Champions League final home comforts boost Bayern Munich's soaring self-belief
Heynckes' attacking side have the mental strength to be formidable opponents on their own turf for Chelsea
Friday 27 April 2012
As they made their way from the Bernabeu dressing rooms to the team bus late on Wednesday night, the Bayern Munich players were wearing T-shirts proclaiming them to be "Champions League finalists 2012".
While everyone else had been talking up an all La Liga affair in the final, or one that pitted Jose Mourinho against his former players at Chelsea, the German club had already printed the commemorative merchandise. Now that super-confidence – only increased by home advantage on 19 May – stands between Chelsea and the European Cup.
The determination to become the first team to reach the final in their own stadium in the Champions League era was apparent in Bayern's unshakeable comeback from two early Real Madrid goals.
They grew as their opponents began to shrink and no one more so than Bastian Schweinsteiger who is still not properly fit and was largely bypassed in a frantic first half, but who was most vocal as the game wound down to spot-kicks and was fearless in his execution of the winning one to put his club in their ninth final.
Just as the pressure to grace their own Allianz Arena next month by beating Real was not too much for Jupp Heynckes' team, neither will the prospect of becoming the first team since Internazionle in 1965 to win the European Cup in their home arena.
In the other semi-final, Chelsea seemed to beat Barcelona by sheer determination – a battle of wills against Bayern will not be so easily won. They will be without defenders Holger Badstuber and David Alaba, and Luiz Gustavo will be missing from midfield, but his absence will be covered by Toni Kroos stepping back and allowing Thomas Müller to return to the starting XI.
Kroos was everywhere at the Bernabeu on Wednesday, playing 92 accurate passes as he bobbed between deep midfield and the space behind striker Mario Gomez. Alongside him will be Schweinsteiger, and beyond them a fearsome attack of Franck Ribéry, Müller, Gomez and Arjen Robben.
Gomez, whose ability to get into goalscoring positions in the two semi-final legs was only surpassed by his knack of squandering most of his chances, can still overtake 14-goal Lionel Messi as the tournament's top scorer this season. He has 13 goals and alongside him Robben has eight, all scored in the knockout phase.
Against a Chelsea defence that will miss John Terry, have Jose Bosingwa at right-back and neither David Luiz nor Gary Cahill 100 per cent fully fit, Bayern look frightening. But they will miss Badstuber at the other end and not for nothing were they requesting yesterday that the seven suspended players should all be allowed to play. That most of the bans are defensive ones could result in a final to make neutrals forget they had ever hoped for a Munich clasico.
Real's failure means the nine-times winners have now been waiting 10 years for the 10th to arrive. Mourinho, who post-match had given the clearest indication yet that he wants to try again next season with Real, had been gracious in defeat. "I would like to mention a great gesture from Mourinho," said Heynckes. "He came into our dressing room after the game to congratulate all the players; that shows his class."
Bayern back-up trio coming in for the final
Daniel van Buyten
The tall Belgian centre-half had a short spell with Manchester City in 2004, and has made 13 Bundesliga appear-ances for Bayern this season. Could come in to replace Holger Badstuber.
Although primarily used as a midfielder, the Ukrainian has played at right-back this season, with the versatile Philipp Lahm expected to move over to the left in place of David Alaba.
Looks certain to replace Luiz Gustavo in midfield. Offers more in attack than the suspended Brazilian, but is less of a ball-winner, which could leave spaces for Chelsea to exploit.
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