Champions League Final 2012: David Luiz and 5 Other Players to Watch
The 2012 Champions League Final between Chelsea and Bayern Munich will be as much about who is not playing than who does take the field.
A total of seven players are suspended for the final in Munich. Six of these players are out for an accumulation of yellow cards.
Chelsea will be missing Branislav Ivanovic, Raul Meireles, Ramires and John Terry. Bayern will have to make do without David Alaba, Holger Badstuber and Luiz Gustavo.
On the surface, it appears Chelsea are the team hit hardest by the enforced absences. Terry, the club captain, Ivanovic, the club's best defender this season, and Ramires, the team's best player this year, have been vital to the Blues' success in Europe.
However, the show must go on. Both squads are not lacking for depth, and this is an opportunity for other players to step up and write their name into football folklore.
Here is a look at the players to look out for at the Allianz Arena on May 19.
David Luiz Will Be the Heart of a Makeshift Chelsea Rearguard
Chelsea defender David Luiz has proclaimed that he will be fit for the final. This comes as a relief for Blues fans who faced the prospect of Paulo Ferriera and Jose Bosingwa lining up in the heart of defense for the Champions League final.
While that nightmare has been avoided, a lot of pressure will be on Luiz to stop Mario Gomez and a potent Bayern Munich attack.
It will be interesting to watch Luiz—he has a tendency to be a Jekyll and Hype-type player. Roberto Di Matteo is hoping the stout, talented, ball-playing defender shows up in Munich.
If the erratic, error-prone defender that Luiz tends to be, on occasion, is the one that shows up for the final, Chelsea will be in for a long night.
Chelsea can survive the Bayern attack, but Luiz must be focused for a full 90 minutes. Look for Bayern to attack through the middle to test Luiz and whomever partners with him in the center of the Chelsea defense.
Jerome Boateng Must Stop Chelsea Attack
Jerome Boateng will be responsible for the unenviable task of trying to stop Didier Drogba.
Drogba has been insatiable in 2012, terrorizing defenders with his strength and veteran savvy. It will be paramount for Boateng to keep his composure against Drogba and his bag of tricks.
This is also a chance at redemption for Boateng, who was quickly rushed into—and out of—English football during a short stint at Manchester City.
The City defense was a mess while he was at the City of Manchester Stadium. He can hardly be blamed for the club's defensive woes, but his performances were not particularly remarkable, either.
Boateng's primary reason for leaving Manchester was his desire to play in central defense—as opposed to right back, where Roberto Mancini deployed him.
The Champions League Final is the perfect place to prove he made the right decision.
Bastian Schweinsteiger Can Steal the Show in Munich
Inter Milan managed to bottle up Bayern Munich in the 2009 Champions League Final. Jose Mourinho's team were effective on the counterattack and prevented Bayern from finding any rhythm.
This final should be far different. With Ramires suspended and Frank Lampard not as energetic as he was once was, Bastian Schweinsteiger should have plenty of time and possession to dictate the match.
Roberto Di Matteo is unlikely to deviate from his preferred 4-3-3/4-5-1 formation, but suspensions mean the sluggish John Obi Mikel and Oriol Romeu are likely to start alongside Lampard.
That is a matchup that heavily favors Schweinsteiger. Look for the German international to dominate the game in the middle of the park.
Not that Chelsea will mind this, however. The Blues will be more worried about shutting down Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben and taking away the other attacking outlets available to Schweinsteiger.
It will be up to the man who scored the winning penalty against Real Madrid to find away through.
Chelsea Need One Last Lift from Lampard
For all his critics, Frank Lampard will be remembered as one of the greatest players of his generation.
People are always quick to point out his faults, but Lampard's unique talents set him apart from his peers.
The Champions League Final is likely his last chance for glory on the grandest stage of them all. If Chelsea are to win, the club will need a vintage performance from Lampard.
He will need to be at his best, running from box to box, trying to pounce on mistakes from Bayern and getting the ball into dangerous positions.
It will be Lampard who leads the team onto the field at the Allianz Arena with John Terry suspended. He will hope they both can lift up the one cup that has eluded them at the Chelsea.
What Will Happen with Fernando Torres?
It seems like any article regarding Chelsea is obligated to mention Fernando Torres. This list is no different.
It will be interesting to see the role Torres has to play in the final. There are so many possibilities at this point that it is exciting to ponder.
It is easy to see Torres not playing in the final at all, coming on as a sub or even getting a surprise start by Roberto Di Matteo.
If Torres scores a goal that wins the match, he will become a Chelsea hero, and all will be forgotten. What happens if he does not play?
Torres is Chelsea's wild card heading into the final.
Manuel Neuer Can Single Handily Defeat Chelsea
The is no goalkeeper more intimidating in the world right now than Manuel Neuer.
He is the man who stopped the unstoppable Real Madrid. He is the man who helped carry Schalke into the Champions League semifinals two seasons ago. Bayern could line up three upturned brooms and Winston Bogarde in defense and still have a shot to win—Neuer is that good.
Chelsea will need to be at their best to find away past Neuer.
In the same way that Ribery and Robben can dramatically alter a game with a moment of individual brilliance, Neuer does the same in goal.
The most interesting matchup in the final might be Neuer going up against Chelsea's counter attack. It will certainly be difficult for the Blues to find away around the big German.
The longer Neuer keeps Chelsea at bay, the more frustrated the Chelsea veterans will become. A frustrated and chippy Chelsea team rarely succeeds.