They say things come in three's - good or bad - and for the purposes of this article, I'll focus on the good. There's horse racing's Triple Crown, there's American baseball's Triple Crown. The Three Musketeers. Triple word score in Scrabble. I'm sure we can go on all day, but there's one special 'three-some' everyone in Munich is focusing on these days. On Saturday, FC Bayern Munich will be looking to make history and join an elite group of European football clubs if they are to win the UEFA Champions League Final against Inter Milan.
Three titles, or as most football fans say, the "treble", is the Holy Grail for top clubs in Europe. After securing the Bundesliga title two weeks ago and winning the German Cup Final last weekend, Bayern will now look to join only five other clubs that have previously won their league title, the domestic cup, and the top European club competition in the same season. FC Barcelona accomplished this just last year. Bayern was in a similar situation back in 1999. After winning the league, they came within seconds of winning two more titles. Bayern fans, you may skip to my next paragraph to avoid rehashing the emotional trauma. Leading 1-0 against Manchester United in the Champions League final, they gave up 2 goals in stoppage time in what's considered one of the classic endings of any match or any final, in any sport, ever. Bayern proceeded to lose the DFB Pokal Final the next month in a penalty shootout against Werder Bremen. The club went from the edge of making history to just another club with one domestic trophy.
Ironically, Manchester United's last gasp victory gave them the treble that year and now 11 years later, Bayern faces eerily similar circumstances. Next week in Madrid, Germany's most successful club will take on Inter who are themselves looking for the treble after already winning both the Scudetto (league title) and Coppa Italia (domestic cup) this year. The similarities do not end there. The Champions League Final in 1999 was played in Spain as it will be this year. Bayern's head coach at the time was Ottmar Hitzfeld, who had just won the Champions League with another team, Dortmund in 1997. Louis van Gaal, the Bavarians' current head coach, has also won Europe's top prize with Ajax in 1995. Will he and the team suffer the same fate as Hitzfeld and Co.?
There's one positive note for Munich fans. Bayern exorcised their loss to Bremen in 1999 with a 4-nil trashing of the same club in Berlin for the German domestic cup last week and hope that will also help them forget what happened on that fateful night in the Camp Nou and lead to history in 2010 with a victory in Madrid.
UEFA Champions League Final, Saturday, May 22nd, Santiago Bernabau, Madrid, FC Bayern Munich vs. FC Internazionale Milano, kickoff 20:45, live on Sky and SAT1
Past European Treble Winners - Celtic (Scotland) 1967, Ajax (Netherlands) 1972, PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands) 1988, Manchester United (England) 1999, Barcelona (Spain) 2009, FC Bayern Munich/Internazionale Milano 2010