The climax to the season, one that really could top all of our seasons past, is fast approaching. A big cup clash in Bavaria awaits and I’m already feeling so tense that I think the first note of the Champions League theme on Saturday night might make me jig about impotently, much like the Roberto Mancini touchline spasm that was performed last Sunday. Alongside all of the gripes around this year’s FA Cup Final (every fan in the land is in agreement on traditions being upheld but those half-time empty corporate seats are clearly the bums that count) I felt I was slightly hampered in my celebrations. Sure, I was cock-a-hoop and over-the-moon and as drunk as any of our previous FA Cup glories but there was always a niggle that this was just the warm up – the shadow of the even bigger final loomed large.
Thankfully we managed to win our warm-up and get our hands on some silverware whereas Bayern were trounced 5-2 in the German equivalent at the weekend. The football mantra is that wins breed confidence, trophies even more so, but it might also be said that Bayern will be smarting from that defeat and will certainly have a point to prove. Rather than any psychological advance being gained from the domestic cup results I think it’s more important what the game told us about Bayern’s defence – mainly that it can crumble like a biscuit. And it will be a soft centred biscuit at that. With the tough-tackling and, more defensive-minded, Luiz Gustavo missing from the middle it’s presumed that Thomas Muller will take up the advanced midfield role. Kroos will slot back next to Schweinsteiger and both will be expected to put a shift in. As gifted and technical as both midfielders are, the defensive side of the game isn’t their strong point and it will certainly be an area to exploit for the likes of Lampard, Kalou and Mata. On the other hand these are two quality playmakers lying deep and could dictate the pace of the game if we drop off too much. There is certainly joy to be had breaking quickly, as Dortmund know so well, but we must also stop the supply line to the dangerous wide men to limit any chances. Personally I think Ashley Cole has got more than enough to keep Arjen Robben quiet and Ribery’s infield dribbles should be less of a threat without David Alaba galloping past him into any vacated space on the flank. Even so, both are more than capable of producing something special on the night and must be guarded against.
Like so many games this season, and why he was rightly voted as player of the season for me, our key man must be Juan Mata. We know our number ten is hard working and can put pressure on the deep lying midfielders. If we can nick the ball earlier in play then Bayern might be in trouble. Of course the little magician’s main attributes are with the ball at his feet and we need to work the ball quickly so that he do damage in the right areas and spaces. Bayern’s defence has been ropey at the best of times and without both Alaba and Holger Badstuder our front line has a real opportunity do some damage. Drogba can bully or Torres can use his pace to stretch the defence, who knows perhaps Robbie might even start with both and cause panic amongst the ranks.
Last but not least we have the final problem, that we will of course be on Bayern’s home patch. There’s been talk that this might be a lot of pressure for the home side but I can’t see it as anything other than a positive – if it was at the Bridge we’d be full of confidence we’d win and it’ll be no different for them on Saturday. The difference being of course is that the fans are split 50-50 for the final and the rest goes to those noisy corporate sponsors. We’ve faced down far more intimidating places in the Champions League this year and, if anything, Munich will compare favourably. 17,000 Chelsea fans can make a hell of a lot of noise, ‘home’ game or not. The same type of disciplined performance that saw us to victory in the semi-finals and finals these past few weeks has the potential to write a new page of history for the club – we’ll have to do it in Bayern’s den but I believe this Chelsea team likes a challenge.