Last chance to be a Champion
When the draw for the later stages of the Champions League opened the way for Barcelona and Real Madrid to meet in the final in Munich, not many people would have placed their bets on one involving Bayern Munich and Chelsea. Fixturessports Updated: May 19, 2012 02:12 IST
When the draw for the later stages of the Champions League opened the way for Barcelona and Real Madrid to meet in the final in Munich, not many people would have placed their bets on one involving Bayern Munich and Chelsea.
The prospect of a dream El Clasico played out between the Spanish giants in Munich seemed highly likely, if not inevitable.
But German club's semi-final penalty shootout win over Real and Chelsea's heroic rearguard action in Barcelona has produced an intriguing showdown to an unpredictable competition. Bayern's dreams of lifting the trophy in their home stadium had been at the top of their agenda since before the start of the season.
Chelsea's billionaire Russian owner, Roman Abramovich has had his eyes on the trophy since he bought the club in 2003, although even he must have thought the chances of lifting it this season were slight as their campaign appeared to disintegrate under coach Andre Villas-Boas.
But after Villas-Boas was sacked in March and replaced by caretaker Roberto di Matteo, Chelsea's season came alive and they find themselves on the brink of being crowned European champions for the first time.
However, they did not recover their league form sufficiently to finish in the top four and ended sixth, their lowest position for a decade, which means if they fail to win on Saturday, they will not be in the Champions League next season.
It is one of the reasons Di Matteo's future is still in doubt, although he said at his first pre-final news briefing on Monday: "I am not thinking about myself.
"What is at stake is that we have a chance to bring the European title home for the first time in this club's history - and that's all that is important.
Chelsea will be without suspended captain John Terry, fellow defender Branislav Ivanovic and midfielders Ramires and Raul Meireles. Defenders Gary Cahill and David Luiz could be fit after injury but midfielder Florent Malouda is 50-50.
Bayern have home advantage but go into the game after losing 5-2 to Borussia Dortmund in the German Cup final last weekend and also have three players suspended - midfielders Holger Badstuber, David Alaba and Luiz Gustavo.
Only two sides have lifted the European Cup at home: Real Madrid in 1957 and Inter Milan in 1965, and the last team to play at home - AS Roma in 1984 - lost on penalties to Liverpool.
Back in the summer club bosses feared even getting to the Allianz Arena for the showdown would be a long shot after they were drawn in the "group of death" as club CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge called it alongside Manchester City, Villarreal and Napoli.
Few would have thought it would be Bayern and Napoli that went on but Bayern progressed steadily under Jupp Heynckes, in his third spell at the club and winner of the Champions League title with Real Madrid in 1998.
First Published: May 19, 2012 00:30 IST