Skip to content

Countdown to Champions League final: Looking at Chelsea, back to front

May 18, 2012, 10:14 PM EDT

UEFA Champions League Final - Chelsea Training Getty Images

So much is stacked against Chelsea on Saturday, but given the season they’ve had, the Blues should be thrilled to have another shot at their first European Cup. They’ve survived a poor run under a new coach and some additional miles on some already old bodies to make their second final, with only Bayern Munich standing between owner Roman Abramovich and the title that’s motivated his soccer investment.

Unfortunately, Bayern will be playing at home. And, while Bayern’s dealing with suspensions, Chelsea’s seem potentially more devastating. Their best midfielder is out, and the team has little reasonable recourse should one of their central defenders (returning from injury) fail to make it to the final whistle.

Looking at … defense: Like Bayern, Chelsea’s dealing with key, shakeup-forcing absences. John Terry was caught kneeing Alexis Sanchez in the lower back during the semifinal leg in Barcelona. He’s banned, as is Branislav Ivanovic, who accumulated too many yellows (Ramires and Raul Meireles are also suspended).

That forces David Luiz and Gary Cahill into the lineup even through hamstring injuries have kept both central defenders sidelined for weeks. Given the alternative, Chelsea will take what they can get. A central defense of Michael Essien and Sam Hutchinson was a possibility before Luiz and Cahill returned to training earlier this week.

Wide, Chelsea will have Ashley Cole (left) and José Bosingwa. Cole’s performances against Barcelona showed he’s still capable of being the game’s best left back. Bosingwa, on the other hand, is somebody who wouldn’t be playing where it not for the suspensions. At one time Chelsea’s first choice on the right, Bosingwa’s defending has seen him relegated to the bench behind center half-turned-fullback Ivanovic. It’s not exactly the profile of somebody you’d want matched up with Franck Ribery.

Thankfully, Chelsea have Petr Cech as their last line of defense. Against Barcelona, Cech was his former self – a self that was often considered one of the world’s best goalkeepers. In the FA Cup final against Liverpool, he came up with a huge save on Andy Carroll to preserve the Blues’ trophy. He has the ability to keep Chelsea in this one should their defense break down, though he’ll have to be aggressive off his line to keep Bayern from making Mario Gomez into a difference-maker.

Looking at … midfield: John Obi Mikel has experienced a revival under Roberto di Matteo. After seeing his time disappear under Andre Villas-Boas, Mikel has been re-instilled as Chelsea’s first choice defensive midfielder. He’ll line up along with Frank Lampard in the 4-2-3-1’s deeper positions, with Lampard playing the shuttling role.

Lampard will also be the first cog in Chelsea’s counter attacks, with attacking midfielder Juan Mata the next level’s link. More known for his wide play than as a through-the-middle option, Mata has been drawn in by di Matteo’s shift to 4-2-3-1. Like Thomas Müller, however, his tendencies lead him to play higher up the pitch than a natural midfielder would do in the same role. A conservative Chelsea will give him a deeper base position; however, if the game opens up, he will act more in support of Didier Drogba.

Out wide, Chelsea’s ready to make a surprise choice. Ryan Bertrand, the left back-in-waiting, will be handed a start at left midfield, with Florent Malouda unable to go through injury. As others have opined, this seems a response to Bayern’s right flank, which features Arjen Robben and Philipp Lahm. Regardless, Bertrand’s European debut will be on the biggest stage of them all.

On the other side, Salomon Kalou will assume the spot normally occupied by Ramires. If Bayern starts Lahm at left back (with Rafinha on the right), Kalou and Bosingwa could be in trouble.

Looking at … attack: Didier Drogba’s going to have to do a lot of the work by himself, but if there’s one player who you’d want to take up that challenge, Drogba is it. Inspired spring performances against Barcelona, Liverpool and Tottenham have silenced speculation the 34-year-old Ivorian has lost a step. I mean, he definitely has, but it’s a bit foolish to talk about such things when Drogba’s scoring key goals in big games.

Even with Mata acting as a facilitator, Chelsea’s play to Drogba tends to be very direct and (often) very long. Part of the reason the Blues can sit so deep in defense is the faith they have in Drogba’s ability to win long balls and hold up play, letting their midfield get into attack. Without Ramires to serve as the second man in transition, Drogba might have to hold the ball a little more (and for a little longer), but with significant advantages against Jerome Boateng and (possibly) Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, Drogba can still have his way.

Likely Starting Lineup

G: Petr Cech
LB: Ashley Cole
CB: David Luiz
CB: Gary Cahill
RB: José Bosingwa
DM: John Obi Mikel
M: Frank Lampard
LM: Ryan Bertrand
AM: Juan Mata
RM: Salomon Kalou
F: Didier Drogba

Most dangerous player: Didier Drogba

Most likely to score: Drogba

Best creator: Frank Lampard

Key defender: David Luiz

Most important: Petr Cech

Back to front: Bayern Munich

Latest Posts
  1. Steve McClaren fired by Derby County — Is Newcastle United his next stop?

    May 25, 2015, 11:30 PM EDT

    Steve McClaren, Derby County FC Steve McClaren, Derby County FC

    McClaren was Mike Ashley’s first managerial target earlier this month. Now unemployed, will McClaren end up at Newcastle United?

  2. VIDEO: Behind the scenes with Xavi Hernandez before his final game at the Camp Nou

    May 25, 2015, 10:26 PM EDT

    Xavi Hernandez, FC Barcelona Xavi Hernandez, FC Barcelona

    Go behind the scenes, all-access style, with Xavi on the day of his final Camp Nou appearance.

  3. Dani Alves: If Barcelona don’t start showing me respect, I’ll leave this summer

    May 25, 2015, 9:21 PM EDT

    Dani Alves, FC Barcelona Dani Alves, FC Barcelona

    With his contract expiring this summer, Dani Alves is posturing — and doing it well — for upcoming negotiations.

  4. MLS Player of the Week — Week 12: Columbus Crew SC’s Kei Kamara

    May 25, 2015, 8:08 PM EDT

    Kei Kamara, Columbus Crew SC — Photo credit: Columbus Crew SC Kei Kamara, Columbus Crew SC — Photo credit: Columbus Crew SC

    We’re only through 12 weeks of the 2015 season, but one man is threatening to run away with the Golden Boot race already.

  5. MLS Team of the Week — Stars of Week 12

    May 25, 2015, 6:17 PM EDT

    Benoit Cheyrou, Toronto FC Benoit Cheyrou, Toronto FC

    Four of the league’s bottom-five teams won over the weekend, making this week’s TOTW a bit of a “who’s that?” instead of a “who’s who.”

  6. In a career full of blunders, firing Carlo Ancelotti is Florentino Perez’s worst mistake yet

    May 25, 2015, 5:30 PM EDT

    Perez Getty Images

    The problem at Real Madrid isn’t the manager year after year, it’s a problem of accountability, and it comes from the top.

  7. Roma top Lazio in Rome derby, guarantee 2nd-place finish, Champions League spot

    May 25, 2015, 4:46 PM EDT

    Francesco Totti, AS Roma Francesco Totti, AS Roma

    Few games can make an entire season the way one victory in the Rome derby can do. Only this time, there was CL football on the line.

  8. 2014-15 Premier League season review: The managers

    May 25, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    Jose Mourinho, Chelsea FC Jose Mourinho, Chelsea FC

    It’s time to look back at the men who shaped the Premier League’s teams this season: the managers victorious, and gone.

  9. Report: Russia wants to use prison labor to prep for 2018 World Cup

    May 25, 2015, 3:10 PM EDT

    FIFA FIFA

    The workers would make close to $300 a month for the full-time work.

  10. Check out the L.A. Galaxy’s classy full-page Gerrard ad in Liverpool Echo

    May 25, 2015, 2:21 PM EDT

    Liverpool v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    The American club wisely made its role in the advertisement understated, as it salutes its new midfielder.

  11. Florentino Perez announces firing of Carlo Ancelotti by Real Madrid

    May 25, 2015, 1:39 PM EDT

    AncelottiCup AP

    The Italian manager had more or less conceded his job status earlier Monday due to a bout with cervical stenosis.

  12. 2014-15 Premier League season review: Americans Abroad

    May 25, 2015, 1:07 PM EDT

    during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Liverpool at Britannia Stadium on May 24, 2015 in Stoke on Trent, England. Getty Images

    It’s time to take a look back at the seasons of four American players in the Premier League, and one who is no longer.

  13. Middlesbrough 0-2 Norwich City: Comfortable Canaries back in Premier League

    May 25, 2015, 11:56 AM EDT

    during the Sky Bet Championship Playoff Final between Middlesbrough and Norwich City at Wembley Stadium on May 25, 2015 in London, England. Getty Images

    It’s called the richest game in the world, with an estimated $180 million on the line, though it didn’t provide a wealth of scoring chances.

  14. Ten biggest storylines of the Premier League season that was

    May 25, 2015, 11:12 AM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpta2ytvim2vjnzvmnmixmde1nmzmmji2ngzkmwu4ytq4 AP

    Now, it’s time to take a look back at — in no particular order — 10 storylines that helped make the Premier League season a memorable one.

  15. FOLLOW LIVE — Lineups as Middlesbrough and Norwich duel for final Premier League slot

    May 25, 2015, 10:01 AM EDT

    LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 25:  Fans walk to the stadium prior to the Sky Bet Championship Playoff Final between Middlesbrough and Norwich City at Wembley Stadium on May 25, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Norwich is hoping for a quick fire return to the PL after being relegated last season, while Middlesbrough was sent packing to the second flight in 2009.

  16. VIDEO: Premier League’s Top 10 goals of the season, from A(dam) to Z(amora)

    May 25, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    Crystal Palace v Queens Park Rangers - Premier League Getty Images

    See what Robbie Earle, Robbie Mustoe and Kyle Martino tabbed as top of the pops in a surprisingly QPR-heavy Top Ten list.

  17. West Ham lays out coach criteria, as top candidate Bilic says he’ll leave Besiktas

    May 25, 2015, 8:45 AM EDT

    Arsene Wenger, Slaven Bilic AP

    The Hammers have specific characteristics in mind for the next Premier League boss at the Boleyn Ground.

  18. USMNT’s Morales signs new deal with Ingolstadt after Bundesliga promotion

    May 25, 2015, 7:54 AM EDT

    INGOLSTADT, GERMANY - MAY 17:  Alfredo Morales of FC Ingolstadt and team mates celebrate the winning the shield after the 2. Bundesliga match between FC Ingolstadt and RB Leipzig at Audi Sportpark on May 17, 2015 in Ingolstadt, Germany.  (Photo by Adam Pretty/Bongarts/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Morales played sparingly for Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga from 2011-12.

  19. MLS transfers: Didier Drogba mulling move, Andrea Pirlo “received offer”

    May 25, 2015, 12:30 AM EDT

    article-1202950-05D61EA7000005DC-689_468x357 Reuters

    MLS is reportedly pursing the signatures of Andrea Pirlo and Didier Drogba.

  20. Serie A roundup: Fiorentina qualify for Europa League, Sampdoria fall short

    May 24, 2015, 11:32 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C3-FIORENTINA-TRAINING Getty Images

    Roundup of Serie A’s final Sunday of the 2014-15 campaign.

Featured video

Chelsea lift the 2014-15 PL trophy