Chelsea and Bayern Munich Show That There Is Still Life Outside of the Clasico
A few short days ago, Real Madrid and Barcelona played out their Classico in what was referred to in many quarters as a practice for their inevitable Champions League final clash. Chelsea and Bayern, despite both winning their home ties, were given almost no chance of progressing to the showpiece event.
Both Barcelona and Real Madrid went 2-0 up in their home ties. Both went crashing out of the competition, and I, for one, couldn't be happier.
In what must be the greatest set of semifinals to grace the Champions League ever, the two Spanish giants were toppled by teams considered underdogs. It is a great testament to the Iberian duo when teams such as Chelsea and Bayern Munchen can be considered underdogs.
Europe's top club competition has seen Barcelona steamroll over all of the competition for the past few seasons, Mourinho's Inter being one of the few to stop them. Their smooth 'Tikka-Takka' football has seen Europe's aristocracy fall before them.
Madrid have had less success in Europe, but have embarked on another 'Galacticos' project, hovering up the finest talent available in terms of players and management, spending millions of Euros on a squad due to win its first league title in years.
Chelsea, miles away from their domestic title and with their expensive summer signings failing to click, came to the Nou Camp and played with grit and determination and heart. Even after going down to 10 men, they battled on and got their rewards when misfiring Torres slotted home the equaliser late on.
Do Bayern Munich and Chelsea deserve to be playing in the final?
There will be those who complain or are disappointed by the frankly shocking set of results that will see Bayern play Chelsea at the Allianz Arena, but I truly believe that it can be considered a triumph for football.
Barcelona's European dominance was brought to an end by a group of players who banded together and produced one of the most complete defensive displays (over two legs) ever seen.
Defence is not 'anti-football' as the inevitable counter-argument will run. Chelsea ran with their luck at times, but defensive football, especially against a team as mobile as Barca is, is an incredible skill, and Chelsea have more than earned another shot at the coveted CL trophy.
It is sad that so many Chelsea players will not play the final that they fought so hard to reach (with the exception of John Terry who more than deserved his ban).
Bayern too deserve to play their final. They lost out in 2010 to another great counter-attacking display from Inter Milan, but tonight reaped their rewards for fearless football. Playing all the way from the qualifying stages to the final, never a team to sit back, Bayern attacked, got hit on the counter twice and continued to press until they got their required goal.
They defended well at times, at others it was heart in mouth stuff, but it was the type of game that is a fantastic advert for European club football.
This week has seen both Spanish giants unexpectedly fall. As much as we look forward to seeing the likes of Messi and Ronaldo ply their trade in the top games, I cannot help but feel that an unlikely final is more entertaining than the one which everyone expected.
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