Bayern Munich v Inter Milan, Champions League final, May 22, 2010
For only the sixth time in history one of Bayern Munich and Inter Milan will secure the treble at the Bernabeu on Saturday night. In other sub plots, this match also pits Jose Mourinho against his old boss Louis van Gaal (â€œThe Special Oneâ€ was his translator at Barcelona) and sees Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder return to the home of Real Madrid after they were sold in the summer.
The Spanish and English giants of this competition are long gone and whilst no one expected this to be the final there is no doubt that the Bavarian giants and the Nerazzurri have been the most impressive sides in the competition. Last weekend saw Bayern secure the DFB Pokal and Inter the Scudetto, thereby completing their respective doubles.
Jose Mourinho, as ever, has played a key role in the build-up to the game. He has been heavily linked with a move to Real Madrid in the summer and if he does win the Champions League at the Bernabeu these rumours are likely to go up a notch. Bayern have also started the psychological warfare ahead of the final by questioning Interâ€™s style of play with Van Gaal saying: “He [Mourinho] trains to win. I train to play beautiful football and win. My way is more difficult.”
In truth though Inter, after years of failure in this competition, have shown they are a team who is capable of playing in many different ways. Nowhere was this more prominent than in the semi-final when they attacked with venom in the first leg and produced a vintage â€œCatenaccioâ€ performance in the second leg at Barcelona to progress past last yearâ€™s winners. Throw in the fact that they also faced Pep Guardiolaâ€™s side in the groups and eased past Chelsea in the first knock out round and Inter are slight favourites to win the final. (Inter are 1.65 for Draw No Bet, Bayern are 2.10)
Thiago Motta will miss out after he was sent off in the Nou Camp but Mourinho will likely go with his tried and trusted players. Wesley Sneijder (10.00 to score first, 3.25 to score anytime) is key as the Dutchman has made all the difference in his playmaker role this season whilst Diego Milito (6.00 to score first, 2.20 to score anytime) has scored some big goals in recent weeks including the winner in the Coppa Italia final and the strike that secured the Serie A title at Siena on Sunday.
Further back Lucio will be facing his old club and fellow South Americans Julio Cesar, Maicon (6.00 to score), Walter Samuel and Javier Zanetti make up one of the finest defences seen in European football in recent years. Special mention should also be made of Samuel Etoâ€™o (6.00 to score first, 2.20 to score anytime) who will be aiming for his second successive treble and the Cameroon striker is a man for the big stage after scoring in two previous Champions League finals.
Bayern Munich will also be full of confidence although they will be without Franck Ribery because of suspension despite the fact the German giants took an appeal to CAS earlier this week. They have already beaten Italian opposition in the form of Juventus and Fiorentina this season and undoubtedly have the attacking qualities to breach the Nerazzurri backline.
The star of the show in their run to the final has been Dutch winger Arjen Robben (7.00 to score first, 2.50 to score anytime). So often derided for being made of glass, he has spearheaded the charge in Europe and scored crucial and excellent goals away at both Fiorentina and Manchester United. Robben will come up against his former manager at Chelsea and his battle with Javier Zanetti, if the Argentine plays left back, will be key to the outcome of the final.
Louis van Gaalâ€™s side are by no means though a one man team. Ivica Olic (7.00 to score first, 2.50 to score anytime) has been sensational after joining on a free from Hamburg last summer. The Croatian is a tireless runner and can also plunder goals as he proved with his hat-trick at Lyon in the semi-final. Thomas Muller (2.75 to score) has also been excellent this season and Bayern have a very tough central midfield partnership with Mark van Bommel and Bastian Schweinsteiger who has reveled in a central role in 2009/2010.
The major difference between the two sides, on paper at least, is the quality of the backlines. Bayernâ€™s has let in goals to the likes of Fiorentina and Manchester United, progressing through both ties on away goals whilst Inter have produced heroic defensive performances at both Stamford Bridge and the Nou Camp. Phillip Lahm is the Germans best defender and his main qualities lie in getting forward.
Bayernâ€™s defensive deficiencies coupled with the fact that Ribery is suspended and Mourinho usually gets it right on the biggest stage means Inter should win out and the plaudits will once again be showered on the Portuguese magician.
101gg predicts: Bayern Munich 0 â€“ Inter Milan 2 (10.00)