Five Reasons Bayern Munich Can Win the Champions League
Today, in the Rhone Valley, Bayern Munich humbled French giants Olympique Lyon and showed their true championship credentials.
While Ivica Olic stole the show with a "perfect" hat-trick, it was a fantastic all-around team performance.
Most critics throughout the previous rounds of the Champions League have focused on the supposed "bad" performances of Bayern's opponents, and little has been made of the beautiful and dominating football being played by the Bavarians.
After this game, people are beginning to notice the benefits of Bayern's possession play, and while Die Roten are still underdogs for the final, whether they play Inter or Barcelona, they should not be counted out.
1. Bastian Schweinsteiger
While Arjen Robben has been without a doubt Bayern's star performer during this season's Champions League, Bayern would never have made it this far without "Schweini."
Converted into a central midfield player this season by Louis van Gaal, Schweinsteiger has become the true star player the Bayern brass always thought he could be.
By using not only his physical play but also his superb technical ability, he is the perfect combination of guile and strength in the Bayern midfield.
But what truly makes Schweinsteiger a vital component of this team is his ability to attract the ball.
For the majority of Bayern's games this season, Schweinsteiger has dominated possession and allowed the Bavarians to dictate play.
If Bastian Schweinsteiger can do more of the same on May 22nd, Bayern will be a true contender, for with him, they are never far from possession.
2. Will and Determinatoin
Ivica Olic is not the most technically gifted footballer, and thus he starts above the extremely gifted duo of Mario Gomez and Miroslav Klose not because of his ability, but because of his incredible work rate.
Olic personifies van Gaal's philosophy of being aggressive when not in possession.
It is this philosophy that has led to Bayern creating a game-winner out of nothing against Manchester United, and this attitude has allowed them to progress all the way to the Champions League final.
While Bayern might lack some of the star power of Inter Milan or Barcelona, they most certainly do not lack the will to win or self-confidence in their ability to fight back.
These mental intangibles can make or break a team, and in Bayern's case they are most certainly a key positive for them when the German side take the pitch in the Santiago Bernabeu.
3. Young Talent
Tonight in Lyon, Bayern started three youngsters: Thomas Muller, Holger Badstuber and Diego Contento.
While the latter will most likely not start in the Champions League Final (a shame due to his fantastic performance this evening,) Muller and Badstuber are sure to start if they stay healthy.
While most analysts would tell you having this type of youth of the field for a game of such magnitude is certainly not a strength, but for Bayern, I think it is.
Both finalists will have played a grueling club season before the May final, and by relying on youth, Bayern are in possession of players that are sure to be more energetic and eager to impress than the aging lineup of Inter Milan, or the weary but star-studded lineup of Barcelona.
Muller and Badstuber have both proven to be more than reliable this season, and come May 22, their youthful exuberance will surely serve Bayern well.
4. Arjen Robben
There is simply no denying that Arjen Robben has been the star performer in this season's Champions League.
While Lionel Messi might have scored more goals, Arjen Robben has scored two wonder-strikes, both of which allowed Bayern to progress to the next round of the competition.
He also scored a goal in four consecutive knockout round matches, something nobody else has done.
But, Robben does so much more than score spectacular goals.
His perfect balance of skill, pace, power and trickery allow him to pull out defenders, creating space for his teammates and allowing them to put further pressure on opposing defenses.
His ability to decide a match on a single moment of brilliance is a huge feather in Bayern's hat, and if he continues his imperious form onto the final, then Bayern have a fantastic chance of adding a fifth European title to their trophy cabinet.
5. Louis van Gaal
While there was a time this season where it looked as if van Gaal was heading for the sack, he managed to turn around Bayern's fortunes.
Thus, he has not only saved his job, but he has also revived his status as one of Europe's premier coaches.
While van Gaal might not have the tactical nous of Mourinho or the personal connection to his players as does Guardiola, what he does have is experience and a personal knowledge of both men.
Jose Mourinho owes his coaching existence to Louis van Gaal, who not only tutored him during his first spell at Barcelona but also promoted him to the position of coach for the Barcelona B team.
Thus, van Gaal knows how Mourinho thinks and is likely to anticipate some of his tactical schemes.
A similar story applies to Guardiola, who was captain of Barcelona during van Gaal's tenure in Barcelona.
Thus, van Gaal has had personal experience with the distinct Barcelona playing style and will most certainly be able to challenge Barcelona for possession if the two sides meet in Madrid.
When Bayern chose to hire Louis van Gaal as coach last year, they could not have positioned themselves better.
Regardless of the outcome of tomorrow's match, van Gaal will have a significant coaching advantage over his opponent.