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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
19/05/12 at 09:07:51 #101
Hi Rafa,

Intelligent, insightful and dignified analysis as always.
Just what is required to steer the mighty SS Liverpool FC from troubled waters at present and beyond. I too like many other intelligent Livey fans are praying for your return soon and I know that even you 'The Trusted One' will need time to turn this ship around.
19/05/12 at 09:26:18 #102
Lacky Singh
Some very good analysis Rafa, always the master tactician. Will you be coming back to Liverpool? We miss you!!! Please come back!!!
19/05/12 at 09:38:02 #103
John M
We never wanted you to leave, but now we need and want you back Rafa - nobody else is qualified like you, and nobody else is going to unite the fans and make us believe again. I just hope the owners give you the chance - we all want you. #bringrafahome YNWA
19/05/12 at 09:43:35 #104
Rafa as you said I think it is 50/50 but perhaps the home crowd gives Bayern the edge. I particularly liked David Alaba and Mario Gomez. Pity David Alaba is suspended. Thanks for Istanbul, fans all over Europe voted for it as Best European Night. Please come Home to Anfield, We are Waiting to Welcome you Home.
19/05/12 at 09:45:17 #105
renz from Kenya
Rafa, you are my hero. If FSG don't hire you then they are clueless. In the champions league you have outwitted mourinho, ancelotti, mancini and so many more. I pray that you will be back soon.

I noticed against united, there were always two people marking ronaldo e.g. the full back and a defensive midfielder. With kenny, we left too many spaces at the back. You can even see Reinas frustration from winning the golden glove so many times and now he has no protection. Also, Carra has always been slow but the formations you played allowed him to play to his strengths. You brought the best out of the players and you have an eye for quality players with the right mentality.

All the best in your interview. I'm sure you will be able to convince FSG because you are a genius!
19/05/12 at 10:35:46 #106
Rafa, please come home.

If I had to describe each and every thing you brought to this club, I would still be here tomorrow; you’re the man that realised my dreams.

You were so, so strong. You held our club together when it felt like everything else around us was falling apart. Without you, we’d have fallen deeper and deeper into the darkness. We need you now.

They say you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone, that was never the case with you, Rafa. We always knew what we had; we just never thought we’d lose you.

Please come home.
19/05/12 at 10:39:38 #107
Do you not feel that chelsea team to be a bit to open? You haven't git the best defensive right back in boswinga and not sure kalou and malouda are as hard working as say a dirk kuyt type. Also think the midfield is a bit light with only mikel to do the graft. I think bayern and their wingers could prove the difference.
19/05/12 at 11:18:49 #108

Before Kenny was fired, I asked you a question about who Liverpool needs to compete in the top 4 next season and you replied that you didn't want to talk about that as we had staff in charge at LFC.

Now that we don't have staff and many of us are hoping that you will be the new boss; can I ask you that question again?

Who do you think Liverpool need to bring in to compete in the league? Or do you think we just need a different mentality?


Hello, still I can't answer sorry.
19/05/12 at 11:24:10 #109
Rafa - Please come back to LFC and bring the glory back to our club. Kenny is still a legend. Come back Rafa.
19/05/12 at 11:24:21 #110
Hope you all shed a tear http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y02c6AF4Jfo&feature=related