By Shane Thomas
In a few hours time, Chelsea take to the Allianz Arena to contest the Champions League final against Bayern Munich. Chelsea have endured a turbulent season, and have reached Saturday's final in spite of the lack of stability at the club. After a 6th place finish in the Premier League - their worst league position since 2002 - they are left needing to win in Munich to compete in the tournament next season. Bayern - with home advantage - go into the match as favourites, but not overwhelmingly so. Here's four key areas that could expedite the West Londonders upsetting the form book yet again:
1) Expose The Home Advantage "Myth":
Yes, the Allianz Arena is Bayern's home stadium. But that doesn't mean the occasion will be a regular home match for the German side. It's technically a "neutral" game, so the quotient of support in the crowd won't be dominantly Bavarian. Chelsea have no reason to approach this game with a deferent mindset. If they can gain traction in the match, there's no doubt that their fans will make themselves heard, loud & clear.
2) Plow Through Bayern's "Soft Centre":
While some sections of the British media have focused mainly on the absentees in the Chelsea team - particularly John Terry - they seem to have forgotten that Bayern also are afflicted by having key men suspended from the final. Holger Badstuber, David Alaba and Luis Gustavo will all be watching from the sidelines. Bayern's defence isn't the most reliable at the best of times - Borussia Dortmund put 5 past them last weekend - so think how vulnerable they'll be without one of their centre halves, left back & defensive midfielder.
3) Attack Their Attackers:
With Brano Ivanovic one of the suspended Chelsea players, Jose Bosingwa is expected to start at right back. While susceptible defensively, Bosingwa can be a dangerous auxiliary attacker. With Ashley Cole on the other flank, Chelsea have the means to push their full backs on, which could pin back Bayern's key forward threat, as they rely heavily on the twin threat of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben on the wings. If Cole and Bosingwa can win the day out wide, then it will either force Ribery & Robben to track back, nullifying their attacking menace. Or, if they refuse to work back defensively, then it'll allow Chelsea to overload an already leaky Bayern back-line.
4) Be Fearless:
All of the three earlier points come under the umbrella of this fourth one. While many have focused on Chelsea's defensive durability, especially in the semi-final victory over Barcelona, they seem to assume that the Blues will follow this same strategem in Munich. Well, Bayern aren't Barcelona. They're a fine team, but they are eminently beatable, and Chelsea have the players to beat them. And with some of their best defensive players forced to watch from the sidelines (Terry, Ivanovic, Meireles, Ramires), it makes sense for Roberto Di Matteo to focus on the remaining strengths in the squad.
If they walk onto the pitch, simply looking to contain Bayern, then the Germans have more than enough firepower to be out of sight by half-time. Letting Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos have the supremacy in midfield will play right into Bayern's hands, as the ball will find it's way to Robben, Ribery or Thomas Muller, who will then work it to Mario Gomez, and then... well, I think we know what happens next.
I hope that Roberto Di Matteo isn't the one person in Britain who hasn't been to see Avengers Assemble yet, as it contains a line that he could do worse than replicate before sending his charges out to become the first London club to win the European Cup. As Iron Man is about to leap into action, the more reticent Captain America warns, "We need a plan of attack.", to which Iron Man replies, "I have a plan. Attack!"
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