Follow Martin Rogers (@MRogersYahoo) on Twitter during the Champions League final on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. ET. Join the conversation with the hashtag #UCLchat.
Entering the semifinals, the AccuScore computer projected Bayern Munich to be the most likely side to win the UEFA Champions League. With Real Madrid and Barcelona still involved at that point, most thought the computer was broken. With Chelsea and Bayern Munich having eliminated the Spanish giants, the computer is standing firm on conclusively picking Bayern Munich to win the Champions League final.
With the match taking place in Bayern Munich’s home stadium, the computer projects Bayern to hold a decisive advantage with a 70-percent probability of winning Europe’s premier club competition. The German powerhouse won 14 of its 17 Bundesliga matches at the Allianz Arena this season. In the Champions League, the Bavarians outscored visitors 21-4 with a perfect seven wins in seven games on Champions League match days in Munich. Playing at home is a big advantage for Bayern and Mario Gomez, in particular.
Gomez is the the most likely scorer in the final with a 55-percent chance of scoring once and and 18-percent chance of bagging a brace. He netted 11 of his 12 Champions League goals at the Allianz this season, and he scored in every Champions League match he started in Munich during the 2011-12 campaign. Bayern plays better at home, like most teams, but Gomez seems to always score at the Allianz. He’s a big part of why the computer is giving Bayern a 70-percent chance of winning.
On the other side, the computer calculates Chelsea to have a 30-percent chance of winning. The Blues, however, are familiar with being labeled heavy underdogs, and that role didn’t have much of an impact in the semifinals. Earning a 2-2 draw at the Camp Nou and scoring both goals with only 10 men against a full-strength Barcelona proved that point. Chelsea, though, has the unenviable task of winning in Munich.
The Blues’ 2011-12 away record was less than exemplary. In the domestic league, Chelsea only had six wins in 19 tries away from Stamford Bridge. The Blues were substantially worse in the Champions League. The Londoners only had one win in six European away matches this season. However, the 2-2 result in the Champions League semifinal in Barcelona reminded all doubters that this team is capable of beating the odds.
After the semifinals, the parallels between Chelsea and Bayern Munich were hard to ignore. Both these teams conquered Spanish giants in the semis. Both fell behind in the second leg but roared back to claim a berth in the final. Both possessed shot stoppers that made astonishing saves and won matches. Both teams have the opportunity of earning the label of “best team in Europe,” but neither team can lay claim to being the best team in its own country.
Considering their respective semifinal performances, both sides deserve to be in the Champions League final. Looking at the numbers, the computer says Bayern will win in Munich, but Chelsea won’t mind being the underdog. After all, the Blues certainly weren’t favorites to make the final.
Bayern Munich lost in the DfB Pokal Final (German Cup) to Borussia Dortmund. The Bavarians were handled quite easily and suffered their fifth straight defeat to Dortmund, a club record. Chelsea, on the other hand, won the FA Cup. After the FA Cup victory, Chelsea went on to finish the Premier League in sixth place with a 4-1 loss to Liverpool and a 2-1 win against Blackburn. In the win against Blackburn, John Terry and Raul Miereles scored, but both are suspended for the final.
Due to the accumulation of yellow cards and an idiotic knee from Terry, several key players are suspended for both sides.
Chelsea has four suspended players: Ramires, Terry, Branislav Ivanovic and Miereles. These key players pose a real problem for Chelsea’s squad.
Assuming David Luiz and Gary Cahill recover from their respective injuries in time, the middle of Chelsea’s defense will not be in complete shambles due to Terry’s red card in the semis. However, neither Luiz or Cahill has not trained and face a fitness test ahead of the final. If either are not good to go, José Bosingwa would move into the middle of the Chelsea defense.
Ivanovic will most likely be replaced by Bosingwa at right back, if Cahill and Luiz are passed fit. Roberto Di Matteo has the option of employing the 33-year-old Portuguese full back Paulo Ferreira. At the moment, the only certainty on Chelsea’s defense is Ashley Cole.
The suspensions of Ramires and Miereles pose a serious problem. Salomon Kalou will likely start in the more attacking role that Ramires was playing since Di Matteo took over, but Chelsea will lose something defensively. Miereles would likely have been Ramires’ replacement if the Portuguese midfielder wasn’t also suspended.
Ramires was the key to Chelsea’s only goal at Stamford Bridge against Barcelona, and he scored a tremendously important short-handed goal in the second leg at the Camp Nou. Both goals relied on the Brazilian’s speed on the counter attack. Unfortunately, Chelsea doesn’t have a midfield replacement that can offer the constant hard work Ramires brings to every match. More than likely, the likes of Florent Malouda or Michael Essien will have to enter the fray. Malouda is the most likely replacement, but he was not able to complete a half against Blackburn. Chelsea may be forced to call on Essien to put in one last big-match performance.
Bayern has three suspended players for the final: David Alaba, Holger Badstuber, and Luiz Gustavo Dias. However, Bayern is better equipped to deal with the missing players than Chelsea.
Alaba will likely be replaced by Diego Contento, a 22-year-old German left back. The 19-year-old Alaba was converted into the left-back position and sparked Bayern to a late run in the domestic and European competitions. Bayern also has the option to switch Philipp Lahm to left back and start Rafinha, but manager Jupp Heynckes showed his hands in the final Bundesliga match of the season by starting Diego Contento.
Badstuber’s suspension is a bit more hurtful for the German club, with Daniel Van Buyten not making an appearance since January due to injury. Anatoliy Tymoshchuk is expected to fill the role in the heart of the defense, but the Ukrainian captain certainly did not impress in Bayern’s 4-1 Bundesliga finale against Cologne. Tymo has played in this role several times over the past two seasons, so Bayern is comfortable with the change.
The suspension of Dias will likely move Toni Kroos back into the holding midfielder role alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger in Bayern’s preferred 4-2-3-1 set up. This should allow Thomas Muller to return into the starting lineup in an attacking position between Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben. Muller started in this role for most of the season, so Bayern should be comfortable with the forced changes.
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