will be key for Chelsea to stop this dangerous duo. They have to cover the space between fullbacks and the center backs.
- There might be question marks over Rafinha as a defender, but he is very potent while going forward. Both Kalou and Sturridge will have to track back to help out Cole and Bosingwa in dealing with them. Sturridge does not provide the defensive steel that Ramires provided, and this where Chelsea might miss the Brazilian the most.
- Bayern have lost Alaba, their left back, Badstuber, their left center back and Gustavo, their left sided defensive midfielder. So it is needless to say that the Germans will be most vulnerable on the left hand side of the pitch.
- It would be absurd to assume that since Barcelona wasn’t able to break down Chelsea’s defensive organization, Bayern will fail as well. The Germans are good at possession football, in fact that is their plan A, but unlike Barcelona they have a plan B as well. Mario Gomez is something Chelsea didn’t come up against while defending against the Spanish side. He is strong and is dangerous in the air, which will put the Chelsea defense to test. Similarly, Bayern also haven’t faced anything like Drogba while playing against Real Madrid. This make-shift Bayern defense will have a tough night against Chelsea frontman.
Needless to say, it is the wide area, where the match will be won and lost.
Advantage Chelsea – As Defensive Unit
Though the formation is same, both Bayern and Chelsea operate in different ways. Chelsea, under Di Matteo, have defended very deep. In fact when Chelsea don’t have the possession, their 4-2-3-1 virtually changes to 4-4-1-1, hence defending with two banks of four. The wide players move back, while Mata becomes the farthest midfielder forward. Their defensive shape has been excellent.
Quite contrarily, Bayern’s defensive shape has been a suspect. In fact in the second leg of their semifinal clash against Real Madrid, both the teams were wide open, specially in the first half. The Germans also hold a very high line in defense, exactly opposite to that of their English counter part.
Advantage Bayern – In The Midfield
Bayern hold a distinct advantage over Chelsea when it comes to midfield. The likes of Kroos, Muller, Schweinsteiger, Robben and Ribery give Bayern far more tactical flexibility than their counterparts at Chelsea. Chelsea boast of big names as well, with the likes of Lampard and Mata in it. But Mata and the suspended Ramires are the only tactically flexible players that they have.
When it comes down to attacking prowess and off the ball movements, the Germans win hands down.
Key Personal Battle
Ashley Cole v Arjen Robben
One of the world’s best left back will come face to face against one of the world’s best winger. This will be a battle of epic proportions, and could very well decide the outcome of the match.
Kalou/Mata v Rafinha
The Brazilian fullback is a suspect defensively and Chelsea might look to exploit this weakness with Kalou and Mata. Mata has tendency to drift wide at times, with Rafinha moving forward in attack (instinctively), he might leave space behind for Chelsea pair to exploit.
Neuer v Cech
Petr Cech is arguably among the top three goalkeepers presently, while Manuel Neuer most believe is a future No.1, if not already. Both of the custodians were in fine form in the semifinals. Cech pulled off some wonderful saves against Messi and Co., while Neuer was the penalty shootout hero for Bayern. It will be now intriguing to see who outshines whom in the all important final. With these two guarding the net one thing is for sure, it has to be a very good goal.