Bayern Munich and Chelsea will meet on Saturday in Munich to determine who is the best team in the 2011-2012 UEFA Champions League. The matchup has long been anticipated and will pit two of the most storied clubs against each other.
Everything about this match screams a Bayern victory, as Chelsea is down four players due to suspension, but don't expect an easy one for either side.
Here are three bold predictions for the final.
Bastian Schweinsteiger will outplay Frank Lampard
Schweinsteiger has dealt with a rash of injuries throughout the season, but he has been a dominant force for Bayern Munich when he is out on the pitch. He played the role of grinder in his club's semifinal victory, keeping the team in the game despite falling behind by two goals very early.
His relentless speed and golden leg have gotten him to where he is now and Bayern fans hope that he has saved his best for last.
Chelsea's Lampard will try to match the play of his counterpart at the midfielder position. Lampard has had a better season statistically than Schweinsteiger, posting one of the best seasons of his career.
Both play a similar style of football and possess boundless energy, but Schweinsteiger is a bit more versatile than Lampard. Lampard, though, has an uncanny ability to pick his spots and capitalize on his opponent's mistakes.
Lampard will have reinforcements in the form of Michael Essien and Mikel John Obi. Schweinsteiger doesn't have that luxury though, as Bayern will be missing Luis Gustavo.
That's exactly why Schweinsteiger will outplay Lampard. He realizes that he has to carry his team in the absence of one of their better players, meaning that he will bring his play to an unfound level on Saturday.
Bayern Munich's home-field advantage will work against them
This may seem ridiculous, as home-field advantage in the game of football is possibly the most important of any sport, but it may put some unwanted pressure on Bayern Munich. The familiar surroundings for Bayern have been a tirelessly talked about topic in the days leading up to the final, and Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo isn't so sure that it will work to Bayern's advantage.
Di Matteo said this when asked about playing at Allianz Arena:
It could go either way. If you look at it from another angle, maybe it will bring added pressure.It's difficult to say whether it will or not."
He's hoping that his team can come away with a victory in the arena where Bayern hasn't lost a European match all season. If they are able to hand Jupp Heynckes and company their first loss at home, Di Matteo will have made a convincing argument to be retained next season.
Didier Droga will score the game-winner
Drogba will be looking to avenge the mental blunder that he made in extra-time in Chelsea's 2008 final loss against Manchester United. That game went into a shootout and Drogba could do nothing but watch as his teammates missed two shots.
He'll have to outplay Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, who will presumably be matched up with the Ivorian legend. Drogba already has one final-winning goal this season, which came against Liverpool in the FA Cup final earlier this month, and he'll be looking to do it again.
The matchup of Drogba and Tymoshchuk will be Chelsea's biggest opportunity in this match. If Drogba can isolate the Ukranian midfielder and allow Chelsea to consistently run their offense through him, he'll put the ball in the back of the net.
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