This is it. Chelsea play Bayern Munich at Bayern's home stadium -- Allianz Arena -- in the 2012 Champions League final. Both sides are looking to make up for recent failures in this match. Chelsea lost the rain-soaked 2008 final to Manchester United after captain John Terry slipped and missed what should have been the winning shot in an excruciating penalty shootout, while Bayern lost the 2010 final to Jose Mourinho's treble-winning Inter. Are you excited? Because I'm breathing to the tune of "Raining Blood" by Slayer. (Full Disclosure: I'm a Chelsea fan and I still hyperventilate every time it drizzles.)
You can find serious business previews and primers for this match pretty much everywhere else online and in print. So here we will once again do it the Dirty Tackle way.
How They Got Here
Chelsea: An awkward start to the season resulted in new manager Andre Villas-Boas alienating himself from the club's older stars and getting sacked after just nine months with the club. AVB's assistant and former Chelsea striker Roberto Di Matteo stepped up as interim manager and the club's shift in confidence was immediate and profound.
Under Di Matteo, Chelsea beat a fashionable Napoli side in the quarterfinals and overcame demons of knockout rounds past by vanquishing the kings of Europe, Barcelona, in the semis.They've already salvaged their season by beating Liverpool to win the FA Cup, but by finishing sixth in the Premier League, they must win the Champions League final to qualify for the competition next season.
[Podcast: Predictions for the Champions League final]
Bayern Munich: Despite flashes of supreme dominance and beating Premier League champions Manchester City in the group stage and La Liga champions Real Madrid in the semifinals, Bayern have had their own disappointments this season. Finishing behind Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga for the second straight season and losing the DFB Pokal to the very same Dortmund-based tormenters in a 5-2 trouncing last weekend, losing another Champions League final the year they happen to be hosting is a monumental embarrassment they are desperate to avoid.
Bayern are only the fourth club to play a Champions League final at home. Previously, hosts Real Madrid beat Fiorentina 2-1 in 1954, Inter beat Benfica 1-0 in 1965, and Roma lost to Liverpool on penalties in 1984. I would make a comment about how perfect it would be if Chelsea pulled a Liverpool given what happened in 2008, but I've probably jinxed it already just by thinking such a thing and now I feel terrible.
Didier Drogba (crusader against disgraces): Labeled both as someone who "can score at any moment" and "an outstanding actor" by Bayern manager Jupp Heynckes, Drogba is capable of carrying Chelsea on his powerful frame and scoring with his graceful brand of brute force while also controlling the clock with his prolonged bouts of questionable pain. In real life, he has stopped a civil war and builds hospitals in his spare time. He also has a cat named Kitier Katba (we assume).
Frank Lampard (midfield avenger of the undervalued): Stepping up as captain in John Terry's absence (more on that in a bit), Lampard was exiled by Villas-Boas before once again proving his clutch scoring ability (particularly from the penalty spot), which has made him one of Chelsea's all-time goal leaders. He drinks magnums of Budweiser when he wins trophies. And sometimes when he doesn't.
Petr Cech (goalkeeper/possible Batman): You might see the need to wear a protective scrum cap after suffering a fractured skull as a sign of weakness, but Cech derives unquantifiable powers from that helmet. And he's probably hiding somewhere behind you and sneering as you read this. Turning around to look for him will only make him angry.
David Luiz (the happy wanderer): Recovering from a hamstring injury that has kept him out of Chelsea's last few matches, it remains unclear exactly how big a role Luiz will play in the final (and judging by the photo above, he might not have even gotten past German customs officers). If he does play, he could very well be the Wild Card. Prone to migraine-inducing defensive lapses counterbalanced by an impressive ability to get forward and score goals, Luiz is capable of being the sole reason Chelsea win and the sole reason they lose all at the same time. He calls his Twitter followers geezers. And yes, he does look like Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons. This has already been established in cake form.
Mario Gomez (high on football): Only Leo Messi has topped his 12 goals in the Champions League this season and his 26 Bundesliga goals were also second best to Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. Though he is often overlooked when it's time to name the most dominant players in Europe, he has rightful claim among the more widely known names. His hair is a sentient being.
Manuel Neuer (the Germanest goalkeeper): In his first season with Bayern since joining from rival Schalke, Neuer has proven himself to hostile fans in Munich while asserting his aggressive dominance. He had an uncharacteristically disastrous performance during the DFB pokal final, but he saved shots from Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka of all people during the shootout against Real Madrid. He might be capable of unhinging his jaw and swallowing Didier Drogba whole.
Arjen Robben (Mr. Glass): The former Chelsea man is explosive in the sense that he is incredibly quick and talented, plus he can also come apart at his fragile, fragile seams and shoot a major organ into the fifth row. A loud burp can knock him into the fetal position, but if Gomez isn't scoring, Robben probably is. Unless they both are at the same time.
And, as always, let's say every other player on both teams is key, too. If someone not listed here by name (like Chelsea's player of the year Juan Mata or Bayern's Bastian Schweinsteiger) scores or does something important, then we definitely did discuss them at length and knew they would do whatever it is they end up doing despite your faulty memory. Don't question it.
Both sides have fallen victim to the bucket of cold water propped above the door to the final that is UEFA's yellow card accumulation punishment. A total of six players have been cruelly suspended and will miss the match for acquiring three yellow cards each over the course of the tournament. Meanwhile, Chelsea captain John Terry is also suspended for earned a red card in the second leg against Barcelona for kneeing Alexis Sanchez up the backside.
Chelsea: Ramires (midfielder), Raul Meireles (midfielder), Branislav Ivanovic (defender) and John Terry (defender).
Bayern Munich: David Alaba (defender), Holger Badstuber (defender) and Luis Gustavo (midfielder).
So both clubs will be missing half their preferred backline (Terry and Ivanovic for Chelsea, Badstuber and Alaba for Bayern), but at least John Terry won't have to worry about slipping on another penalty kick. So...hooray?
How They Win
Chelsea: Under Di Matteo, the keys to their success have been disciplined defending and an overriding belief in their ability until the final whistle. The freckled engine that could, £50 million man Fernando Torres, finally rediscovering his form and scoring a few goals has helped too.
Bayern Munich: They're capable of scoring seven goals on any given day (and they did it twice in three days back in March). This is terrifying.
Commentator Talking Points
Some words, phrases and points you're likely to hear from the match commentators...
-Constant reminders that Arjen Robben used to play for Chelsea.
-Constant reminders that Roman Abramovich could sack Roberto Di Matteo at any moment, including right after kick off.
-England v Germany World War II analogies.
-References to how great it would've been if Real Madrid beat Bayern and Barcelona beat Chelsea for an all Spanish final.
-"Bayern have home advantage...or is it a disadvantage? "
-"This is the last chance for an aging Chelsea team."
-"Messi and Ronaldo really are great."
-There will be more, but it shouldn't take too long to find the mute button.
What To Do After The Match
If Chelsea win: I will find you and I will hug you.
If Bayern win: Many fine blogs have been written inside asylums, right?
Follow @BrooksDT on Twitter for dispatches from the edge of sanity and to chat during the match.
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