Chelsea face a tough ask on May 19 when turn out for the 2012 Champions League final against Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena.
The Blues pulled off an improbable result by knocking out holders Barcelona at the semi-final stage under caretaker manager Roberto di Matteo.
The Stamford Bridge club were joined a day later by Bayern, who denied the Londoners a meeting with former boss Jose Mourinho after winning on penalties in the Santiago Bernabeu.
While there will be no fairy-tale ending in terms of a Clasico final or a Mourinho love-in, the two sides should bring us an intriguing battle that is shaping up nicely.
What problems will Chelsea face taking on Germany’s very own ‘FC Hollywood’ and how can they counteract these possible obstacles?
Well, GMF have looked ahead to the game and come up with some key points that well feel may have the biggest effect on proceedings…
Chelsea will be missing Branislav Ivanovic, Ramires, Raul Meireles and John Terry, after the former three picked up second bookings, whereas the latter saw red for a knee in the back of Alexis Sanchez in the semi-final second leg at Camp Nou.
Bayern have their own bans too, but you feel the loss of Holger Badstuber, Luiz Gustavo and David Alaba will not be as key as the Chelsea absences.
With Ramires missing, the Blues will be without arguably their best player of the semi-final and they often struggle without the leadership of their captain Terry. They will also be missing their second best defender in Ivanovic, so the often defensively suspect Jose Bosingwa will likely come in at right-back.
Much of Bayern’s strength comes from their wide players, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, so it is unlikely they will deviate from the usual game plan of getting the ball out to them as soon as possible.
Ashley Cole is in fine form at the moment and so will not be too worried with facing the Holland international, but it is his lack of support that may cause concern.
Philip Lahm usually plays behind Robben and poses a considerable attacking threat, but Di Matteo cannot deploy Ramires to nullify him, as he did with Dani Alves, due to the Brazilian being suspended.
There is really no other player in the squad who has the physical attributes to do the job he does in that position as effectively.
Bayern boss, Jupp Heynckes, has lost some threat down the left with Alaba being suspended, although he will be confident of putting Ribery up against Bosingwa or Paulo Ferreira.
Heynckes, mentioned above, dwarfs Di Matteo when it comes to reputation – the Italian has no experience as manager in Europe other than this year – while the Bayern coach has won the competition before as a manager, with Real Madrid in 1998.
On the pitch Lahm is a captain who leads by example and quality, while midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger conducts proceedings from the middle of the park – both have been at the club for the entirety of their senior careers and are inspirational characters.
Both Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba will play important leadership roles, though the Ivorian may not find himself quite so much the centre of the attack as he did against Barca. However, the absence of John Terry is a huge blow, as the Chelsea defence never looks quite as well regimented when he is absent.
David Luiz and Gary Cahill are both expected to be fit for the game, but the latter is playing his first season in Europe and the former is prone to gaffes when no tbeing directed by the Blues captain.
Bayern playing at home is an unpredictable factor as it has not always been an advantage in the past, but it is a distinct possibility that they may take comfort from familiar surroundings.
It can be an intimidating place for visiting teams in traditional home games, but the biggest factor will be that Bayern’s have a goal machine in Mario Gomez and he thrives when playing at the Allianz Arena.
The Germany international has scored 29 goals in home games so far this season and 11 of his 13 in the Champions League have come there, but in just 27 shots.
The 26-year-old obviously enjoys playing there and his form makes the absence of Terry even more ominous.
Those are the key factors GMF believes will decide the outcome of Chelsea’s final date with Bayern Munich.
What do you think? Leave a comment below to let us know and join in the debate…
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