Bayern Munich vs Chelsea: 10 Reasons to Expect a Classic Champions League Final
No Messi, no Ronaldo, no Spanish team at all. This UEFA Champions League final could not have worked out any better for the millions of football fans who are sick of the petty nonsense that accompanies both of those players and their teams as Real Madrid were bounced out by Bayern Munich in penalties tonight.
The Germans are set to face off against the shock of the footballing season, Chelsea, who against all probability outright defeated Barcelona in their semifinal draw Tuesday.
There are many who will be put off by such a final and for good reason. Despite the results, it is still difficult to argue that the two best teams in the world aren’t both Spanish. At the very least they play the style of football that most find more attractive than the two who will meet on May 19th in Munich.
But it is foolish to write this off as unnecessary viewing right off the bat. Here are 10 reasons why this will be as good a Champions League final as ever.
Wide Open Play
Yes, the majesty and brilliance with how Barcelona taps the ball around the field is not a specialty of either team. And yes, there will not be as an explosive player out there as Cristiano Ronaldo. But this actually benefits the final.
Bayern and Chelsea play relatively similar styles of the game. Both rely heavily of a strong defense that can physically hang with any team in the world. Both have a crafty midfield who may not posses extreme technical skills, but certainly have the vision and game IQ of anyone. Their attack starts out wide and funnels in to a big physical forward in the middle.
It is not exactly going to be oppositional in tactics, but this will keep from the preemptive style Chelsea used against Barca in both legs, making a dull match to watch for anyone who did not appreciate the subtly of the defense.
Play should be wide open, very much back and forth as the counter attack is the preferred method for each side. It will be more about individual battles and who has more advantages in each matchup than how each side plays overall.
A throwback if you will where you had to win your own individual battle to help your team.
Frank Ribery, Arjen Robben, Philip Lahm, Petr Cech, Ashley Cole, Michael Essien, Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and John Terry. Over the past decade these players have been some of the game's very best. Throughout their careers they have been in the discussion for the very best at their positions.
But there is something else that unites them—none have a Champions League trophy.
Everyone has come close, falling just short somewhere along the line. When they did it was because they were not deserving of it on that day. But you would be hard pressed to argue that each one of these players is not deserving of the shot they are getting.
The three Bayern names are relatively young, but let’s not forget that the Chelsea players that follow were the same age in 2008 when they had their chance in the final. It has taken them four years and somewhat of a miracle to get back to this point.
That peak in your career is short lived and you must make the most of it. The very fact that there is so much deserving talent playing in this match with the prospects of reaching it again in the future not in their favor, makes this a wroth while storyline to pay attention to.
It also goes to show the incredible randomness and beauty of the sport, that a career of brilliance can leave you empty handed in the end.
World Class Goalkeeping
I made the very bold proclamation yesterday that Petr Cech is the best goalkeeper in the world. I am not ready to retract that comment, but after Manuel Neuer’s performance today I will put it on hold until after the final.
It is very rare that the two teams in a final of this magnitude are both fortunate enough to have two of the very best goalies in the game. But for us fans it bodes well for an absolutely sensational match.
Let’s be honest, no one wants to see a game decided on a keeper's mistake that happens once out of a hundred. We want to see excellent football that keeps the keeper on his toes, but beats him fair and square. You will not have to worry about that with these two in net. Both are seemingly immune to the slippery handed mistakes of less consistent net minders.
But it will also make for a much more tightly played game. Chances on each goal should come with regularly and it may come down to making the most of those chances. Little cheeky chips and half-hearted shots are not going to upset either of these goalies. That slight shank or lack of attitude in front of goal is more than enough to give either the chance to make a save.
The goalkeeping will be perfect in the game, which means the shooters better be as well and consequently suggests that the better team will win.
Oh man I hope this goes to penalties!!! (Not really, Chelsea stink from the spot!)
Men vs. Men
One of the biggest complaints about the modern game is the amount of time wasting that goes on in a match. Neither of these sides is particularly well known for such antics as flopping and reeling around on the ground like they just got hit with a magnum slug in the back.
Now, I know dissenters will point to Chelsea as time wasters in both Barca legs and though I do not condone it, it was a strategy. There is no such advantage for them in this match to waste time until they have a safe lead. Same goes for Bayern.
But what really makes this a game of men is the physicality it will be played with. You can expect hard tackles and elbow-in-the-chest defending, but it will be purely to help the team, not in malicious or deceitful ways.
There also will be very little of the kind of defamation of the game found when players dive, beg and cry for calls. These guys are tough, every single one of them. They are big, strong and incredibly gifted at the game, but they also play it with a lot of pride and would not mar it through needless antics during stoppages.
It will be a classic match because it will be played by classic players.
History vs. No History
This could be an interesting sub-plot to the match, but also perhaps the most intriguing going into it. Bayern Munich will be playing in their ninth Champions League Final and Chelsea in their second. Bayern has won four, Chelsea has won zero. Bayern is amongst one of the top five clubs in the history of the game, Chelsea would be lucky to break the top 50 in such a tradition-based ranking.
Yes it can be marked up as an old vs. new in more ways than one. Not only is history lacking on the side of the Blues, but they could in effect be deemed the contemporary example of the ruin of clubs such as Bayern.
Programs that extend well beyond their senior squads and produce some of the finest footballers in the world when they are preteens. Then comes Chelsea and their money buying up that talent and trophies rather than doing it the “right” way.
It may be a small part of this match, but should not be ignored. After all, it is the first time a club with Chelsea’s reputation has been in the final since, well the last time they made it.
Future vs. Past
It's a weird twist on the previous slide, but this is also a sort of game that pits the future stars against the aging ones. Bayern are loaded with some excellent young talent such as Neuer, Toni Kroos, Mario Gomez and Jerome Boateng. Chelsea on the other hand is full of geezers—pretty much all the names I mentioned in slide two.
As much as the clubs connote tradition vs. modernity, the players playing will be much more likened to veterans making their last stand against youngsters attempting to start their careers with the highest of honors.
There is also a look toward the summer as many fans, both English and German, will be watching to see how their players stack up in this test against one another. Odds are if either wants to win the European Championship they will have to go through one another at some point and this could be a foreshadowing of that matchup.
Seasons of Unrest
It has not been an ideal season for either Chelsea or Bayern. Both sides have struggled to some degree in the league and neither will win theirs. There has been all kinds of turmoil and unrest in each locker room; one led to the firing of a manager, the other had one start punch another.
But I guarantee that back in late August both teams set out for the same goal—a Champions League trophy. Eight months later, amidst all that trauma and struggle, here they both are, within reaching distance of what they set out for from day one.
The very fact that neither team has had an exceptionally smooth campaign makes this all the more interesting. What changed along the way or what happens to the athletes' minds on the field that can get them to forget about all the nonsense when it matters most?
I have no answer for it, but the ambiguity in the question is what makes this an interesting one in the first place.
It just goes to show that the insanity the pro athlete can show off the field will never overcome their incredible desire to win on it.
The Atmosphere of Playing at Home
Only twice in the history of the European Cup has a team won it in their home stadium. Bayern Munich has a real good chance of becoming the third on that list. This year’s final will be played in the Allianz Arena, the very same stadium that they beat Madrid in a week ago.
They have been nearly perfect there, losing only one match all season and nearly impossible to breakdown defensively, arguably the best home side in all of Europe.
Now things work a little differently than they did in 1957 and 1965 when Madrid and Inter won the title in their home stadiums. The home field advantage is primarily in familiarity with the pitch and surroundings. The seats will be equal parts Chelsea fans and Bayern supporters as the always fair UEFA continues its lifelong struggle toward equality.
But nonetheless, there will certainly be a heavy lean toward Bayern everywhere around the stadium and leading up to the match. It should make for a great viewing as Bayern want to make history in front of their people and Chelsea want to upset the balance against impossible odds.
The Incredible Rise of Roberto Di Matteo
It is an incredible feat when any team makes it to the Champions League final, but even more incredible when it is with an interim coach. Roberto Di Matteo has re-energized Chelsea in an unfathomable manner and has been the sole reason why there are going to Munich.
He originally just got all the players playing and did nothing more than put them in a position where they are happy. But against Barcelona, he earned himself the kind of respect you would give legendary leaders. He outwitted Guardiola and built a wall that the brilliant mind of Pep could not crack.
He is up against a bit more of a mismatch here, given the style of play Bayern use and the limited players he has to choose from, but if he can manufacture some way to get them the victory then it will probably be one of the greatest coaching performances we have ever seen in this match.
I for one hope that no matter the outcome of the match Di Matteo is brought on full time. He has earned the chance to manage this team as the real head. But if he manages to get the club their first ever European crown than there is no excuse for anything less.
No Reason to Think Otherwise
The truth of the matter is that this game for all the reasons I stated above and more will be a sensational one. The Champions League final is one of those very rare events where the game always seems to live up to and exceed the hype.
There is too much passion from the players to the fans, coercing through the stadium under those lights and resonating with the hundreds of millions watching at home to suggest otherwise.
It may not be the two teams most wanted, but that does not diminish the game in any way. It will be a classic final because they always are.
Do You Think It Will Be an All Time Classic Match?
You don't have to necessarily follow the two teams playing to want to watch the match. Yes a lot of the back story that would come with a Barca/Real final is missing, but is the game so boring that stories need to be invented before the game to make it interesting?
I have little doubt that the performance these sides put on when the whistle blows will be 90 minutes of pure adrenaline, not only for the fans of the two teams involved, but a fan of the game in general.
So do you think it will be a classic final? If so, are there more reasons than the ones I stated? Or are you not even going to tune in?
As always, please leave your comments below and thanks for reading!
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