The Champions League final is upon us. Chelsea have the chance to become the first team from London to ever win the European Cup and at the same time qualify for next year’s tournament. Roberto Di Matteo can make himself a Stamford Bridge legend, succeeding where Jose Mourinho, Avram Grant, Carlo Ancelotti and Andre Villas-Boas all failed, with the bonus of finding his temporary status upgraded to permanent.
Both teams have a lot of key men missing through suspension, and injury doubts linger over their replacements, but here are the five men who could cause Chelsea another Champions League final heartbreak.
1. Franck Ribery & 2. Arjen Robben
Bayern’s two best players, remarkably similar in style and personality, it’s amazing they don’t get on better!
Ribery is naturally right footed, but equally adept with his left. He will start on the left wing with license to roam right across the pitch, cutting inside and causing havoc. This season Ribery has really excelled, with 16 goals and 26 assists in all competitions, and his tricky, technical style looks set to terrorise either Paulo Ferreira or Jose Bosingwa.
On the opposite flank (most of the time) is former Chelsea, PSV and Real Madrid winger Arjen Robben. Predominantly left footed, the Dutch International looks to run at defenders at pace, cutting inside and unleashing a powerful shot with that left boot. He will look to attack Ashley Cole’s weaker side, but if the England left back can get forward he is unlikely to be tracked by Robben.
3. Mario Gomez
I don’t know how he does it. Every time I see this striker he looks languid, cumbersome, not cut out for the top level, yet his goalscoring record is phenomenal. 21 goals in 51 appearances for Germany, 64 in 94 since his Bundesliga record move to Bayern from Stuttgart, Gomez clearly has the instincts of a goalscorer.
At 6ft 2in he will cause an aerial threat that Chelsea did not have to worry about against Barcelona, and while he won’t look to involve himself too much in the build up, the Chelsea centre backs, whoever they may end up to be, will always need to keep an eye on the striker.
4. Manuel Neuer
When Chelsea attack one of Europe’s top goalkeepers will be standing in their way.
Neuer’s € 22million move from Schalke to Bayern was the second highest fee for a goalkeeper, and managed to upset both sets of fans! Schalke were disappointed that he left Gelsenkirchen for one of their rivals, while Bayern fans were angry the club had signed a Schalke player! However, after breaking the club record for consecutive clean sheets in a row, the Bayern fans accepted Neuer and rightly so.
A magnificent shot stopper and commanding in the air, Neuer can still make the odd error but that is by far the exception, not the rule. Also, typically for a German, he is an expert at penalties, and saved two in the shootout against Real Madrid in the semi final.
His defence may be missing a couple of first choicers, but Chelsea will still do well to beat Neuer.
5. Thomas Muller
Bayern will likely pick three exceptional midfielders in Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos, and Thomas Muller, all with the potential to be match winners, but I’ve singled out the latter as the man most likely to upset the Chelsea apple cart.
Muller has found it hard to get into the Bayern team of late, but with the suspension of Luis Gustavo he looks set to return. He has the potential to pop up with a goal, as England found out in the World Cup in South Africa, in fact Muller picked up the Golden Boot thanks to five goals and three assists. He has hit double figures in each of his three full seasons at Bayern, and will want a Champions League winner’s medal to add to his growing collection.
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