The engine room battle

Lampard up against 'Schweini' at the 2010 World Cup. Photo Chelsea FC.We now look at the midfield engine room. As both teams should line up with a 4-3-3 formation, this should be a direct three-on-three battle. The width will come from the wide forwards so expect both teams to employ three out and out central midfielders. Chelsea will be missing the suspended Ramires and Raul Meireles, two of the heroes from the extraordinary semi-final second leg in Barcelona. This could prove to be a massive loss to the English side as both of these players would have been likely starters. Instead, the three spots should be filled by English veteran Frank Lampard, Nigerian John Obi Mikel and Ghanaian Michael Essien. The two Africans will be expected to perform deeper defensive duties, allowing Lampard to press on higher up the pitch. Ostensibly a very hard-working midfield, injuries have taken their toll on Essien and he is not quite the player he was. Nor can they rely on 33-year-old Lampard to regularly produce those exquisitely timed trademark late runs into the box, one of which brought him the equaliser in the 2008 Champions League final defeat to Manchester United. Alternatives for Chelsea include selecting an unfit Florent Malouda in a more central role than he is accustomed to, or trying the relatively untested Spaniard Oriel Romeu.

Bayern, on the other hand, have a much more youthful and vibrant midfield. Bayern and Germany vice-captain Bastian Schweinsteiger and his young compatriot Toni Kroos are guaranteed starters. Heynckes with plenty to ponder. Photo courtesy FC Bayern MunichThe only question for head coach Jupp Heynckes is how to deploy Kroos and this in turn effects who the final midfielder will be. Normally Heynckes would play Kroos as the furthest forward of the three, removing the defensive burden on the talented East German. However, with the suspension of Luiz Gustavo, Heynckes is left with a straight choice between Thomas Müller and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, with Danijel Pranjic and Takashi Usami surely only good enough to warm the bench. Ukrainian Tymoshchuk is expected to play at centre-back, meaning World Cup Golden Boot winner Müller could well play from the start. This would be an outrageously offensive trio for the Bavarians, one which even has the great Franz Beckenbauer concerned. 'The Kaiser' is quoted as saying it would be a 'crazily attacking midfield'. Nevertheless, this is how Bayern are expected to start. Although there will be great responsibility on Schweinsteiger to assist the weakened defence, in addition to tracking Lampard, this is a role in which 'Schweini' should excel. Moreover, the tantalising combination of Müller, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, allied with the pinpoint passing of Kroos should be more than enough to worry Essien and Mikel and the Chelsea defence.


 Verdict : As long as Bayern remain disciplined and don't become too cavalier, their younger legs and star quality could overrun Chelsea. Advantage Bayern


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