Eden Arena, Prague
August 30, 2013; 19:45 BST
Another cup final and another match between Bayern Munich and Chelsea – another epic encounter on the cards. Although the prize at stake isn’t close to as important as the Champions League, but there are lot more at stake than just the silverware. Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho will resume their rivalry once again, and with no love lost between these two modern day managerial greats, things can get fiery at the touchline. This will provide both of them the opportunity to win their first title with their new clubs.
Bayern have made a fine start to their league campaign in the new regime, winning three of their opening four games. But like Chelsea, they are coming into this match on the back of a draw, against Freiburg. With the arrival of Gotze and Thiago in the summer, expectations are on an all-time high at the German club, so much so that they would go in as the favourites in any tournament they participate in. It is a matter of how Guardiola manages these expectations and the pressure it brings. The former Barcelona manager will need some time to embed his philosophies in the team, but at the same time skeptics are also worried about the need to tinker with an winning combination. But perhaps the biggest problem that Guardiola has to tackle as the season progresses is complacency among the players. When a team is too strong and is winning everything in sight, complacency creeps in and in a knockout competition, where one result can knock you out; it can be Bayern’s eventual Achilles’ heel.
Although not of similar proportion, but Jose Mourinho will also have to contain with a lot of expectations this season. He has finally returned to the club he loves and with a squad strong enough to challenge for titles, Mourinho will have to deliver. He knows from the past that pleasing the fans and pleasing Roman are completely different things. Chelsea have also made a good start to their league campaign, although their performances against Aston Villa and Manchester United was far from convincing. Mourinho is looking to make further addition to the squad before the transfer window closes and with the right additions they can be the favourites to win the league this season.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Pep Guardiola has a lot of selection headaches ahead of this fixture. Holger Badstuber and Thiago Alcantara are both out of this fixture with injuries. There are also doubts about the fitness of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez. Schweinsteiger started in the Bayern’s last match against Freiburg, but had to be substituted in the second half.
Guardiola rested a lot of players this weekend ahead of this big clash. Mandzukic, who was rested in the last game, will start once again ahead of Pizarro. Both Robben and Ribery were absent from the starting line-up as well, with Muller and Shaqiri starting on the wings. The dynamic duo will return to the line-up as Muller will be deployed behind Mandzukic alongside Gotze. Schweinsteiger and Martinez’s injury means Kroos will play the holding role in the midfield. Rafinha and Contento will drop to the bench once again as Lahm and Alaba returns to the starting line-up.
In the match against Freiburg, Bayern had 74% possession and they are expected to dominate the ball against Chelsea as well. But the concern lies in the fact that despite having such dominance in the match, Bayern returned with only one point as Hofler scored a late equalizer. Guardiola knows that his team will have to be more clinical in front of the goal against Chelsea. When these two side meet in the Champions League final back in 2012, Bayern dominated the game, but failed to put the game to bed. This allowed Chelsea to come back into the match with Drogba scoring the equalizer in the dying moments and the rest as they say is history. The German club will do well to avoid a repeat of that scenario.
The full-backs will play a crucial role of Bayern, not only in attack but also in defense. With Bayern holding a high-line, Lahm and Alaba will have to cover for the center-backs as none of them are quick on the ground and Chelsea have enough pace in their armoury to exploit that. Moreover, the absence of Schweinsteiger and Martinez means their midfield will be weakened defensively. Kroos seems to be at his best when played as an attacking midfielder, with protection behind him. He has played in the role of a holding midfielder before, but can be caught out of position at times.
Probable Starting XI [4-1-4-1] : Neuer [GK]; Lahm, Buyten, Dante, Alaba; Kroos; Robben, Muller, Gotze, Ribery; Mandzukic
Mourinho has only one injury concern to contain with ahead of this big fixture. Brazilian international David Luiz is yet to recover from his hamstring injury. Mourinho has confirmed that Luiz has travelled with the squad but is unlikely to take part in this game.
Mourinho’s tactics against Manchester United came under a lot of criticism as he went in without an proper striker in the starting eleven. But the former Inter manager is unlikely to use similar tactics against Bayern. Fernando Torres is expected to start in this fixture and he will lead the line with the trio of Hazard, Oscar and Mata providing the creativity behind him. Mata was an unused sub in the match against United, but is expected to start ahead of Kevin de Bruyne on the right wing. Mournho has indicated his preference of playing Oscar through the middle although Mata favours that role. Andre Schurrle will also drop to the bench.
No changes are expected to the four-man defence and the double pivot ahead of them. Petr Cech will be playing in his country and that should provide him with extra incentive to shine in this game.
With Bayern dominating possession and midfield, Mourinho is expected to set up his team for counter-attacks. Chelsea will hold a deep-line in defence, which will also prevent Bayern from exploiting John Terry’s lack of pace. Chelsea’s main concern will be to contain Bayern down the wings with Ribery and Robben capable of opening up defences. Mata and Hazard will be needed to put in defensive shifts and help out the respective full-backs in containing Bayern’s attack. Both the wide-men will have to contain the runs of Alaba and Lahm who are dangerous going forward. Oscar will also need to keep a close eye on Kroos, who is expected to dictate play from the deep in the absence of Schweinsteiger and Martinez. Chelsea’s chances will come on the break as neither Dante or Badstuber are quick on the ground and with pace of Hazard, Torres and Oscar upfront Mourinho will look to exploit that.
Probable Starting Line-Up [4-2-3-1]: Cech [GK]; Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Cole; Lampard, Ramires; Mata, Oscar, Hazard; Torres
- The last three fixtures between these sides have produced 13 goals.
- Chelsea have won two of the last three meetings between these two sides
- Jose Mourinho has won only three of his last 15 matches against Pep Guardiola.
- Bayern have won 32 of their last 36 matches in all competitions.
Player To Watch Out For
Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich)
The Frenchman beat Lionel Messi and Ronaldo last night to lift the UEFA 2012-13 Best Player in Europe award. Finally he seems to be getting the credit he deserves for his consistent performances with Bayern. Ribery will once again be the focal point of Bayern’s attack. He will be up against Ivanovic and it will be an interesting contest; one which could very well decide the fate of this match.
Bayern Munich 2-1 Chelsea
With the quality they have in their side and the strength on the bench, it is hard to look past Bayern nowadays. But as we all know, Chelsea do have a knack of doing the unexpected. They are perhaps the most dangerous with an underdog tag beside their name. Bayern will once again dominate possession and expect them to score at least two goals in this game, although Chelsea won’t make it easy for them and will get one back in the match. But Bayern’s superior quality on the pitch should eventually come through and give Pep Guardiola his first trophy as their manager.