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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
18/05/12 at 21:01:58 #41
Keir Howrad
Firstly thanks for the best wishes for my wedding. It made our day! we didn't wear LFC kits but she wore her veil to a MLS game ha

I think Chelsea will want to play wide players who are comfortable tracking back and doubling up on Bayern's wingers. Because of this, they will be focused on being solid and counter attacking.

However, I think they will also be cautious of having their defensive line too deep because of Gomez.

Also, they need to decide how far the CB's will track Gomez into the center of the pitch. Leaving gaps for Robben, Ribery and Muller/Kroos to exploit.

So they may be aggresive to win the ball and counter, or
Sit and let Gomez pick up the ball.

DO you think their personel of Luiz and Cahill are more suited to a higher line rather than sitting and this might influence Di Matteo's decision?
18/05/12 at 21:05:15 #42
Excellent article Rafa. Just hope we get a good game and for me a Bayern win. I don't think Bayern are as big favourites as I agree there is massive pressure on them as the home side.

Hopefully you'll be using your genius tactics back in Anfield again and bring us back to where we want to be. YNWA
18/05/12 at 21:07:37 #43
Rafa - great to hear the analogy you have put up. It shows you superb footballing intelligence and prowess, a great read. I really hope FSG give you a call - get on some programme, push yourself into the running and shout out your intentions of unfinished business and how we, majority of YNWA fans would like you back. Keep up the work, good read.
18/05/12 at 21:11:46 #44
I'll echo the sentiments of many others in hoping we see you in the LFC dugout next year. I don't want to be reading your thoughts next season. I want to be listening to them as our manager.
18/05/12 at 21:14:37 #45
Fred Oldfield
Rafa, we need you back @ LFC. get your tracksuit on....!
18/05/12 at 21:17:11 #46
Rafa's Red Men
Liverpool lost it's soul when you left and G&H infected our club with poison

FSG Need to listen to your project, it's the least they owe us supporters.
18/05/12 at 21:19:24 #47
Rafa we know you're a true Liverpool man and a gentleman. You are not going to come and shout your name in the media specially considering the man who has lost the job is a Legend and one you respect a lot as well. You believe in the Liverpool way and we admire you for that.

When you first came here you said "Its a dream to manage this club and that LFC have the best fans in the world" Well this cub and these fans need you right now. I don't expect you to publicly announce your interest but behind close doors plz keep trying. I know you respect this club and respect the process but plz make sure FSG are aware you want this job. We will keep on believing and dreaming to see you on the Anfield touchline as LFC manager again.

18/05/12 at 21:22:26 #48
Rafa's Red Men
Rafa you're a wizard

18/05/12 at 21:34:15 #49
Hi Rafa,i think Chelsea best and only solution is to attack the weaknesses of bayern.They must go for the jugular and go for goals,if they sit back Bayern will bombard them all night possibly getting a penalty with the pressure and the atmospehere,If Chelsea attack in a controlled manner then they have the wingers robben and ribery to contend with but which ever way they will be attacked so they might as well go for goals themselves against Bayerns weak defense as which was overrun at the weekend.On your position Rafa you know my thoughts,there no need for me to say anything except i havent felt this much excitement at the thought of you coming back for years,I literally cannot sleep.YNWA Rafa.
18/05/12 at 21:41:00 #50

Please do all you can to return to our club! We need you its a mess the heart has been taken out of our wonderful club. You wanted a long term project well here you are!! see where we are 8th it isnt good enough if you dont return now then it will only get worse, we will be the new Aston villa!!