The Champions League final is nearly upon us, with both Chelsea and Bayern to a lesser extent defying the odds in the last round to make it all the way. With the game pre-arranged to be staged at the Allianz Arena, Roberto Di Matteo's side go into the match as underdogs once again, which is perhaps how the Italian would have liked it.
The sheer determination and grit of the side has taken the Blues this far, coming from behind to beat Napoli in the last 16 before a monumental defensive shift, not once but twice against pre-tournament shoe-ins Barcelona. In comparison, Bayern reached the semi-finals with very little fuss, despite trailing against Basel only to thump the Swiss outfit 7-0 in the return, home leg.
Indeed, Bayern’s record in front of their own fans will be Chelsea's biggest cause for concern having won all 6 of their matches at home in the competition to date, scoring 19 and conceding just 4. Such form extends into the Bundesliga, where they picked up 14 wins from 17, losing just twice, scoring 49 and conceding a staggeringly low 6. Over the two competitions this means Bayern have averaged just fewer than 3 goals per game at the Allianz, conceding in well under half of their 23 matches as hosts.
In contrast, Chelsea's away form, particularly in Europe, has been below par. They have won just 1 of their 6 matches on the road in the Champions League - a narrow 1-0 win in Benfica - failing to win in Genk and most encouragingly for the hosts, losing in Germany to Leverkusen. When combined with a total of just 6 wins in 19 away trips in the league, things start to look pretty bleak for Chelsea, averaging just 1.24 goals per game away from home over the two competitions and conceding the same amount.
It is fair to say that both sides may well have areas to exploit due a number of costly suspensions in the semi-finals. Chelsea will undoubtedly be more hindered by absences, with captain John Terry's sending off not only ruling him out but also Branislav Ivanovic, who picked up a decisive booking for dissent arguing his defensive partner's case. Raul Meireles will also miss out, but perhaps the most telling loss of them all will be that of Ramires, whose pure stamina has seen him last long into the closing stages of the season, as well as its most crucial matches.
The Brazilian has netted 3 times in 10 Champions League appearances, including a beauty in the double-header against Barcelona, in which he also picked up one of two assists. His 36 tackles in the competition is the highest of any player at the club, with only Torres completing more than his 14 dribbles, proving how strong he is at both ends.
Bayern will be without Badstuber, Gustavo and youngster Alaba, who has kept Rafinha and Contento out of the side with some eye-catching displays from an unfavoured left-back role. The latter will probably replace him, while Anatoliy Tymoshchuk is likely to fill in at centre-back and will be the man Drogba looks to torment. The Ukrainian has made 10 Champions League appearances, starting 6, but has surprisingly low figures in a number of defensive categories. His average of 1.3 tackles per game is only higher than Robben of players to have made 5 or more appearances in the competition, while an aerial success rate of 40% will be music to the Ivorian’s ears.
A Striking Comparison
It is fair to say that this game could be won and lost by the potential starting strikers come Saturday, with both sides set to opt for a lone front man. Didier Drogba has come into his own in the latter stages of the competition having had an uneventful campaign domestically, whilst you just can't keep Mario Gomez quiet on any front.
The German has 12 goals in 11 Champions League matches this season, striking every 73 minutes on average. While Drobga's strike rate of a goal every 110 minutes - having netted 5 in comparison - is still impressive. However, Gomez also leads the way in terms of chance conversion, scoring with 27% of his efforts in Europe this season compared to the Chelsea-man's 23%.
Right to the Wire
As underdogs, Roberto Di Matteo will set his side up to defend and break on the counter, to a less extreme extent to the tactic deployed against Barcelona. Despite almost the entirety of this article pointing towards what would essentially represent a home victory, one can't measure the desire that the Chelsea players have shown with statistics, and who's to say they can't repeat their heroic performance from Camp Nou?
With that in mind, as will be in the thinking of every English fan set to go up against a German side, we can't rule out the eventuality of a penalty shootout (whisper it and lock John Terry out of the room).
Over the past two seasons in both the respective domestic leagues and Champions League, Bayern have had 25 penalties, including the shootout in the last round, and Chelsea have had 18. It may come as a surprise that for once here, the Germans do not conquer the English when it comes to the dreaded spot-kicks. Bayern scored 17 of their attempts, with Chelsea netting 14 meaning their conversion rate of 78% betters Bayern's meager 68%.
Frank Lampard is resident penalty taker at Stamford Bridge and has struck with 9 of his 11 penalties over the Premier and Champions League in the last two seasons (82%). Chelsea old-boy Arjen Robben is the trusted man at the Allianz now – though he wasn’t brave enough to step up in the semi - missing just 1 of 7 (86% conversion rate), with Gomez surprisingly poor here having netted 6 of 9 (67%).
When looking at the positions in which each side place their penalties it is clear Chelsea favour the left side of the goal from the takers perspective. They have netted 8 of their 9 attempts in that direction (89%) compared to just 2 of 5 to the right (40%), with all 4 of their attempts down the centre finding the net.
Where Chelsea haven't missed the target with any of their penalties over the past 2 seasons, Bayern have done so 3 times (including post hits). When testing the keeper the German’s rarely aim high, with only one effort in the top half of the goal. Instead, in contrast to Chelsea, they tend to go low to the right with their penalties, netting as many as 9 of 12 efforts in that direction (75%). However, they are equally successful when aiming left and hitting the target, scoring with 6 of 8 attempts in that region.
To view our Preview of the big match including probable line-ups, click here.