Despair. Dejection. Heartache. The aforementioned words only go some way to describing the emotions Chelsea F.C, it’s players, staff and fans have been through over the years in the Champions League, since our maiden voyage into the competition in the 1999/2000 season. From the 5-1 quarter final battering in the Nou Camp after a 3-1 first leg win that year to Garcia’s ghost goal, the penalty defeat to Liverpool, the heartbraking scenes in Moscow to Iniesta’s last minute leveller to send Barca through in 09 after many dubious decisions, we have been through it all in this competition over the years. Now, we stand on the brink of glory once more as we go to Munich aiming to win the trophy with the big ears that have so far eluded us. This Saturday, will we be left feeling the same kind of misery or will we be blissfully delighting in becoming London’s first ever European Champions? Standing in our way is Bayern Munich in their own stadium, not an easy task but then neither was knocking out Bracelona or coming back against Napoli. The trophy Roman is said to crave the most and which his love for football is said to mainly derive from, is just 90 minutes away from being in our hands.
If we are to win this most coveted of prizes, we will have to do so without our captain John Terry, as well as Ivanovic, Ramires and Meireles. Bayern do however have three banned players themselves. For them Gustavo, Alaba and Badstuber will miss the game, but whether their banned players will be as missed as ours is questionable, only time will tell. Fitness doubts remain about Cahill and Luiz, while Schweinsteiger is a doubt for the Germans. The front three of Robben, who we know well of course, Gomez, who has scored 12 goals in the competition already and Ribery are huge danger men and will likely pose an even greater threat than Napoli’s three tenors.
Bayern were dealt a blow in their preparations for the game with a 5-2 defeat to Borussia Dortmund, who they also lost out to in the title race for the second year running, in the DFB Pokal (the German equivalent of the F.A. Cup) final on Saturday. Let’s hope our contrasting cup final fortunes will be repeated once more on Saturday. Although they’ve struggled on home soil at times this season, their run to the final of this competition has been pretty emphatic, including a 7 goal demolition of Basle and a penalty victory over Jose’s Real in the last round. Not even some of the most ardently optimistic blues would fancy our chances should this game go to penalties, particularly with our recent record and Bayern’s enigmatic stopper Nueuer having a speciality for saving spot kicks. Losing two finals in a row on pens would be surely be too much to take.
We have only faced Bayern in European competition once previously, in 2004/05 where we won 4-2 at home and lost 3-2 away in Bayern’s previous home the Olympiastadion, where two late Bayern goals were ineffective and we edged through on aggregate to an eventual semi-final defeat to Liverpool.
17,500 Chelsea fans will embark upon Munich, although many more will probably go without a ticket to sample the atmosphere of what should be a fantastic and historic occasion. The Allianz Arena, built especially for the 2006 World Cup and now hosted jointly by Bayern and 1860 Munich will make a fitting venue for this showpiece event. Whether “home advantage” will pay dividends for the Germans is debatable, but the pressure on them will undoubtedly be huge, especially as they go into the game as strong favourites. If we do end up winning the trophy, a parade around West London is planned for the next day starting at approximately 4pm.
Bring it on! Come on you blue boys!