Chelsea face the daunting task of going into Bayern Munich’s home stadium on Saturday and trying to walk away with the Champions League trophy.
Interim boss Roberto di Matteo will lead his men into the Allianz Arena hoping to not only put the finishing touches on an already impressive job application but to banish the painful memories of the 2008 final defeat against Manchester United in Moscow.
But with the German giants having vanquished Real Madrid in the semi-finals, the Blues go into the game as underdogs – so how do they emerge victorious and finally hoist the famous Champions League trophy aloft?
Drogba the battering ram
Bayern have been particularly strong at the back this season despite the fact they failed to win a domestic trophy – Manuel Neuer and the Munich back four conceded just 22 goals in the Bundesliga this season.
However it is not just Chelsea that will have key players missing for the final through suspension, Bayern have three who will miss out – and crucially those absentees will weaken their defence significantly.
Holger Badstuber will miss the game while Daniel van Buyten is short of match practice, meaning midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk will be drafted in as cover at the heart of the German’s defence.
Chelsea, and Didier Drogba in particular, will look to testing how he copes with the physical battle that lies in wait for him.
Munich speed merchants
Bayern’s most potent threats will come from out wide – but not only from Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.
Philip Lahm will feature at full-back and will look to get forward at every opportunity at whip balls into the Chelsea box, and the Blues must be careful not to let two men be attracted to Robben, say, and leave space for Lahm space to cross to Mario Gomez.
Roberto di Matteo has paid tribute to Bayern’s captain and mentioned him in the same breath as Gomez in terms of the potential damage he could cause, and Chelsea need to be careful not to give him space to operate in. Worryingly for Chelsea, with Branislav Ivanovic out of action Jose Bosingwa will likely come in a full-back - his team-mates must protect him.
Shut down Schweinsteiger
As the heart of Bayern’s team, Schweinsteiger sets the tempo from his central midfield role.
The German international is a cultured passer of the ball – and it is looking increasingly likely that it will be Frank Lampard’s job to stop him from wreaking havoc.
Of course Lampard has his own natural attacking instincts and wants to get forward wherever he can, but he must keep a close eye on Schweinsteiger and not go too far beyond the ball too often for fear of leaving Chelsea exposed at the back to the creative players that the talented midfielder will look to unleash.
Chelsea attacking midfield three, likely to be Lampard, Juan Mata and either Daniel Sturridge or Fernando Torres with Florent Malouda out injured and Ramires suspended will have to work hard to shut Schweinsteiger and partner-in-crime Toni Kroos down, and disrupt the home side’s rhythm. If they manage to do that, then they can break quickly and cause damage, just like they did against Barcelona.
Make the extra man count
Di Matteo’s favoured 4-3-3 system that mutates to a five man midfield could leave Chelsea with an advantage in the middle of the park against a top heavy Bayern side, especially with both of Bayern’s dangerous wingers, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, bombing on.
Juan Mata in particular must look to get between the lines and cause damage by linking up and running off Didier Drogba, while Lampard will look to do exactly the same.
Of course, they must remain compact as the did against Barcelona and try not to be pulled out of their shape by the fluidity of Bayern’s movement, but when they are in possession and the time comes to press forward, they must exploit their advantage.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo may have garnered the most praise this season but beyond that illustrious pair, Mario Gomez has marked himself out as the deadliest goalscorer in Europe.
Gomes has the best goals-per-minute ratio in the Champions League bar none, including Messi and Ronaldo, while he trails just behind Barcelona’s diminutive genius with 12 goals in Europe’s elite club competition this season.
John Terry is suspended while Gary Cahill and David Luiz are injured, although both are expected to feature. Both are being thrown in at the deep-end having not played for some time – on average Gomez nets around one goal for every three chances he gets, meaning Luiz cannot afford to roam in his usual manner and allow the German international space to move into and shoot.
Do YOU want to write for GiveMeSport? Get started today by signing-up and submitting an article HERE: http://gms.to/writeforgms