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Champions League Final Preview Part V: Match-Ups and Predictions

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The sun is coming up over Germany, although still only midnight night here in the USA. Last of the preview threads - you can see previous parts I through IV here, here, here, and here. Time enough for a run through the late news, a line-up comparison, and some talk about possible outcomes.

Before line-up and tactic talk, clearing out the inbox: some dude I've never hear of e-mailed me and asked to share this:

There you go, dude I've never heard of. When you make it to Hollywood, you better remember this.

On the Bayern side, Daniel van Buyten is available and has practiced, but the word from camp is that Tymoschuk is still expected to start at CB. This would leave us lining up as follows:

Gomez

Ribery - Müller - Robben

Schweingsteiger - Kroos

Contento - Tymoschuk - Boateng - Lahm

Neuer

Given the absence of Gustavo, Tymo is the first back-up at CDM as well. So van Buyten could come off the bench for one of the CBs, or if Bastian or Kroos gets hurt or is entirely ineffective, DvB could come in and let Tymo move up a bit. Olic would conceivably replace a few forward spots, but we're mainly counting on that front 6 above to make things happen.

On the Chelsea side - Florent Malouda hasn't yet returned to full speed, so he's doubtful. Graham is also talking about the possibility that Ryan Bertrand might get the start. That's certainly a possibility, but I think I'm going to guess as follows for CFC:

Drogba

Kalou - Mata - Torres

Mikel - Lampard

Cole - Luiz - Cahill - Bosingwa

Cech

It's a damn good club, no doubt, and they have some options off the bench (especially Daniel Sturridge and the aforementioned Bertrand). When Chelsea has the ball, they can hit you from several places, and they can go from the middle of the pitch - or even their own defensive side - to attack in a flash. Mata is the engine of their offense. He can distribute the ball, he can play effectively from either side or from the middle of the park, and if you leave him open he can punish you himself.

I think Bayern's advantages when we have the ball are just as big, though, if not bigger. That front 6 of Gomez // Ribery - Müller - Robben // Schweingsteiger - Kroos is very tough to slow down. Sure, there is a little less tackling/stopping power than we're used to, but I'm not convinced that Schweinsteiger is going to let Chelsea's middies walk all over him. With Ribery and Robben on either wing, Chelsea will find it difficult to double-team or roll the marking to one side or another. Either one of those guys could find himself with room to operate, or with an open lane to find someone in a position to shoot.

Basically, I can see it unfolding one of two ways:

(1) Bayern's skill and movement lets us control a majority of the possession early, we come close a few times, and then finally break through and find the net. Chelsea hangs tough, but once they allow one goal, they know they need to push forward and create something. Bayern's defense make a few good tackles/saves/clearances, and we apply some pressure of our own and grab another. It ends up 2-1 or 3-1 Bayern.

(2) Bayern controls a majority of the possession early, but we can't do anything with it as blown chances and stupid turnovers let Chelsea stick around. As we push forward, Chelsea stings us with a quick counter-attack, our rebuilt defense coming unglued or Neuer making a poor play on the ball. Once we go down 1-0, Bayern fights hard to get back into it, but can't find the answer and Chelsea keeps 8 or 9 guys deep to defend. It finishes 1-0 or 2-0 for Chelsea.

Other options are possible, of course, but I think one of those scenarios is pretty likely. I have all the respect in the world for Chelsea, and they're certainly a threat, but I also try to be as honest as possible when I write these columns; if I'm being totally honest, I really think Bayern has a better than even chance. I don't think Chelsea's FBs are going to lock down both Robben and Ribery, and I don't think Lamps and Mikel are going to be able to win most of the loose balls or shut down our build-up against Bastian and Kroos. I'm going to predict 2-1 Bayern, with both of our goals coming first, then Chelsea hanging tough and scoring once to make us sweat it out.

Everyone is welcome and encouraged to make predictions. Anyone is free to predict a Chelsea win - that is perfectly acceptable, and you have to be fair and polite to each other. Even though I like FC Bayern's odds, Chelsea is a tough club and they have a real chance; as Jupp Heynckes told the club's official site, "there are no favourites in a Champions League final. We'd be well advised to stay very humble."

Match Day Thread will be up before game time. As always, if you just signed up for an ID and you want to be approved to comment without the 1-day wait, email me at bayern.offside@yahoo.com and I'll see what I can do. Please mind your health and try to get some sleep. Thanks for reading.