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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 14:53:52 #121
Personally I think the game will be decided by how well the centrebacks play. I can see Ribery and Robben being too much for Luiz and Cahil to handle. The overlapping Lahm and Contento will not be shackled by Malouda or Kalou leaving Cole and Bosingwa exposed. If Cahil and Luiz aren't co-ordinated properly I can see then being pulled out of position far too easily and Gomez getting plenty of chances. Bayern need to stop the supply to Drogba and with Ramirez being suspended I don't think they will find it too difficult to close off the supply through the midfield or to close Mata down. I agree the pressure on Bayern will be immense, but if they Chelsea don't remain compact at the back Bayern won't have to over-commit and should win comfortably. Rafa please come home.
19/05/12 at 14:54:00 #122
19/05/12 at 14:54:02 #123
Great manager with great article!

I strongly believe that Liverpool will get five more times winner in Champion League if you were the manager of Liverpool in coming decades. YOU ARE THE ONE FOR LIVERPOOL!
19/05/12 at 14:54:22 #124
Great manager with great article!

I strongly believe that Liverpool will get five more times winner in Champion League if you were the manager of Liverpool in coming decades. YOU ARE THE ONE FOR LIVERPOOL!
19/05/12 at 14:59:50 #125
Raziq - Malaysia
Dear Rafa,

An in depth analysis from a Master Tactician like you. For me you are better than Mourinho. With very less money, you won the CL. I used to wake up at 3:45am in Malaysia to watch those games in 2004/2005.My wife was expecting and I remember she was sleeping on my lap on CL Final in Istanbul when we won..Wonderful.. I then woke up at 7am to go to work. The moment I reached the office, I sang 'We are the champions' to my Man U colleagues. Wonderful really. Anyway Rafa, I hope and pray that the people who are going to interview you and FSG are given some kind of blessing in the form of vision about how you would bring back the glory days of LFC. Rafa, I hope to hear that you are the new Manager of LFC soon....
19/05/12 at 15:00:02 #126
Matthew Rajkumar
Dear Rafa,

Reading your insights into the game(s) shows what a tactical genius you are...the mind boggles why you are still not with any of the top sides..I can only put it down to the misinformation agenda against you by the main stream UK press...amyway I represent East of Anfield, Liverpool Sopporters Club in Singapore- we are a 2,000 strong independent hard core supporters club and we all support the movement to bring you back to Liverpool as Manager and complete what you started. We await your second coming Rafa, God be with you in the heady days ahead!
19/05/12 at 15:05:33 #127
Charles Vella, Malta
Hi Rafa

Dont think Chelsea can do it with Bayern playing at home and their suspensions...but what do we care...

Hope to see you on the Liverpool bench very soon so you can complete the job :)
19/05/12 at 15:12:18 #128
Hi rafa, nice to see the support comments flooding in :)


Thank you.
19/05/12 at 15:19:24 #129
Rafa - Whenever I think of the Champions League I think of the amazing game against Milan in 2005 when you gave me the greatest night of my life.

Anfield needs you - please come back and make us proud again.

19/05/12 at 15:24:56 #130
lee mcgeough
hi rafa, just to say im a huge lfc fan and one of the millions who would love to have you back at anfield ;). i wanted ask your thoughts on the talented lukaku? hasnt been given much playing time and wondered how highly you rated him as an up and coming talent