Rafa Benítez Blog RSS Rafa Benítez Blog

May 2012
18:40 Comments (162)
"D" Day, by Rafa Benitez

General Articles

Rafa Benítez

If this was WWII we would be getting ready for the “D” Day and waiting for the “H” hour. The new Allianz Arena, home of Bayern Munich, hosts its very first UEFA Champions League Final despite another three finals taking place in the city in the past: in 1979 Nottingham Forest were the victors against Malmoe, in 1993 it was the turn of Olympique Marseille vs AC Milan and in 1997 Borussia Dortmund lifted the Cup after winning to Juventus.

The two finalists this year will try to break a barren Champions league spell. Bayern Munich can be the first team to win the final at a team’s home ground in the current champions league format. Before the “H” hour arrives we can analyze in depth the technical side of this big match.

First, I am not a wizard and I don’t like to speak if as I were one when I talk about football or about Managers that for obvious reasons I truly respect. My only intention is to study the different options that they have considering the players they have in order to win on Saturday, especially the suspended ones.

We are going to show in a very clear way the players that are suspended in the following image:

We will also show the different tactical idea due to the suspensions. I also insist, it is only one idea, I do not try to guess the system or the team, I only talk about possibilities in order that the reader can have a different perspective to think about.

Also taking in consideration the recovery of some injury players like David Luiz and Cahill, will show us the following:

Bosingwa (who played in the last Champions League game) will come into the starting team as a right-winger and from there; you have freedom to choose your team and system.

Looking at what we have said and playing in Bayern’s Stadium, the normal option is to think that the German team will be leading the game and the English one will play counterattack as they already have shown against FC Barcelona. If this happens, Bayern Munich’s defensive changes could be considered an advantage for Chelsea as to coordinate the defense takes time and Bayern doesn’t have enough despite beating Colonia 1-4. Using the same system in a league game is totally different to using it in the Champions League Final against Chelsea.

The fact that Tymoshchuck could play as a centre back may be an indication to how Chelsea may play the ball directly towards Drogba. This is one of the alternatives that Chelsea may choose.

I am intrigued to the see the level of midfield cover to a player like Obi Mikel when the Bayern wingers go inside between the lines and also the support to the Chelsea wingers when the same wingers play one vs one against the defense of the Londoners.

Coming back to focus on support, it is not the same to play two legs against Barcelona (when they played a deep defensive and just try to play counterattack with few occasions and to try to take advantage of the goal scored at home) that to play the Final when you must score more that the other team to win (remember that in case of a nill-nill draw penalties decide the winner). In conclusion, if you want to win you must play forward to help the movements of your strikers behind the defenders at the back. Barcelona couldn’t play in that way because Chelsea’s defensive line was so far back during both semifinal games.

The first decision to make for Di Matteo: attack or counterattack. If he decides to play counterattack, he has to decide the distance between goalkeeper and defenders. You are free to think and discuss the option that he will take.

Bayern Munich has the challenge of playing at home (with the added home favorite pressure) and winning the Champions League in front of its supporters. Plus they start as a favorite thanks to the excellent game played in Madrid and the Chelsea players giving them such respect. This fact can create anxiety or give them extra confidence (although I don’t think so) as they will feel the pressure of having to win a historical Final at home. The better team in controlling their anxieties will have a big advantage. Chelsea primarily as it’s the trophy they most desire to win. Bayern because of their home advantage to win the trophy in front of their fans.

Let’s now focus on tactics. The Bayern that has been playing and performing to a high level was the one as it is shown in the following image:

Missing all these players will force their Manager Jupp Heynckes to change the position of several other players and to move some of the lines.

The suspension of David Alaba may be very important as he was performing really well, and was one of the best players, running along the wing frequently and giving width to the team’s attack when Ribery moved to the inside. Luckily Contento is a specialist in that position and can perform very well there. The main problem for Heynckes is missing Badstuber and Luiz Gustavo because he will need to make a lot of changes in the middle of the field, maybe too many. The team could lose balance and their defensive play may be affected but they will have better control of the ball and they will lose “height” in defense plus the long kick of Badstuber’s with his left foot. Tymoshchuck is the main alternative to play in the middle but it means he need to quickly adapt to that position and coordinate his movements with the rest of defenders. The following image shows what could be the first eleven:

The ability to pass players of the wingers, the finishing ability of Mario Gomez and the attacking movements of Lahm on the right are some of the main weapons of Bayern. I was impressed with how they controlled the game against Real Madrid and if they do the same in the Munich final they have enough quality in the midfield and close to the box to create chances and make life very difficult for Chelsea.

Definitively, as Heynckes has said, the Final at the moment is 50/50. We hope to witness a great performance and a great game of football and as usual, the best advice is: enjoy!

162 Comments Send us your opinions
18/05/12 at 19:00:57 #1
Hopefully you are gong too be next Liverpool manager again
18/05/12 at 19:09:51 #2
Very exciting final, thank you for the analysis. I have been impressed with Kroos, and he could be pivotal on proving himself on the day should that be the managers decision.
18/05/12 at 19:09:56 #3
Really hope that FSG give you a call,even if you couldn't work under a DOF hope they give yoy a chance
18/05/12 at 19:22:01 #4
Jonny Herbert
Hi Rafa,

Exciting times! Great insight as ever.
Traditionally, with my British mentality I've always thought of the defense as the back four, the strikers as the guys closest to the oppositions goal and all others as midfielders. Your article refers to Boswinga as a winger though? In your 4-2-3-1 system does this mean you see the back four as the two centre halfs plus the deeplying midfielders (meireles and mikel in your first screenshot) and therefore the full back positions as an attacking berth?

Kind Regards


Hello Jonny, the full backs are more offensive players every year, so, sometimes you can play wingers there. Thanks.
18/05/12 at 19:34:00 #5
Hi rafa please come back to anfield and finish what you started
Darren chorley
18/05/12 at 19:43:26 #6
I think the spotlight on Tymoshchuck is very telling. Coupled with the erratic form of Boateng in recent months,Badstuber might well be the player they miss the most, especially given the real possibility that Drogba would be leading the line for Chelsea. How well (or not)they contain the Drogba threat might just decide the game. Cheers!
18/05/12 at 19:47:53 #7
Brian Zentaef
Hi Rafael,

You mentioned anxiety as a factor in this game, naturally both teams will be anxious, first champions league win (Chelsea) and home territory (Bayern)

I feel the team that can take the emotion out of the occasion will fare the best, to treat the game as another and focus on the job in hand.
I feel the Germans are better at this (certainly how Hamaan played in 2005)

This is why I think Chelsea have a harder job. For players like Drogba, Lampard, Kalou, Malouda, Cole and Bosingwa it is probably the final time they will have an opportunity to win the Champions League and will see the trophy as a Unicorn, something they could never capture.

On another note Rafa, as you are available, capable and already settled, you should be top of the list in terms of the Liverpool job. All the supporters understand the situation when you left. There is a crescendo building for your return.
18/05/12 at 19:52:04 #8
Interesting thoughts in this article Rafa.

I think the suspensions may mean that both teams may struggle to control the game, and the intensity may suffer.

However I think Bayern are favourites, mainly because Ribery, Robben and Lahm are able to play, which will be a big help. Watching them, Chelsea sometimes have problems pressuring and covering in the wide areas and this will help Bayern to use their strengths.

As for Chelsea's attack, they have the ability to pass through the middle to Mata behind the main striker but if Bayern work as a unit, as they did against Real Madrid, Chelsea may have problems. Real's biggest threat against Bayern was their long switch of play from the centre backs or Alonso to Di Maria on the right. I don't know if Chelsea will be able to use this, so they may require good games and link ups from their attacking full backs.
18/05/12 at 19:52:29 #9
Anfield Road
Come home Rafa, things havent been the same without you..

18/05/12 at 19:57:08 #10
Jonny Herbert
Great stuff Rafa, thanks for the response.

For what it's worth, from what I've seen of Mr Di Matteo I personally feel he will go with the more cautious counter-attacking team than the 'throw caution to the wind' type approach. I like the look of the 4 back most players you've put forward - that reeks of probably what Andre Villas-Boas wanted in the longer term; pace and energy to play a high line and press the ball over the field. However, with Lampard and Mikel not really capable of that in the middle I think they will replicate their FA Cup Final performance i.e. controlled and steady. I would guess Mata will play off one flank and a more defensively minded player added into the mix - Essien perhaps at the expense of Malouda/Kalou/Sturridge.

I don't know whether you like getting drawn commenting on individual players, but David Luiz (for all the flack he has received) strikes me as a real player who will become world class as a Centre Half with the correct mentoring. Thanks.
<< Previous12345678910Next >>