Saturday, May 19, 2012

Champions League Final Preview: Bayern Munich vs Chelsea

One of soccer's most important tournaments will be decided today at 2:30 pm eastern, as Bayern Munich hosts Chelsea in a match televised in the U.S. on Fox. Hundreds of millions of viewers from around the world are expected to tune in to this annual "Super Bowl of European Soccer."

Bayern Munich is Germany's most storied club, going for its fifth Champions League title. Its 70,000 seat arena was chosen to host this year's final well before Bayern qualified for the championship match, so it is an amazing story that they are hosting in the final. Bayern's path to the final was a convincing quarterfinal defeat of Marseille and a tough win over Real Madrid in penalty kicks in the semifinals. Bayern finished its Bundesliga season in second place, so they have already secured a berth in next year's Champions League.

Chelsea has had a disappointing season, changing managers in the process, but they defeated Benfica in the quarterfinals and pulled off an upset of defending champion Barcelona in the semifinals. Chelsea has never won the Champons League title, and they will not be in next year's tournament unless they win the crown today due to their sixth place finish in the English Premier League.

Both clubs lose important players due to card suspensions, but the dismissal of Chelsea captain and defensive stalwart John Terry could prove to be the real difference in this matchup. Both clubs have some outstanding offensive threats, with Mario Gomez, Franck Ribery, and Arjen Robben leading a wide Bayern attack and Didier Drogba, Juan Mata, and enigma Fernando Torres leading the Chelsea defensive chemistry will be critical today. Terry's absence will certainly be felt early and often.

I predict that Bayern will ride the wave of emotion from its home crowd and win this final by a score of 2-1. The club that scores the first goal will likely win this one, as an early Bayern tally will get the crowd roaring, while a Chelsea goal could dampen the crowd's spirits and put pressure on the German side. It should be an entertaining finale.

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