Thrice in the past four seasons, we've had the incredible privilege of having a horse in this race. Not so this year. Nonetheless, I'll be watching, you'll be watching, and much of the world will be watching when the world's grandest club football event takes place-- the
Carling Cup UEFA Champions League final. This time, it's German giants Bayern Munich and familiar foe Chelsea FC vying for European supremacy. This post will suffice for two purposes: (1) it'll be this community's live game thread if you feel so inclined to join and (2) down below, I'll link some of the best pieces I've read this week in preparation for tonight's final in Munich (*). C'mon.... Bayern?! Chelsea?! Let us know who you're supporting and why. Also, feel free to chime in on who you think lifts the trophy with the big ears -- Phillip Lahm or Frank Lampard?
(*) I've read a lot so I'll try to limit it the best that I can. I'll be sure to point out what is a 'must read'.
KO: 7:45pm BST, 2:45pm EST | Allianz Arena | Munich, GermanyTV: Sky Sports 1 (U.K.), FOX (U.S.A.)
Referee: Pedro Proenca (Portugal)
Odds: Bayern Munich 3/4, Draw 3/1, Chelsea 10/3
Links after the jump...
* 'Chelsea Vs. Bayern Munich: Tactical Preview' | We Ain't Got No History | By Graham MacAree: Graham is a friend of the site and he's also the manager of the fantastic Chelsea blog that this links takes you to. If you read one preview for this final, READ THIS ONE. He's watched 30 Bayern matches this week (seriously) and he offers up incredible tactical detail in this preview.
* 'Bayern v Chelsea - European Cup final preview' | Zonal Marking | By Michael Cox: One of the best tactical writers out there and this would be the 2nd highest recommended read by me if time is limited. Cox is expecting a 60%-40% possession advantage for Bayern when the score is still 0-0 but Chelsea is likely to be dangerous on the counterattack.
* 'Suspensions leave Bayern, Chelsea with lineup quandaries for final' | Sports Illustrated | By Jonathan Wilson: The author is one my own writing inspirations. He assesses how each sides' suspensions -- 4 four Chelsea, 3 for Bayern -- might factor into the match.
* 'Suspensions Change Both Teams Tactics' | SB Nation | By Kevin McCauley: More on the suspensions, but a breakdown on how a potential Bayern double-pivot of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos could be vulnerable -- particularly Juan Mata in the same way Shinji Kagawa tore Bayern apart last weekend in the German Cup final.
* 'Chelsea's Tactical Options against Bayern Munich' |Carefree Chronicles: This is the best Chelsea tactics site I've come across. A discussion on how Bayern's attacking being more varied than Barcelona's likely leads to the Blues in a 4-2-3-1 shape rather the 4-3-3 (really a 4-5-1) versus the Catalan side.
* 'Attacking Threat of Bayern Fullbacks' | Carefree Chronicles: Phillip Lahm is really, really good. So are Bayern's wingers. The battle out wide should be interesting. Chelsea should get counterattacking opportunities though on the flanks behind Bayern's full-backs...
* So... What If Ryan Bertrand Starts?| We Ain't Got No History | By Graham MacAree: There were rumblings late on Friday that young full-back Ryan Bertrand might get a surprise start on the left side of Chelsea's attack. This would be a major surprise. Graham discusses the possibility.
* 'Juan Mata: It's important to have the European Cup in the cabinet' | Guardian | By Sid Lowe: One of my top 5 favorite football writers, probably top 3 actually. A brilliant interview with Juan Mata on the eve of the final.
* 'Storylines for Chelsea in the Champions League final v. Bayern' | Sports Illustrated | By Ben Lyttleton: In case you haven't been paying really close attention this week, Lyttleton has you covered on the general storylines for Chelsea.
* 'The Curious Terror of Arjen Robben' |SB Nation | By Andi Thomas: Robben is really good. Robben is really fun to watch. Robben is many things. Andi Thomas uses words creatively to explain why.
* The links are piling up so I'll leave these last three by Rafael Honigstein -- he did this three-part series on Bayern's history this week for Sports Illustrated: 1. 'Greatest Bayern Munich teams of all-time' (United took down #2!), 'Ten pivotal moments in Bayern Munich history' (#9: That night in Barcelona!), 'Bayern Munich's all-time greatest starting lineup'
Like I said, I'll end the links here but I'm sure there's much more out there that's worth reading as well. This should get you caught up though if you're in need of some reading material. Enjoy the final everyone!