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FC Bayern Munich
Posted by Susie Schaaf on 05/18/2012

This is, of course, the final that I wanted. When the last draw was set in the elimination rounds, I thought, "Is it possible that we get through Real Madrid AND Chelsea survive Barcelona?". Leave those two Spanish teams to their umpteen El Clasicos; I would have found a replay of that to be utterly boring.

I had a shot at getting to Munich for this match, but instead chose the away tie against Real Madrid. You know, so I could make sure we got to this match. And, wow! Was Madrid fun! It took away the sting of losing there against Inter in the final two years ago. But, a part of my heart is always in Munich: My favorite city in the world, my favorite team in the world. And I'm more than a bit wistful that I'm missing the final at home in that most beautiful of football stadiums.

It has been interesting reading the English-speaking press leading up to this glorious match on Saturday. Since this game is comprised of two teams that are not quite as familiar to, let's say, an American audience, the press has gone out of its way to establish "good guy / bad guy" roles. And for once in our storied history, we are considered the good guys! Ha HA! From our Jewish past, through our helping cash-strapped teams, to our solid, profitable business acumen, we are the very model of a successful football club. Somebody tell that to the millions of supporters who hate us in Germany.

But, they won't hate us on Saturday.

There is a marked difference between German and English supporters. Almost every German I know wants Bayern Munich to win. They put their country before their club, whether it's for the good of the national team going in to EURO 2012, of which Bayern sends seven starters, or simply because of German pride. Deutschland ueber alles, indeed. Where most of the English I've spoken with- if they don't already support Chelsea- are pulling for Munich as well: Spurs fans, of course, making the top of that list.

Projected Starting XIs:
FC Bayern Muenchen: Neuer - Lahm, Tymoschuk, Boateng, Contento - Schweinsteiger, Kroos - Robben, T. Mueller, Ribery - Gomez

Chelsea FC: Cech - Bosingwa, Cahill, Luiz, A. Cole - Mikel, Essien - Lampard, Kalou, Mata - Drogba

The Goalkeepers
While prone to some kindergarten-esque mistakes, Manuel Neuer has proved himself to be mentioned as one of-if not the- best goalkeepers in the world. And we all know how he loves a big match. This season he broke Olli Kahn's Bayern Munich record, going over 1000 minutes without conceding. We can only hope he got all that childishness out of the way against Dortmund in the Pokal Final last Saturday.

Petr Cech is no slouch either. He won best goalkeeper of the tournament for three seasons in the Champions League ('05, '07, '08). And holds the Premiere League record of shortest number of apperances to 100 clean sheets (180).

The Defenders
Both teams are dealing with multiple suspensions for this final, and except for Gustavo (Bayern), Ramires (Chelsea) and Meireles (Chelsea), all are defenders. The big question will be whose patchwork defense holds up better?

Jupp Heynckes smartly kept the Lahm / Robben pairing on the right intact. (More on that in a bit.) Tymoschuk will be playing out of position, paired with Boateng in the center, and it will be up to Jerome to compensate for Antoliy's lack of pace. While Daniel van Buyten might have been a bigger physical threat to Drogba, he also might be the slowest player in the Bundesliga. He will be the first defensive sub, however, if things go awry. And remember, Diego Armando Contento started the 2010 Final, and really only lost his starting position due to injury and the rising star of David Alaba.

Bosingwa is certainly the weakest link in Chelsea's back four, and the excellent Branislav Ivanovic will be sorely missed. Cahill and Luiz have only returned to training this week, both having suffered hamstring injuries. Ashley Cole is certainly the best out of the bunch- strong and quick with excellent tackles.

The Defensive Midfielders
Neither Schweinsteiger nor Kroos are particularly defensive-minded, but that will need to change on Saturday. The set-up should look almost like a 4-1-1-3-1, with Bastian in a midfield sweeper-type role and Kroos playing a bit more up-field. One of them will need to stay back to help Boateng and Tymoschuk in defense.

I'm guessing at Mikel and Essien in the holding midfield spots. Although Lampard could be used there as well. While the loses of Terry and Ivanovic are difficult for the Blues to digest, the loss of Ramires, and especially Meireles, will hurt them most; forcing di Matteo to shuffle around his midfield.

The Attacks
What do you say that hasn't already been said about our front four? Gomez will be looking to exploit the (hopefully) questionable fitness of Cahill and Luiz in the center. While Robben faces the best of Chelsea's defense in Ashley Cole, he can expect some help in overlapping runs by Philipp Lahm. And on the other side, Bosingwa is faced with the gargantuan task of containing Franck Ribery. I would expect Mikel to have to come over and help- which opens up the middle of the pitch quite nicely for Toni Kroos and Thomas Mueller.

Again, I have assumed that Mikel and Essien will be in a holding position, but it very well could be Essien on the bench with Lampard holding and Sturridge on the wing. It could also be Torres in the ten-slot behind Drogba, although I think he's more likely as a sub. But, this is all about Didier Drogba- Chelsea's most potent threat (when he's not falling down). That man is an absolute beast, and Jerome Boateng will need the match of his life to contain him. And yes, I am nearly certain Didier will get on the scoresheet. It is a question of how much.

With Chelsea placing out of contention for a Champions League spot next season, and Bayern lately ever the bridesmaid to Borussia Dortmund, this match is everything. EVERYTHING. Two teams. All the marbles. It comes down to this.

Up until I started writing this preview, I really couldn't believe this was all happening. My heart rate has jumped nearly 50 percent since. I expect I won't be sleeping a wink tonight, and I expect millions of supporters on both sides to be in the same sleepless boat. God, I love football!

One final note: Welcome, Blues! I love a bit of banter, but let's keep WWII out of it, OK? Comments insulting other commentors will not be posted. (Comments insulting me, however, are fine... as long as they're funny.) Let's focus on the match, and play nice, boys and girls!

Auf gehts, Bayern! Kaempfen und Siegen!

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Posted by Samrin on 05/18/2012

Susie- talk about heart-rate. Its almost as if the match is today! I like your analysis- the trouble will be Drogba. I have my fingers crossed as usual. Bayern can mess up things at times as they did in the first leg against Basel when the whole side was horribly off-form. I believe this is our year but I will take nothing away from Chelsea considering their road to the final. I forgot Contento started the final in 010- I remember him being in the semi. We could do with Altintop and Ottl this year for added depth. They weren't the greatest of players but I always liked them- esp Ottl. Nonetheless, hope our boys win tomorrow. Its unfortunate you aren't heading down to Munich but enjoy wherever you are..:)

Posted by Kevin on 05/18/2012

I predict a replica of 2006 (?) match in Munich when Bayern dominated but Chelsea were 2 - 1 up till late in the game. Bayern won 3 - 2 at the final whistle.

Posted by Mike in USA on 05/18/2012

Big Spurs supporter over here in America. Been a passing fan of Bayern in Germany (i mean, come on! who else are you going to follow?), but this weekend we'll be watching with baited breath.

It's the CMs that are worrying me. Kroos and Schweiny can play deeper, but they've always had a pure defensive midfielder next to them to help disposes. With Gustavo out, wouldnt the more logical tactic be pushing Tymo up to midfield and bringing in van Buyten at CB? Sure you're sacrificing some speed, but a lot can be said for putting players in their natural positions.

Posted by Shane on 05/18/2012

My BVB friend is supporting Bayern... Can't wait! We need this one, desperately!!!

Posted by Salim Abdulatif From Kenya on 05/18/2012

Hey Susie, for the last 2 days i have been guessing and thinking all kind of formations and players Bayern could use and win this, i can't sleep and i dont know if i have the courage to watch the game, am so tensed and here in Kenya its all about the english premier league which is so hyped and advertised that some pple haven't heard about Bayern. The ref is from Portugal and has officiated Bayern twice against bordeaux in france and inter in munich and we lost both games, he hasn't officiated any chelsea games, hope for the best. I hope we win.

Posted by Tony on 05/19/2012

No excuses. Let us take 2012's most coveted trophy in the world!

Posted by Phil on 05/19/2012

Great preview - I definitely agree that Bosingwa is the weak link. At the end of the day, though, you have to take what they give you and attack where the holes are, regardless of who's lined up where.

I'm very nervous. Entirely possible that something huge happens in the first 10 minutes of the match.

Posted by Kory on 05/19/2012

I'm up at 4 AM here in Colorado. Could not sleep much either. Can't wait to see how it all plays out. Great preview analysis! Better than the one on soccernet. GO Bayern!

Posted by richard on 05/19/2012

it is a final where both sides have a great chance to take it; but the past achievements in both teams will have a bearing whose mindset is more positive to the big envent. and Bayern being past winners and being at home will have an edge which everyone will expect them to utilise. Both teams will employ a tactical approach of course Chelsea trying to be more physical with long balls and counter-attacks, but Bayern will take it by 3/2-1.

Posted by Stephen on 05/19/2012

Unlucky for Bayern, you had enough chances to take the title but for whatever reason it was not to be.
I think it has highlighted a few areas that you need to address in the summer if you are to win the trophy (and something domestically too).
Both of your wingers are very talented players but both of them are also easily jockeyed into coming inside to the congested centre of the park. To me it was not surprise that the goal you scored was from a cross, something which you do not do enough of considering the wingers ability.
Secondly I think you lack someone centrally either in attack or attacking midfield with that genuine spark of creative genius that can turn a game in one move. Kroos is a bit more workmanlike, Muller tends to be deployed out wide etc.
With that in mind what business do you think Bayern will do this summer and what would you like them to do in an ideal scenario? I think if you could get say Sneijder or maybe Hamsik that could make the world of difference.

Posted by Nick on 05/21/2012

>Almost every German I know wants Bayern Munich to win

Here in Northern Germany I know several Germans who did not get behind Bayern - they see Bayern as hugely arrogant. They weren't for Chelsea, just keen to see Hoeness and his cohorts get a bloody nose.

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