By Shaun Cronin (@ShaunCronin7)
Sky Sports may be referring to today as the ‘Day of Destiny’ but it is quite simply D-Day for Chelsea’s ageing squad as they go search of the Champions League crown that has eluded them since the Roman Abramovich revolution in 2003.
Bayern Munich provide the opposition as the Blues travel into the lion’s den to play Bayern in the Allianz Arena.
Much has been made of Bayern’s home advantage but the last time a team participated in a European Cup final at their home ground they were unsuccessful when Liverpool defeated Roma is the Stadio Olimpico in 1984.
There can be no doubt the miracle workings Roberto Di Matteo has performed since he took over as interim manger, indeed had you told a Chelsea fan after Andre Villas-Boas was sacked in March that they would have won the FA Cup and be in the Champions League final by mid-May they would have looked at you as if you had ten heads.
The Chelsea team that were defeated in Napoli in the first leg of the last 16 tie were broken men, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole on the bench and while the scoreline only read 3-1 the Blues were battered all over the park leaving the club in total disarray.
In came Di Matteo who seems to understand that some of the club’s old stagers still have a part to play and wins over Napoli, Benfica and an epic encounter with Barcelona in the knockout stages has seen the Blues miraculously into this final.
Bayern for their part have been the model of German efficiency in their passage through the knockout stages with easy victories over Basel, Marseille and an epic shootout win over Real Madrid at the Bernabéu.
Not doubt the biggest threat to the Blues comes from wide areas with former Chelsea winger Arjen Robben and French maestro Franck Ribéry bombing done the flanks.
Both have been in outstanding form throughout the competition and are more then capable of picking off most teams at will.
The men from Stamford Bridge will need to be disciplined and have their wingers drop back to double up on these dual menaces.
Interestingly four of the Chelsea team that defeated Munich 6-5 on aggregate in 2005 quarter-final are likely to start tonight with Petr Cech, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba still plying there trade in blue.
Funnily, a lot of the build up to the game has focused on the men that won’t be on the pitch with John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, Ramires and Raul Meireles suspended on the blue side and Luiz Gustavo, David Alaba and Holger Badstuber missing for Bayern.
All bar Terry are missing having picked up second yellows, it really is a rule UEFA need to look at again as a minor misdemeanour can see you missing out on the biggest game of your life and also it robs the fans of seeing both teams go head to head with their best sides available.
For Terry, there can be no excuse he deserves to be banned for his moment of madness in the Nou Camp.
Badstuber will be for a massive miss for the Germans at the back, the tough tackling international defender should be replaced by Ukrainian midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk at the back and Chelsea will see a bulls eye on him as he is not blessed with a big physical frame so Drogba will fancy his chances in that battle especially considering it could be the Ivoirian’s last game for the club.
Chelsea should welcome back Gary Cahill and David Luiz to the heart of defence and Di Matteo will need to make sure they are fit otherwise José Bosingwa will need to match his Barcelona heroics.
You would think Bayern would have the edge in midfield as they ooze class in all areas, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos holding down the central roles and Thomas Müller operating as the point of the German international triangle.
Lampard, Michael Essien and John Obi Mikel will have their hands full handling that trio but it’s also important that Lampard get forward to join Juan Mata and Drogba at every opportunity because he can be a huge danger to any keeper from 25 yards.
Di Matteo is rumoured to be considering throwing youngster Ryan Bertrand in at left midfield to help protect Ashley Cole instead of playing the more experienced Florent Malouda who is struggling with a hamstring injury if so it would represent great faith in a youngster who has not played a second of Champions League football all year.
Stats can be conflicting at times when you looking for indictors on how finals will pan out, on one side, Bayern have won seven home games on the trot on the way to the final but on the other side, German and English side have met six times in the final of Europe’s premier club competition and a Bundesliga side has only prevailed once so take your pick.
You would have to say that over the year this Chelsea side have deserved to win at least one Champions League and but for the width of the post in 2008 in Moscow they would have but in football you don’t often get what you deserve you have to be will to go out and take it.
Bayern Munich go into the game looking to not only win the cup at home but also keep it as to strive to join Liverpool as the third most successful club in European history with five titles.
Chelsea have never won and will be hoping to finally justify the investment Abramovic made all those years ago with an unlikely victory tonight.
One thing is for sure the eye of the world will be on the Allianz Arena come 7.45pm and it should be a cracking contest.
Prediction: Been leaning towards Chelsea all week but have to go with logic Bayern are too strong in midfield and upfront. Bayern win 3-1.