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Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech says Bayern Munich will crack under the pressure of trying to create Champions League history Saturday. Whether he really believes it or is playing mind games is uncertain.
The German side is seeking to become the first team ever to win the tournament in its own stadium; the Allianz Arena was chosen as the host venue before the season began. Bayern's run to the final was clearly motivated in part by the possibility of performing at home, and their dream scenario was realized thanks to a semifinal upset over Real Madrid.
However, Cech insists that although Chelsea enters the clash as a huge underdog, the visitors from London can capitalize on nerves in the Bayern camp to spring a surprise.
"To play at your own stadium and have your own dressing room is a huge advantage," he said. "This coincidence of events has made Bayern the favorite. But the final is about how the two teams cope with the pressure. …
"The pressure is bigger on them than it is on us. That might be to our advantage, it might be a disadvantage. Either way, we will try to make their role as favorite as unpleasant as possible. Certainly we are not going there just on a trip. We want to win."
Only two teams have been crowned champions of Europe in their own stadium, Real Madrid and Inter Milan, with both taking place before the Champions League era was ushered in 20 years ago.
Bayern knows it has the chance to achieve a unique milestone and atone for a disappointing domestic season that saw it surrender the Bundesliga title and the German Cup to rival Borussia Dortmund.
Midfielder Arjen Robben, a former Chelsea player, is confident he and his teammates can meet the challenge.
"We can cope with the pressure," Robben said. "When we are put under pressure, that's when we produce our best performances. I really enjoyed my stay at Chelsea and I am pleased that the club has reached the final. But I have to disappoint them, because they will not win the final."
Both teams have overcome odds, with Bayern's penalty shootout triumph over Madrid and Chelsea's fighting resistance of Barcelona both providing major shocks. Those wins came at a cost, though, with Chelsea missing John Terry, Raul Meireles, Branislav Ivanovic and Ramires through suspension, while Bayern is without David Alaba, Holger Badstuber and Luiz Gustavo.
The German public is anxiously seeking a big performance from Bayern talisman Bastian Schweinsteiger, who missed much of the season through injury but is now fit. Schweinsteiger is one of the most accomplished players in Europe, yet his big-game mentality has sometimes been called into question.
"There is a lot of hope resting on his shoulders and he cannot buy any more time – he has got to work now," Bayern legend and former German national team star Steffen Effenberg told Bild newspaper.
"Sooner or later, he has got to be there to lead this team. I am keen to see whether he can cope with the pace – he has got to play intelligently."
Although Bayern gets to play on home soil, the final will not be a typical home game. UEFA rules dictate an even split of seat allocations, meaning Chelsea will also be strongly represented in the stands.
Bayern did, however, win the coin flip allowing it to use the home locker room, and knows it will never get a better chance to win the tournament for the first time since 2001.
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