Both Chelsea and Bayern are knee-deep in preparations for Saturday's final. While Chelsea look to round out a severely depleted squad courtesy of injuries and suspensions, Bayern are likewise keeping a close eye on the fitness of a few key men. It looks to be an exciting week for all involved, and if the weather was any indication of Chelsea's mood heading into the weekend, then certainly a storm is on the horizon. More, after the jump:
On the Chelsea side, the concern has been squarely on the fitness of David Luiz and Gary Cahill- both carrying hamstring injuries that have rendered them out of action for 3-4 weeks respectively. Without Ivanovic and Terry for Saturday, it's paramount that both are prepared to go to war, and provide the requisite mettle to see the task at hand through. Without either, Chelsea would likely have to field a very very very suspect back line that could include Paulo, Bosingwa, Romeu/Essien, and Ashley Cole. Yikes. Therefore, the scrutiny has undoubtedly circled the two center backs, who obliged the speculation this afternoon by taking full training with the rest of the first team, participating in full-contact, high-intensity activities. You can all breathe a collective sigh of relief.
Elsewhere, Florent Malouda remains our only genuine doubt as to whether or not he'll be in uniform come Saturday. After coming up lame against Blackburn, Flo has been absent from training for the last two days, presumably resting and getting some therapy on what ails him. Should be not make the cut in time, then there is the very distinct possibility that Di Matteo will have to round out the bench with a few of our younger generation- something the Italian is certain could pose some problems:
"[Missing all three is] the worst-case scenario. If then, we will take some reserve team players on to the bench or the squad, and figure out what to do. I have been trying different options in training for a solution, just in case."
Speculation this week will likely center around Di Matteo's preferred eleven for Saturday's kick-off. As per his standard, he's giving nothing away in the sense of who might slot in where- save for a few certainties. We know that Juan Mata, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, John Obi Mikel, Didier Drogba, and Petr Cech will feature. The fitness levels of our center-backs will determine their fate, while Roberto still has to identify what to do with the absence of Ramires (arguably our most potent threat on the counter to Bayern).
Meanwhile, on the German side of the fence, it hasn't exactly been a great few days. Munich were thoroughly waxed by Borussia Dortmund over the weekend in the Pokal Final, to the tune of 5-2. What was obvious, was that Dortmund's combination of speed and patience set the tone for how the match would ultimately be won. Kagawa, that fleet-footed Japanese starlet managed to open the scoring three minutes in, and proceeded to give the Bayern back four a torrid time with his pace, passing ability, and vision. Essentially, he played the 'Mata' role with aplomb- a good sign. With Bayern missing Holger Badstuber and David Alaba (their starting center-backs), as well as Luiz Gustavo (a more defensive-minded midfielder), things are looking good for Chelsea and somewhat grim for Bayern, right?
Not really. Despite a bad day at the office, Bayern will have capable replacements slotting in, and they retain the same firepower that saw them past Real Madrid in the semis. As well, there's the combination of Lahm and Boateng on the right-side of the defense to shore the attack up, and of course, Mr. Neuer between the sticks. If anything, that no-show against Dortmund illustrates the fact that Bayern's squad has one eye on the prize, and appear to have got caught looking ahead rather than taking care of business on the domestic front- something Chelsea managed to accomplish with the FA Cup this year.
Finally, Bayern are currently sweating on the fitness of Bastian Schweinsteiger, who will be touch-and-go right up to Saturday's kick-off. His absence would be a huge loss, but is buffered by the inclusion of Thomas Mueller from the bench (a more than capable replacement in my eyes). Where Chelsea might be struggling with adequate depth, Bayern appear to have plenty of quality in replacements- something that clearly bodes well for their chances. Still, there are issues which will need to be addressed on both sides. This match may not have the goal-scoring dramatics of years past- it will likely be a cagey affair ultimately decided by who is clinical in front of goal. Chelsea are more than familiar with this set-up, having undergone 180 grueling minutes with Barcelona.
Stay tuned for more coverage on the matter. For now, enjoy the visuals below: