Can Bayern's defence cope with Drogba

Can Bayern's Boateng cope with the menace of Didier Drogba? Photo FC Bayern Munich.Ostensibly this is the most difficult match-up to predict. Owing to suspensions, Bayern will be without Holger Badstuber and David Alaba, both of whom would have been likely starters. Unquestionably Philipp Lahm and Jerome Boateng will be two of the back four but the other two and indeed the permutation will be kept secret until the last minute. The most likely option would be for Bayern to employ defensive midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk at the heart of the defence. This has usually been Bayern's default setting when either of the regular pairing of Boateng and Badstuber has been missing, in part due to Daniel Van Buyten's long-term injury. The Belgian defender is on the comeback trail having missed most of the second half of the season through injury but would be severely lacking any real match fitness. The last defensive spot would then be a straight choice between Rafinha and Diego Contento. Signed only last summer, Brazilian right-back Rafinha has been in and out of the team all season, failing to establish a regular spot in the starting line-up. Naples-born left-back Contento, named after Diego Maradona, is a German under-20 international but has also been unable to secure a starting place. The factors which could affect Jupp Heynckes decision are whether to play Lahm on the right or left and which of the other two would be able to  best handle the pressure and responsibility of a Champions League Final. As Lahm prefers to play on the left, and Rafinha is older and more experienced than Contento, it could be the Brazilian who gets the nod.

Rafinha, Boateng, Tymoshchuk and Lahm would form a traditional back four with plenty of width provided by the full-backs. Normally they are able to get forward due to the screening provided in midfield by the defensive-minded Luiz Gustavo but he completes the triumvirate of Bayern players suspended for the final. Bayern will look to allow Boateng to pick up the main Chelsea striker, most probably Didier Drogba, in order to take the pressure off the Ukrainian Tymoshchuk, an accomplished ball-player, but by no means a fierce and combative centre-half. Boateng has been guilty of several glaring mistakes during his first season at Germany's 'Rekordmeister' (Record Champions), mainly attributed to a lack of concentration and positional awareness. Heynckes has worked hard to improve the defensive side of Bayern's game but as was evident in Madrid in the semi-finals, gaps can appear in abundance in a porous central defence. Boateng and Tymoshchuk will need to be on top of their games in order to contain Drogba. On the flanks, much will depend on Chelsea's formation.

Drogba will be looking to go out on a high. Photo Chelsea FC.Moving on to the London club, Didier Drogba is an almost certain starter in what could be the last game of his eight-year association with the Blues. After that, is becomes much more difficult to predict how interim coach Roberto Di Matteo will approach the game. The unlikely option would be to select the record British transfer fee signing Fernando Torres and start with two out-and-out strikers. However, this seems unlikely given the fact that Di Matteo has never elected to do this in his brief tenure. A more realistic proposition would be the mercurial Spaniard Juan Mata playing on the right, with the left-flank occupied by any of Salomon Kalou, the Ivorian who could also be saying farewell to Chelsea after the game, Florent Malouda, although he is struggling with injury, or Daniel Sturridge. The Italian Di Matteo is naturally keeping his cards tight to his chest regarding his team selection.
Assuming the left-footed Mata plays on the right, Bayern and German captain Philipp Lahm will have his work cut out to stop the supply line from the Spaniard to marksman Drogba. On the other hand, should Bayern play offensively, there is a chance Lahm can pin down his man and force him to track back as Lahm himself looks to support Franck Ribery in front of him. On the Bayern right, Rafinha, despite having to curb his attacking enthusiasm, should be able to deal with Kalou or Malouda adequately and if Sturridge plays will have to force the England man back to expose his defensive frailties.

Verdict: Lahm and Rafinha should be capable of stopping their opponents and consequently the supply line to Drogba, easing the pressure on Boateng and Tymoshchuk and in turn the burden on the midfield. Advantage Bayern.


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