Chelsea’s Champions League triumph – written in the stars?

When Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea in July 2003 his main target was to see his side lift the Champions League. After Saturday’s dramatic final in Munich, the Russian billionaire’s dream has finally come true.

Many people will say that Chelsea were lucky to win the trophy; Bayern Munich completely dominated this final. The statistics in this case do not lie; the Germans had 35 shots compared to Chelsea’s nine and had 20 corners compared to just one from the west London outfit. This is where Bayern have only themselves to blame for not winning this final. They looked nervous in front of goal, particularly Mario Gomez, who wasted three golden chances in the first half and from those 20 corners they created very little mainly due to the poor delivery from Arjen Robben. Compare this to Chelsea however, whose one corner came in the 88th minute, and Juan Mata’s floated delivery was met by Didier Drogba, who showed great intent to win the ball ahead of the Munich defence.

If Chelsea had been beaten then there may well have been questions as to whether Roberto Di Matteo got his tactics right. His decision to start with Ryan Bertrand at left midfield would have been most under the microscope. The Italian trainer clearly did this to try and combat the threat of Robben and Lahm down that wing, but it seemingly backfired when Robben spent much of the first half controlling the game from the middle of the pitch and the opposite wing. Chelsea looked far better balanced when Malouda came on for Bertrand as a more natural left-sided midfielder.

The biggest tactical mistake of the night though may have come from Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes. As soon as Thomas Muller had put Bayern ahead in the 83rd minute, the Bundesliga team’s coach took him off and replaced him with the more defensive Daniel Van Buyten. This caused a major reshuffle for Bayern with the breaking up of Boateng and Tymoshchuk at centre back, who had both dealt well with Drogba, to allow Van Buyten into defence. This invited pressure onto the Bayern defence for the first time in the game and allowed Chelsea more of the ball for the final ten minutes.

There is a belief in football that sometimes a team’s name is already destined to be on a trophy before the final outcome has been reached. This was also spoken about when Liverpool won the tournament in 2005. Certainly there were instances along Chelsea’s route to glory that made you believe it was destiny for them to win it. Ashley Cole’s goal line clearance late on against Napoli that prevented them from falling 4-1 behind, the numerous Barcelona chances missed at Stamford Bridge in the semi-final and then missed penalties by two of the biggest names in world football, Messi and Robben, in the semi and the final.

The script of this final was clearly written for Didier Drogba also. In possibly his last game for Chelsea he came up with the stunning header for the equaliser. When Chelsea lost the final in 2008 to Manchester United, Drogba was sent off so was unable to take the decisive fifth penalty in that final which John Terry took and missed. This time though the Ivory Coast international was on the pitch and showed great coolness and composure in front of the Bayern fans to give his team the greatest prize in European club football.

What next for these two clubs though? Chelsea still do not have a permanent manager, but Di Matteo could not have done any more to put his name forward. But is he a big enough name and is the style of football that he has used good enough to satisfy Roman Abramovich? As for Bayern, major questions may now be asked of Heynckes. A few months ago they would have been eyeing up three trophies. Dortmund though have blown them away in the league through sheer consistency and then beat them for the fifth time in a row to win the domestic cup in Germany. Add to that losing on Saturday in front of their own fans and the board may decide it’s time for a change in Munich.

By Chris Newman


Chelsea beware: Five reasons that Bayern Munich are favourites for the Champions League final

Bayern Munich have a date with destiny this Saturday as they face Chelsea in the Champions League final. The Bavarian side have been eyeing this year’s tournament since the venue of the Allianz Arena was decided, and smart football betting tips have the Germans as favourites. Despite a determined opponent in the form of Roberto Di Matteo’s men, here are five reasons why the Bundesliga giants should be victorious.

Home advantage

The chance to play a major final at home is an overwhelming advantage, and the German side will look to make the most of this fact. Jupp Heynckes’ men have been imperious at the Allianz Arena this term in Europe, winning all their fixtures at home, including victories over Manchester City, Napoli, Real Madrid and a 7-0 mauling of Basel.

Chelsea’s depleted defence

Chelsea have been determined in defence this season, thwarting the likes of Barcelona in getting to the final. However the Blues’ backline will be severely depleted for the game against Bayern. John Terry was shown a red card against the Spanish giants in the semi-finals and thus will be unavailable, and Branislav Ivanovic, arguably the side’s best defender, is also suspended.

Mario Gomez

Finals are often cagey affairs, with the odd goal deciding the fixture in one side’s favour. The predatory and clinical nature of Bayern centre forward Mario Gomez could well be the difference between the teams, as the Germany international looks to continue his rich vein of form. The hitman finished with 26 goals in the Bundesliga this term and with 12 strikes in Europe, Gomez has proved himself as one of the continent’s most lethal marksmen.

Domestic despair

Due to Borussia Dortmund’s domestic dominance in the Bundesliga and DFB Pokal, Bayern quite simply must win to salvage their season and avoid two trophyless campaigns. Being crowned as European champions would be sure to take some of the limelight away from Jurgen Klopp’s men and give Die Roten’s fanbase something to cheer about.

Penalty preparation

With two evenly-matched sides competing in this year’s finale, there is every chance that the victors could be decided on penalties. German sides have an enviable record of success when it comes to spot-kicks, especially against English teams, and in Manuel Neuer the hosts have an excellent shot-stopper. Given Bayern’s elimination of Real Madrid on penalties in the semi-finals, and the Blues defeat to Manchester United in the 2008 final, the Germans would fancy their chances if it went down to this stage.

Published – Bundesliga Talk

Champions League preview: Chelsea, Inter, Bayern and Real Madrid with work to do

The Champions League quarter final contestants will be decided this week, as the final four fixtures of the round of 16 take place on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. After stellar performances from the underdogs in the respective first legs, four favourites have work to do to make the last eight.

Chelsea vs Napoli

Since the 3-1 first leg defeat to an in-form Napoli in Italy, Chelsea have sacked Andre Villas Boas and will need to up their game if they are to stand a chance of progression; despite domestic wins of late, Walter Mazzarri’s men will pose a more stern test. The hosts need an attacking outlook, but with Edinson Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik ready to pounce, John Terry’s role at the back is equally as important as the team’s attackers. Napoli have goals in them, but are also susceptible at the back; this was showcased in their 6-3 win over Cagliari on Friday night. Away goals could decide this tie.

Real Madrid vs CSKA Moscow

Real Madrid were expected to walk all over CSKA in the first leg, but the Russians put up an ardent fight to get a 1-1 draw at the Luzhniki through an injury-time equaliser. Jose Mourinho’s men are still in a dominant position to progress, with Cristiano Ronaldo in superb goal-scoring form; the Portugal international has 45 goals already in all competitions this term. The travelling support will pin their hopes on promising attacking duo Alan Dzagoev and Seydou Doumbia, but anything other than Madrid progression would be a massive shock.

Inter vs Marseille

Marseille take a slender 1-0 advantage to the San Siro on Tuesday, after a last-gasp Andre Ayew header gave the French side victory at the Stade Velodrome in the first leg. Claudio Ranieri has come under increasing pressure due to domestic inconsistency, and if Inter are eliminated the head coach will fear for his future. Didier Deschamps’ men are not in good form either however, and have lost all four Ligue 1 games since beating Inter in February. The midfield battle will be key to deciding the fixture and should be a pulsating watch, as Alou Diarra and Morgan Amalfitano face Esteban Cambiasso and Wesley Sneijder.

Bayern Munich vs Basel

Bayern have high hopes for this season’s Champions League as the final will be held at the Allianz Arena, however Jupp Heynckes’ men have stuttered of late and are 1-0 down against Basel after the first leg. The Bavarian giants did have ideal preparation for the second leg by beating Hoffenheim 7-1 on Saturday, with Mario Gomez grabbing a hat-trick. The Swiss champions will look to their excellent showing at Old Trafford earlier in the season as motivation, with Bayern-bound Xherdan Shaqiri the visitors’ fulcrum of attack.

With AC Milan, Barcelona, APOEL and Benfica already in the quarters, four close games will decide the remaining participants. Madrid should overcome CSKA, whilst Chelsea will most likely be eliminated by a classy Napoli outfit. Marseille have the quality to compound Inter’s misery and Bayern should fight back to knock out Basel – just.

Published – Soccerlens

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