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Champions League Final Preview

Later on today at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid José Mourinho’s Internazionale take on Louis van Gaal’s Bayern Munich for the biggest prize in club football. Both have beaten more fancied teams en route to the final and have earned the right to contest it. Who will win? Sport Report breaks it down.

Bayern Munich

At the beginning of the season, few would have bet on the Bavarian side making the Champions League final. A poor start to the campaign, coupled with an underwhelming first few games in the Bundesliga had many questioning van Gaal’s appointment and predicting another trophy-less season. How they have been proven wrong. Bayern won the Bundesliga and the DFB Pokal (German FA Cup) playing an attractive brand of attacking football. Victory in the Champions League final would see Bayern complete a historic treble.

Route to the final: Second in Group A

Beat Fiorentina 4-4 aggregate (Bayern won on Away Goals)

Beat Manchester United 4-4 aggregate (Bayern won on Away Goals)

Beat Olympique Lyonnais 4-0 aggregate

It has not been the smoothest path to the final for the new German champions. They scraped through the group stage behind Bordeaux courtesy of a Matchday 6 win at Juventus. They then required a Robben rocket in Florence to knock out Fiorentina on away goals and this was after Miroslav Klose scored a goal when he was at least two yards offside that was allowed to stand in the first leg. Robben was the hero again as the disposed of Manchester United despite going 3-0 down at Old Trafford. Again, luck played a role as the referee seemingly changed his mind and sent off Rafael after a foul on Franck Ribéry. It was however, much more straightforward in the semi-final against Lyon with the tournament’s second top scorer Ivica Olic doing the damage.

Key Player: Bayern is a well organised, well-balanced team with quality all over the pitch. There is, however, no doubt that Arjen Robben is the star man. A string of stellar performances in this season’s Champions League and Bundesliga have seen the flying Dutchman rejuvenated, scoring goals for fun. Can he upset his former boss José Mourinho?

Manager: Louis van Gaal. The experienced Dutchman has been there, seen it and done it. He won the Champions League in 1995 with a young Ajax side before leaving for Barcelona, where his assistant was none other than José Mourinho. An astute tactician and renowned disciplinarian, van Gaal will not be overawed by the occasion. Made interesting comments yesterday when he said that Barcelona, Manchester United and Chelsea are all better sides than Bayern Munich and Internazionale, but make no mistake about it, he believes in his team.

Team News: Franck Ribéry misses out through suspension after the Court of Arbitration for Sport turned down the club’s appeal, but Martin Demichelis has been passed fit to partner Daniel van Buyten in the centre of defence.

Internazionale

José Mourinho made a bold move last summer when he sold the club’s star player Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Barcelona as he looked to mould a more balanced side. In came Diego Milito, Samuel Eto’o, Lucio and Wesley Sneijder and it has paid off as the Nerazzurri won the Coppa Italia and a fifth straight Serie A title. As is the case for Bayern, victory in Madrid will complete a historic treble.

Route to the final: Second in Group F

Beat Chelsea 3-1 aggregate

Beat CSKA Moscow 2-0 aggregate

Beat Barcelona 3-2 aggregate

Internazionale made it through the group stage despite winning only two games, but from there on in, it has been impressive. Mourinho put the pain on former club Chelsea and were particularly impressive at Stamford Bridge. They then eliminated CSKA Moscow with few problems in the quarter final before meeting defending champions and tournament favourites Barcelona in the semi final. Mourinho’s men outplayed the Catalan side at the San Siro before pure rearguard action at the Camp Nou made it very difficult for Barcelona to break them down.

Key Player: Difficult to pick one in a quality all round team. Lucio, Esteban Cambiasso and Diego Milito have all had good tournaments, but Wesley Sneijder has been the main man. He has more assists than any other player in this year’s tournament and has also chipped in with valuable goals. He ran the show against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and if Bayern are to have any chance of winning tonight, they will need to stifle the influential Dutchman.

Manager: José Mourinho. The Special One has been there and done it before, winning the Champions League with Porto in 2004 and just about everything else since. It could be his last game at Inter and he would love to sign off by giving the fans their first European Cup triumph since 1965.

Team News: Lucio was a slight concern with a calf injury but is fit to play. Wesley Sneijder caused some concern yesterday when he pulled up holding his foot in training. It does, however, look like he will be fit.

Final Verdict: They are both excellent, well-balanced sides with quality all over the pitch and top, experienced managers. Both have had fantastic seasons domestically and it is tough to pick a winner. Bayern have, however, had luck on their side in this season’s competition and so Bayern in a close one.

Bayern Munich 2-1 Internazionale

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