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

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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 21:41:49 #51
Rafa for Liverpool.
18/05/12 at 21:43:20 #52
Gerard Murphy
I think Chelsea look more balanced without the suspendid players.Mata can be more affective in the middle.The problem is that Lampard can get caught to far forward and leave the midfield a bit too open.Similar to when Gerrard plays deep.

Hopefully you will be back to LFC to ensure Gerrard plays more foreward where he should play.
18/05/12 at 21:52:32 #53
Rafa, Bayern play very open traditionally, which means there will be space between the lines, dont you think playing a counter attack with torres and mata could be very fruitful for Chelsea.
18/05/12 at 21:52:49 #54
Adam Quigley
Please come back Rafa!! You gane us so many happy memories!! And brought some of the best talent to Liverpool, during my lifetime!! Torres, Alonso, Reina, Mascherano, Agger, Skrtel!! In Rafa we trust!!
18/05/12 at 21:56:24 #55
Stephen Potter
Informative and excellent tactical analysis yet again Rafa! Now what about putting that back into practise at Liverpool to finish what you started? We would love you to come and take Liverpool to the next level
18/05/12 at 21:57:50 #56
Rafa, come home!!!!

18/05/12 at 22:03:21 #57
Come home and unite the fans please Señor Benitez
18/05/12 at 22:06:44 #58
will precious
fantastic analysis, as always.... would love to see you be the integral part of a re building process at anfield Rafa.... Come back to the hot seat and turn us into the teams of the past, and the team which nearly took us to the 08/09 championship....
18/05/12 at 22:07:44 #59
Rafa, I sincerely hope FSG understand European football enough to know you are our natural leader. I pray they haven't followed the last American owners and sought Jurgen's advice.

The match-going fans will give you a heroes welcome when you return to complete what you started.
18/05/12 at 22:08:25 #60
Rafa, your needed back at anfield pal. You need to show the prem and the rest of Europe, who is king when it comes to tactics pal. It's time to come home.