Chelsea’s depleted defence will need to bend, but not break in the Allianz Arena if they’re to defy the odds and defeat Bayern Munich in their own back yard, says Mark Lawrenson
The Champions League Final will revive some wonderful memories.
Back in 1984, I was part of the Liverpool team which faced an equally tough test by playing an opponent in their own backyard.
We beat Roma in the Olympic Stadium in the Italian capital to win the European Cup and, believe me, it is such a tough task.
To have to go to a team’s own stadium is hard enough in the two-legged format of the competition when you have the other leg at home.
But to play the opponent in the final, on their own ground, with their fans cheering their team on is a huge feat.
That is exactly what Chelsea face tonight against Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena.
My memories of ’84 are all about the crowd roaring Roma on for the entire match. It does make a difference and it’s ridiculous that the game has not been shifted.
It is such a huge advantage for Bayern Munich. The final is weighted in their favour – so much so Chelsea’s away goals should count double!
We played well back in 1984. Took the lead through Phil Neal, Roma pegged us back and it was a good game which we could have won near the end.
But it eventually went to penalties and Alan Kennedy struck the winning spot-kick
The key for Chelsea will be to silence the home fans. If they can do that then it will not only put the pressure on Bayern but also give Roberto Di Matteo’s players extra belief.
Chelsea are the outsiders with the bookies. Missing two big defenders in John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic is a blow.
Gary Cahill and David Luiz are both hoping to be fit, but they haven’t played in weeks.
Ramires and Raul Meireles are, like Terry and Ivanovic, suspended for the final and their absence could be similarly fatal. Ramires has been outstanding recently thanks to his energy, work rate and his lovely goal in the Nou Camp.
Chelsea knocking out Barcelona in the semi-final almost makes you think they are feted to win the Champions League trophy.
Sometimes a team gains momentum and belief through a competition and Chelsea must hope they have that head of steam.
They were heroic in the Nou Camp and they will have to summon up that spirit again. Several players stood out, especially Didier Drogba.
Drogba’s performance was one of the best, most heroic and committed I’ve seen this season. He was fantastic.
He led the line at first, ended up playing at left-back and put in a shift selflessly and for the team. He takes some criticism at times, but you just have to praise him for games like that.
It will be a night for heroes because Munich will be so dangerous.
Like Chelsea, they have players suspended but their key attackers, are all available. Mario Gomez, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben have pace, power and directness to really unsettle Chelsea’s back four.
My worry is if the Blues have to play the likes of Jose Bosingwa. As a defender, he is a liability, and will be exposed either at right-back or as a stand-in centre-half.
But it’s not just their forwards that will frighten Chelsea.
In Bastian Schweinsteiger, Bayern have one of my favourite European midfielders.
The German is 27 and at the peak of his powers. He is full of pace, power and energy. He can really get behind opponents.
Chelsea will need to be at their very best not just to win but to sit deep, defend like warriors, keep the baying home crowd at bay and try to nick a result somehow.
As I’ve said, Drogba could be the key. Just look at his goal against Tottenham in the FA Cup semi-final to see how he can score spectacular efforts, bully opponents and get a result for his team.
But most of all, it will be about being a tight, compact unit who defend well. They will need to be together and focus for 90 minutes and more.
It’s a huge night for Di Matteo and a few of his players. For Frank Lampard and Drogba this is their last chance perhaps.
Even if Di Matteo doesn’t win the trophy, he’s done a fantastic job. He’s won the FA Cup and led them to a European final. That says much about the players’ respect for him.
But there’s only one man who will decide whether that will be enough to give him a future at the club – Roman Abramovich.
The Champions League is Chelsea’s Holy Grail. They came close under Avram Grant and that wasn’t enough for him to keep the job.
I suspect even victory won’t not be enough for Di Matteo either. But Chelsea and some of the old guard will have their moment in Munich. And they must seize it.
However, I do fancy Bayern to triumph – and to triumph in 90 minutes.
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