Champions League Preview: A Blockbuster for FC Hollywood? Part 2


In Part 1 of his UEFA Champions League Preview Bundesliga Correspondent Michael Ligot, looked at the defense. In Part , he looks at the talent available to Jupp Heynckes up front.

“Robery”. No question, outside midfielders Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery form the scariest attacking flank combination in Germany. They combined for 24 domestic and seven CL goals, even while Robben missed a dozen Bundesliga games through injury.

Frenchman Ribery contributed 20 assists, and Robben, of the Netherlands’ World Cup runners-up, also converted seven of eight penalties in all competitions.

Those two, plus World Cup surprise Thomas Müller, helped lead Bayern to the Bundesliga’s second-best 77-goal productivity. And if that isn’t enough offense …

Mario the Marksman. Look no further for a consistent goal-getter. Since becoming a regular with Stuttgart in 2005, Mario Gomez has already scored 127 Bundesliga goals in a mere 215 games. The German son of a Spanish father, Gomez won 2010-11’s Bundesliga scoring title with 28, and his 26 this year trailed just Schalke’s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (29). He’s continued that form in Europe, his 12 goals currently sitting second in the CL behind the 14 of — who else? — Lionel Messi.

Gomez gives Bayern ideal results from a striker: consistent production (never going more than three Bundesliga games without a goal) and the ability to score in bunches (witness his four against FC Basel in the Round of 16 home leg). With Roben and Ribery feeding Gomez, and Chelsea defender John Terry suspended, the Blues’ back end could be in for a long night.

Be patient. If Chelsea could upset Barcelona with a counterattacking game, there’s no reason to expect they’ll deviate from that formula. In that case, Bayern should concentrate on minimizing offensive mistakes; hard for Chelsea to score if they don’t have the ball, eh? This means Coach Jupp Heynckes must employ the fast-but-precise passing game trademarked to German soccer.

Robben and Ribery will be tempted to hold the ball, but that could be difficult against a 4-5-1 formation, and oft-injured Robben can’t afford to expose himself to tackles. A passing game led Bayern to the top of the Bundesliga table for the first third of the season, before Dortmund turned on the jets, and in a one-off, it can work again.

Despite the pressure … relax. It sounds odd that a team that amassed 73 points in its league needs this game to “salvage” their season. However, with Bayern’s demanding trophies-or-else mindset, two years without the Bundesliga’s “salad plate” championship award and a losing streak to emerging power Dortmund sits in the Bavarians’ stomachs like bad Oktoberfest sauerkraut. With the final in front of their own fans, who may not necessarily be Germany’s most intimidating but are still plenty boisterous, Munich could be plenty coiled inside.

“If Bayern doesn’t do anything dumb, they should be favorites”

They shouldn’t. For starters, they’re playing Chelsea, not Barcelona. Would you rather play a team that has won three European titles in six years, or one that finished a less-than-impressive (for their standards) sixth in England? Thought so. Full marks to the Blues for winning the FA Cup and employing a master tactical plan against the Catalan monsters in the CL semifinals, but they’re clearly the weakest finalist in recent memory.

If Bayern doesn’t do anything dumb, they should be favorites. And remember, Bayern’s European run was just as impressive as Chelsea’s; they lost but one group stage game, a meaningless-for-them final round match, and their two single-game losses in the knockouts were road setbacks offset in aggregate or penalty results.

Then there’s positive motivation. Tying Liverpool’s five European championships must inspire giddy anticipation in Munich. For a rare time, German fans may rally around the team they love to hate; as Bundesliga fans feel their circuit gets short shrift amongst the worldwide English Premiership and Spanish La Liga love, a Bayern win could give their league some overdue street cred.

The players must relish the thought of lifting a continental trophy at home. One more reason? This game is a chance to erase the 1999 Manchester United heartbreak … against an English team. Even Black Forest cherry cake doesn’t taste as sweet as that would.

Chelsea Poised for Greatest Day Ever


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