Chelsea vs. Bayern Munich: 6 Bold Predictions About the Champions League Final
For Bayern and Chelsea, the third time is definitely the charm.
Chelsea and Bayern Munich have met twice before, with each team winning at home in the 2005 Champions League quarterfinals. Chelsea advanced 6-5 on aggregate but lost to Liverpool in the next round.
This time, much more is on the line. Bayern will "host" Chelsea on May 19 in the Champions League final at Allianz Arena (or Fußball Arena München, if you're from UEFA).
The match is still more than three weeks away, but that won't stop us from making predictions.
Here are six predictions for the final. Add your own in the comments.
1. Robben and Cole Will Cancel Each Other Out
As B/R's Mohamed Al-Hendy has pointed out, the final will be full of interesting matchups—including Bayern forward Mario Gomez against Chelsea's center-backs, and Didier Drogba against Bayern's depleted back line.
In the comments section, Mo fielded a question about Chelsea full-back Ashley Cole and Bayern winger Arjen Robben. Mo said he thinks the two will cancel each other out, and I'm inclined to agree.
Cole put in two excellent performances against Barcelona, and even though Robben also played well in the semifinals, I think the Chelsea man will be able to slow him down.
Against Barcelona, Chelsea defended with all 11 players (or 10, for most of the second leg). Bayern's attack won't be nearly as all-consuming, even in their home stadium.
That should make for a much more even and open dynamic. That could lead to more space on the wing for Robben, but if there's a player who can keep up with him, it's Cole.
2. The Result Will Decide RDM's Fate
Roberto Di Matteo took over as Chelsea's interim manager after the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas in March.
Since then, the Italian has led Chelsea from the brink of disaster to the finals of the Champions League and FA Cup.
If Roman Abramovich were a sane owner, he would have rewarded Di Matteo already with the full-time job, but other names keep popping up anyway (from the Guardian).
The situation feels a bit like teenage boy holding out for a better-looking prom date, even though the one he has is cute enough.
True to form, then, I think Abramovich will base his decision about Di Matteo's future—foolishly, I should add—on the result of the final.
Win, and Di Matteo is in. Lose, and he'll go find a great job wherever he wants.
3. Adieu, Didier (And Bye-Bye Frank)
Next month's final will likely be Didier Drogba's final match in a Chelsea shirt. Same for Frank Lampard.
Both turn 34 this year, and both are past their primes. But both have also helped Chelsea reach this point.
Drogba joined from Marseille in 2004 and since then, he's helped Chelsea win three league titles, two League Cups, three FA Cups and two Community Shields (with another FA Cup and Champions League final still on the line).
This season Drogba overcame Villas-Boas' doghouse early and played a leading role in Chelsea's Champions League run later on. His strength at the top of the pitch has been key for Chelsea during this run, and these days it's almost impossible to think of the Blues without Drogba.
Get ready, though—Drogba will probably play for another team next season, whether it's in China as outlined by the Guardian or elsewhere.
Lampard signed from West Ham in 2001 and was runner-up for FIFA World Player of the Year in 2005. Like Drogba, Lampard suffered through AVB's reign but rediscovered his best form recently.
But after more than a decade at Chelsea, Lampard's time might be up.
What better way for both to go out than with a Champions League title?
4. UEFA Will Revisit the Yellow Card Rule
Six players—three for each team—will miss the final through yellow-card suspension.
The controversial rule requires any player earning two yellow cards in the knockout stages to sit out the next match. That means a suspension for just two yellow cards in six matches from the Round of 16 through the semifinals.
The six players are Branislav Ivanovic, Ramires and Raul Meireles of Chelsea, and Luiz Gustavo, David Alaba and Holger Badstuber of Bayern.
Nobody seems to like the rule outside UEFA headquarters. In fact, international players' union FIFPro has called for UEFA to grant clemency, as FIFPro spokesman Simon Barker said (per ESPN Soccernet):
Anybody committing a serious offence in the semi-final should be awarded a red card and miss the final.
But the offences that result in a yellow card do not justify the serious punishment of missing the match of your life.
For example, Alaba slipped over and gets the ball kicked against his hand - it is not right that such a player should miss the Champions League final because of this.
Some people say that this will give players the licence to kick all and sundry during the semi-final, but that is utter nonsense.
Any serious offence will result in a red card and that still means exclusion from the final.
Barker is right, but UEFA already turned down the request. But if the quality of play is bad enough in next month's final, UEFA might be forced to reconsider.
5. Bastian Schweinsteiger Will Be Man of the Match
I loved the fact that Bastian Schweinsteiger converted Bayern's decisive penalty against Real Madrid. The German international midfielder has been key for the Germans all season.
In fact, I'd argue that Schweinsteiger's prolonged absence through injury this season contributed significantly to Bayern's failed Bundesliga title push (without taking anything away from an excellent Borussia Dortmund squad).
Schweinsteiger played the full 120 minutes for Bayern on Wednesday, and that suggests he's fully recovered from the ankle injury that kept him sidelined for months.
When Schweini is on his game, Bayern are always at their best. Schweinsteiger plays the role of midfield general expertly, linking play from front to back and pushing Bayern up and down the pitch.
Playing in Bayern's home stadium, Schweinsteiger will be an irresistible force, and he'll be named Man of the Match.
6. Bayern Will Win in Regular Time
Chelsea's defense will be without John Terry (who earned a straight red card in the semifinal second leg against Barcelona) and Branislav Ivanovic.
But they’ll still have David Luiz and Gary Cahill available in defense (provided they’re both fit), along with Ashley Cole.
Bayern’s defense will be even more depleted, but I think Bayern will still win.
Bayern's defensive frailties were already exploited extensively by Real Madrid in the first 15 minutes Wednesday. I don't think Chelsea will do any better than Cristiano Ronaldo and his buddies.
At the same time, Bayern's offense troubled Real throughout 210 minutes over two legs—and that was no accident.
Mario Gomez leads the attack, while Franck Ribery, Thomas Müller and Arjen Robben (though, like I said, I think he might be limited by Cole) all pose a threat.
Strange as it might sound, I expect an open final with multiple goals. I think Bayern will win it.
Why? Just a hunch I guess—though maybe it's because home teams tend to fare well in this sort of situation.