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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 23:59:41 #81
Hi Rafa,

There is a question I have always wondered what your answer would be:

Who was better; Valencia 2004 with top class players Canizares, Ayala, Marchena, Baraja, Vicente or your best Liverpool in 2009 with top class Reina, Gerrard, Torres, Alonso, Mascherano?
19/05/12 at 00:00:58 #82
We need you back home at Anfield Rafa, which means you must firstly re-build that "boot room" and discuss and pass on your wisdom and tactics to the coaches around you to get the team winning again. Make sure FSG know you are waiting for their call to come and finish what you started.
19/05/12 at 00:04:54 #83
please,please come back to anfield rafa
19/05/12 at 00:05:37 #84
Dear Rafa,

I agree with your Bayern set-up and expect them to dominate play. I'm sorry to see Gustavo out. I think with Gustavo in Chelsea would have had zero chance.
My worry would be any Tymochuk/Drogba match-ups, but in all cases I expect Bayern to outscore Chelsea with their ball possession and quality offensive line.
Chelsea without the steel of Ivanovic and Terry are very vulnerable. One must also question the fitness of Cahill and Luiz, both returning from hamstring injuries. I'd say they'd be very lucky to have both start and finish the match. And God help Chelsea if Bosingwa has to play CB...
I can actually see Bayern scoring 5 in this game. They've shown themselves to be ruthless predators.
One must also remember that Malouda is also out with a hamstring, I doubt he'll make it back to start. Would you take that risk? Starting 3 players that might not be fit enough to complete the game?
19/05/12 at 00:08:23 #85
Charlie Evans
Rafa! We need you back at Liverpool right now! We all know the situation with Liverpool and how they need desperate help, you our man for the job! You can get these players thriving, and with actual funds now we can get some fantastic players too, but a top 4 finish is our priority. Show United, Chelsea, Arsenal and such who's back! Show em that writing us off as a mind table team was a big mistake, bring back the days of thrashing our opponents 1 at a time!
19/05/12 at 00:13:47 #86
I was thinking that Di Mateo might go as Defensive as he can, with Essien holding with Mikel, and Lampard out left.
Whatever he does though, the mobility of Ramires, his motion through the lines will be sorely missed.

On another note.
Please come back Rafa!!
I had been critical of you over the years. The rotation system irked me. I don't understand why regularly you had to wait till at least the 65th min to substitute even when things were wrong. I found you stubborn. Incredibly stubborn. I found you harsh with certain players. I really lost my cool when we ended up 2nd because of negative over cautious football. I felt betrayed when Alonso left.
But I've come to see things in a more informed and mature light, and I see your point of view in some of these things. Lately a weird appreciation of Barry would be one...

19/05/12 at 00:23:32 #87

I miss you.
I miss having a plan. I miss going in the right direction. And God I miss the football we played towards the end of the season when we finished 2nd. We were destroying everybody!!!
It would be fantastic to have you at the helm once more.

And on a deliciously sour note,
may I say that I was happy to see Inter Milan not qualify for Europe this year. I was personally disgusted at how Moratti handled you. You took over the team, got no funds or transfers and then were hit with a plague of injuries forcing you to play babies.. and still you were sitting pretty just waiting for the return of senior players...
I was shocked. I'm still shocked at the way the press label your tenure a 'failure'...
Perhaps it's bad to wish evil on Inter. But I do :P
And I had an evil little laugh end of this season.

It would be great to see you actively back in football.
For now I hope and pray you'll come back to Anfield.
I return to my chanting:
Bring back Benitez!
19/05/12 at 00:36:05 #88
Great Analysis sir!

On another note, as several fans have already written, we sincerely hope you get the liverpool job. We want someone who is passionate about the club and none more so than you Rafa.

I hope you return to finish what you started.
19/05/12 at 00:55:23 #89
rafa come home to lfc
19/05/12 at 01:03:19 #90
Rafa excellent article.

Hopefully we will see some of this insight in working order at Anfield next season. A Spanish overhall is needed, starting with Benitez, Begiristain, Segura, Borrell and Valero.

Usted nunca caminará solo