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Champions League Final Preview: Part III

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If you missed the earlier installments, you can see Part I here and Part II here. In this edition, we look at the coaching match-up and try to see whether gentle grandpa Jupp Heynckes will give Bayern an advantage over Chelsea's unproven youngster Roberto Di Matteo. Neither of these two is the type to seize the spotlight, like Mourinho or Sir Alex Ferguson. But the differences in coaching style and decision-making could actually weigh very heavily on the match, so it's worth a look.

In the case of both Heynckes and di Matteo, the club was looking more for stability rather than to make a splash in selecting a manger. Heynckes came aboard after Louis van Gaal; although he did lead us to the domestic double and take us to the Champions League final, Bayern supporters largely consider LvG as having left on a sour note. His last season in charge, which ended in the spring of 2011, was characterized by infighting and hurt feelings. After he was sacked in April (Jonker served as care-taker for the last few matches), the board apparently wanted a steadying influence, rather than another abrasive personality.

Jupp Heynckes thus came in as the "safe" choice from the first day. The interesting thing is, though, as much as he tries to be the "anti-van Gaal" in the low-pressure and grandfatherly way he treats the players, he has a few things in common with LvG. Both are slow to make changes, even if the offense stagnates for a few games in a row. Both are not huge on squad rotation; I know we didn't have a ton of depth, but I still think a more liberal use of Olic, Pranjic, and even Petersen in a few mid-season matches could have helped us out. Both van Gaal and Heynckes are more inclined to avoid doing anything drastic that might lead to a memorable mistake. And that makes sense, but sometimes you have to be willing to humble yourself down and try something new if your opponents have figured you out. Despite the huge differences in locker-room tone and personality, LvG and JH both seem reluctant to do that.

On the Chelsea side, their current head-man replaced not a cantankerous overlord, but a bright young technocrat that couldn't teach an old dog new tricks. Most Chelsea fans I know were really rooting for Andre Villas-Boas. He's a smart guy with a good understanding of Xs and Os ... but more than that, he was also a sign that Abramovich might be willing to let a new system be put in, and not fire a manager at the first sign of trouble. Unfortunately for AVB, the trouble lasted a lot longer than the first sign. Everyone knew a youth movement would lead to some growing pains, but the Blues just couldn't figure it out under AVB, and the road loss to Napoli in the first CL leg followed by a loss to West Brom a week and half later sealed the deal. The simple fact is that Drogba, Lamps, Cech, Cole, and the rest of the old guard were and still are better, for now, than the young bucks. You can argue that the club should have let Villas-Boas see the youth movement out, but it's hard to argue with the results: di Matteo has won outright 13 of the 20 games he's managed, and pulled Chelsea to the precipice of the goal that's eluded them for so long. He's still leaning on the youngsters a bit, but di Matteo is definitely more of a "players' buddy" type, as opposed to Villas-Boas, who frequently clashed with some of the veteran leaders. Without any insult intended to AVB (a guy who certainly will end up successful somewhere), you can't help but conclude the veteran leaders are giving a good account of themselves in his absence.

Now both of these care-taker/calming influence guys are going to have some huge decisions to make. Heynckes has to decide with Daniel van Buyten is fit enough to play; and if so, should he start over Tymoschuk; and if so, should Tymo move to CDM or hit the bench. Given his propensity to avoid bold, stunning moves, you'd guess bringing on van Buyten would be a little much for Heynckes. di Matteo, meanwhile, has to replace Ramires at RW (either Sturridge or Torres might get the call). He also has to sweat out fitness reports from Malouda, Cahill, and David Luiz - if any of them can't go, he might be called into making a big decision on Saturday morning.

In both cases, these managers are known more for being competent man-managers who get their talented line-ups on the field and just avoid any errors. But at some point, a failure to make a bold move when one is required can be an error as well. If this turns into a battle between two tentative guys trying to avoid mistakes, will the first one to making a daring move come up big?

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