It has been quite the Champions League campaign this season, with a number of shocks, surprises and upsets, none more so than the fact that Chelsea ousted Barcelona in the semi-finals to set up a final against Bayern Munich. With the last fixture taking place at Die Roten’s home, the Allianz Arena, the Bundesliga giants will be favourites, but the Blues should not be written off; here’s why:
1) Roberto Di Matteo and recent resurgence
The Chelsea side that was comprehensively beaten 3-1 in San Paolo by Napoli earlier this campaign in Andre Villas-Boas’ last European fixture in charge, looks like a different team to the current crop. Under interim boss Roberto Di Matteo the Blues have refound their confidence, with the playing squad seemingly rejuvenated under the former Chelsea midfielder. The Italian is fighting to become the club’s boss on a permanent basis, and lifting the Champions League would surely force Roman Abramovich’s hand. Despite being favourites, Bayern will have to work hard to overcome a team in form and a manager on a mission.
2) A last hurray for the old guard
With the signings of Marko Marin and Kevin De Bruyne the first of plenty this summer, Chelsea are expected to bring in a host of younger players to inject a fresh feel into their squad. This may well mean the end for a number of the established players that have been the basis of the Stamford Bridge side over the last five years. The likes of Didier Drogba, Florent Malouda and even Frank Lampard may well make an exit from west London at the end of the campaign, making them more motivated to end on a high.
3) Bayern’s questionable defence
Although the Bavarian side’s rearguard has improved since last season, there are still question marks over their central defenders. Jerome Boateng has been used in the middle of the defence despite playing the majority of his football on the flanks, whilst Holger Badstuber is suspended for the game against the Blues. With left-back David Alaba also unavailable, Bayern may well be down to their bare bones. The Premier League side will be aware of this and look to attack the heart of the hosts.
4) Cup final glory and disaster
Both Bayern and Chelsea have played domestic cup finals since qualifying for the Champions League decider, with one sealing glory and the other tasting bitter defeat. The Blues beat Liverpool 2-1 at Wembley to lift the FA Cup, and will now be keen to seal a dramatic double. The Bavarians on the other hand were ruthlessly dispatched 5-2 by domestic nemesis’ Borussia Dortmund in the DFB Pokal final a week before the Champions League game, which will have severely dented Jupp Heynckes’ side’s confidence.
5) Chelsea need to win to qualify for next year
Although next season will be far away in the thoughts of the players in the Champions League final, the Blues will know that they need to win the tournament this term to be involved in 2012-13. With the club finishing a disappointing sixth in the Premier League table, this is the last chance for the west London outfit to salvage their campaign and ensure that they can fight for Europe’s top tournament again next campaign.