Bayern, Chelsea ready to battle for European crown

Bayern, Chelsea ready to battle for European crown

MUNICH - Reuters
Bayern, Chelsea ready to battle for European crown

Franck Ribery (front) is one of the key names in the Bayern Munich attack and Chelsea’s midfield maestro Frank Lampard will hope to make up for the club’s loss in the 2008 final. AFP photo

Bayern Munich and Chelsea meet in the Champions League final at the Allianz Arena on May 19.
When the draw for the later stages of the Champions League opened the way for Barcelona and Real Madrid to meet in the final in Munich, not many people would have  placed their bets on one involving Bayern Munich and Chelsea. The prospect of a dream El Clasico played out between the Spanish giants in Munich seemed highly likely, if not inevitable.

But German club’s semifinal penalty shootout win over Real and Chelsea’s heroic rearguard action in Barcelona has produced an intriguing showdown to an unpredictable competition. Bayern’s dreams of lifting the trophy in its home stadium had been at the top of its agenda since before the start of the season.

Chelsea’s billionaire Russian owner, Roman Abramovich has had his eyes on the trophy since he bought the club in 2003, although even he must have thought the chances of lifting it this season were slight as the Blues’ campaign appeared to disintegrate under coach Andre Villas-Boas.

But after Villas-Boas was sacked in March and replaced by caretaker Roberto di Matteo, Chelsea’s season came alive and the team found itself on the brink of being crowned European champion for the first time.

However, the Blues did not recover their league form sufficiently to finish in the top four and ended sixth, their lowest position for a decade, which means if they fail to win on May 19, they will not be in the Champions League next season.

Di Matteo future in doubt

It is one of the reasons Di Matteo’s future is still in doubt, although he said: “I am not thinking about myself. What is at stake is that we have a chance to bring the European title home for the first time in this club’s history - and that’s all that is important. We go into the game with the quality and experience to win it. I have the motivation to do something extra-ordinary for this club. This will be a one-shot chance and with all the problems we have with injuries and suspensions it’s causing me a headache.”

Chelsea will be without suspended captain John Terry, fellow defender Branislav Ivanovic and midfielders Ramires and Raul Meireles. Defenders Gary Cahill and David Luiz could be fit after injury but midfielder Florent Malouda is 50-50.

Bayern has home advantage but goes into the game after losing 5-2 to Borussia Dortmund in the German Cup final last weekend and also has three players suspended - defensive midfielder Holger Badstuber, and midfielders David Alaba and Luiz Gustavo.

Only two sides have lifted the European Cup at home: Real Madrid in 1957 and Inter Milan in 1965, and the last team to play at home - AS Roma in 1984 - lost on penalties to Liverpool.

Back in the summer club bosses feared even getting to the Allianz Arena for the showdown would be a long shot after it was drawn in the “group of death” as club CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge called it alongside Manchester City, Villarreal and Napoli.

Few would have thought it would be Bayern and Napoli that went on but Bayern progressed steadily under Jupp Heynckes, in his third spell at the club and winner of the Champions League title with Real Madrid in 1998.

The Germans’ domestic loss of form, however, did not spill over into the Champions League with the Bavarians crushing Basel 7-1 on aggregate to book their quarterfinal spot.

Another devastating performance against Olympique Marseille, where they won both legs 2-0, set up a mouth-watering semifinal against nine-times winners Real Madrid.

German vs English finals

Germany and England are the two sides of European football’s most storied rivalries. In club football, English teams have a clear domination when it comes to finals against Germans in the top-level competition.

1974–75 Bayern Munich 2–0 Leeds United
1976–77 Liverpool 3–1 Borussia Mönchengladbach
1979–80 Nottingham Forest 1–0 Hamburg
1981–82 Aston Villa 1–0 Bayern Munich
1998–99 Manchester United 2–1 Bayern Munich