I’m not sure when the butterflies started. They were certainly there on Monday as the reality dawned on me that within a matter of days Chelsea may have achieved immortality; a member of one of the select few to have won club football’s most coveted trophy; a place amongst the world’s elite (and Aston Villa). In the aftermath of the semi-final euphoria, it almost felt as if we had had our final such was the catharsis afforded by the epic defeat of Barcelona. A berth in the biggest match of the season merely seemed like a bonus.
Though perhaps the nerves started a couple of weeks ago when I was still not entirely certain that I would be making the trip to Munich such was the delay in information from Chelsea FC regarding tickets and the loyalty points required to obtain one. Another source of concern were the extortionately high prices being charged for flights and accommodation. Scheduled direct flights that would arrive in time for kick off started at £450 and rose vertiginously thereof. An array of different travel arrangements were investigated including taking the train (more expensive than flying!) and changing planes at a variety of European destinations like Brussels, Paris and Amsterdam (impractical given my personal timetable).
Hotels were even less value for money with the cheapest in Munich offering rooms from £460. I even tried a hostel which offered me a bunk in a dormitory for £86 a night. Fair enough, I thought, expensive but affordable. That was until the small print stated that I had to book for a minimum stay of three nights making the total cost to stay for a single night in a room full of smelly strangers a whopping £258!
In the end I opted to go via the club’s official travel partners, Thomas Cook, who for £500 plus match ticket (a cool £135) will get me there and back including transfers within the space of 24 hours. I have since met supporters who have found more reasonable deals than I did – most involve staying a fair way outside Munich – but the fact that I am guaranteed to see the biggest game in Chelsea’s history is good enough for me after I achieved the requisite amount of loyalty points following the second round of ticket sales.
As for our chances of winning, I have been desperate to hang on to the mind-set that has served me so well over the past few months, namely abject pessimism. It is a departure from my usual approach with optimism being my natural state in all things football. My glass is always half full evidenced by the fact that I even attend major international tournaments genuinely believing England have a chance of going all the way such is my positive delusion. But I have found that an utterly sullen and miserable attitude can reap the happiest of outcomes. I thought the Napoli front three would scupper us in the second round, I was extremely cautious ahead of the second leg against Benfica citing the likes of Pablo Aimar and Nicolas Gaitan as major threats. Barcelona was obviously the final nail in the coffin. I even thought Tottenham would beat us in the FA Cup semi-final though, in hindsight, how could I have been so stupid?!
The same attempts at playing down Chelsea’s chances on Saturday have been made but this time I can’t help but have a chink of belief. Yes, we have four players suspended. Yes, we are hoping beyond hope that we are able to field one rookie Champions League centre-back (Gary Cahill) alongside an accident that frequently happens (David Luiz). Yes, we are playing the mighty Bayern Munich on their own patch. Yes, we will have to nullify not just the sensational Arjen Robben but the devastating (on his day) Franck Ribery and the goal machine that is Mario Gomez.
But then I remember that this vaunted Bavarian giant got thumped 5-2 on Saturday in the German Cup final by Borussia Dortmund. Without having to look too far for parallels, didn’t Barcelona lose a rather important match – the La Liga deciding El Clasico – in the fixture immediately preceding their elimination at the hands of Ramires, Torres and co? And in any case, Chelsea have already pulled off the implausible against Napoli and bent the laws of the physical universe to knock out Lionel Messi and his mates.
Only one more miracle is required and with living legends such as Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba set to take the field who would bet against the Blues becoming London’s first ever European Cup winners?
Plenty, probably, but not me.
COME ON YOU BLUES!!!!
You can read more of Phil's opinions at ShoutyAndSpitty.com or on Twitter @PhilLythell