Friday, 21 May 2010
This seasons Champions League Final is the case of the pupil taking on the master - Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan take on Louis Van Gaal Bayern Munich, the man whom he was an assistant to at Barcelona from 1997-2000. Tonight, represents a very important night for both coaches, as they have the chance to create their very own piece of history.
Currently, Ernst Happel (Feyenoord 1970 & Hamburg 1983) and Ottmar Hitzfeld (Borussia Dortmund 1997 & Bayern Munich 2001) are part of a very elite club having both won the European Cup on two occasions with different teams. However, either Mourinho who won the Champions League with Porto in 2004 or Van Gaal who was victorious with Ajax in 1995 will become the third member of that club.
Three is the magic number for both coaches as they both have the chance to complete an unprecedented treble of League, Cup and European Cup. Neither Inter nor Bayern have ever won the treble before in their history. This could be the second year in a row that the treble can be won after Barcelona completing it last term.
This year’s final will be the first where neither of the finalists qualified from their respective groups as winners.
On the way to the final Jose Mourinho and his Inter Milan side have had to overcome all the adversities and rivalries of his past - his very own road to redemption, if you will. The route certainly wasn’t all plain sailing for the Nerazzurri as they looked to be on their way out after opening the group stages with three draws.
Who would have thought Inter would go on to beat, Chelsea, CSKA Moscow and Barcelona (over two legs) to reach their first European final in 38 years, although it is 45 years since they last won the competition 1965 – which is an astonishing wait for a side who have been so dominant in their home country, wrapping up their 5th Serie A title in a row last Sunday.
Mourinho has already stated that beating Barcelona was “greatest moment of my career” although; if Inter manages to beat Bayern then it will certainly be his greatest ever triumph.
Having shown that he can beat Barcelona, Real Madrid are on high alert, so, will this be his final audition for the manager’s job on their own stage and winning the Champions League and completing the treble be his last hurrah for Inter?
The resurgent Bayern Munich are currently riding the crest of a wave after a memorable domestic season. Having already had the Bundesliga title in the bag, Munich crushed rivals Werder Bremen on Saturday last 4-0 to complete to thirds of their treble winning the German Cup (DFB Pokal Final).
This has all been down to the fantastic stewardship of Louis Van Gaal. In his first season in charge of the Bavarians’ he has managed to lead them to their first Champions League final in 9 years.
One could argue that they had a far easier route to Madrid, but they did rely on the away goals rule against Fiorentina and Manchester United, both of whom they drew with 4-4 on aggregate before running Lyon ragged which saw them beat them 4-0 over two legs.
The two sides do have previous having met four times before on the European stage – the most recent being 2006 in the Champions League group stages where Munich beat Inter 2-0 in Milan, before drawing 0-0 in Munich.
Neither sides will be making many changes to their respective line-ups, but, Inter will be without the suspended Thiago Motta who was sent off in the semi-final against Barcelona, while Bayern Munich will be without Frank Ribery who is also banned.
If you wish to check out a full tactical preview of the final then check out either The Equaliser or Zonal Marking. Both of which come highly recommended.
With no English teams in the final this time round the chance for an English official to officiate this year’s showpiece has come to pass. Howard Webb becomes the first English referee in the Champions League final since Phillip Don took charge of AC Milan's 4-0 victory over Barcelona in Athens in 1994.
Now the time has come for me to look stupid by predicting the outcome of the final tonight and boy, oh, boy it is a tough one. Obviously, and well, for the sake of everyone watching, both teams will play a highly competitive final and no errors will be made by the officials involved.
Both sides have had great seasons and this is their chance to end it on a high and win the treble. My head and my heart say Inter and at the end of the day that is who I will be supporting - another Special victory for the “Special One”.
Touchline Views Prediction: Inter 2-1 Bayern Munich