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Bayern Munich v Barcelona – live Champions League

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE LIVE: Bayern Munich v Barcelona – as it happens from the Allianz Arena

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25min: GOAL! BAYERN MUNICH 1-0 Barcelona

It's been coming and finally the German side's pressure pays off. A corner eventually finds Dante inside the area and his headed effort back across goal is powerfully nodded home by Thomas Muller.

22min: Bayern are slightly fortunate to win a corner as Jordi Alba was adjudged to have failed in keeping the ball in play, but Robben's set-piece is punched clear by Valdes before the visitors win a free-kick for an infringement inside the box.

19min: The home side continue to look dangerous as they go forward but whether it's by handball or other means, the Barcelona back-four isn't struggling too much to cope with the German side. Going forward though it's a different story as Lionel Messi and Co have yet to get into the game.

Clash of the titans: Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery fight for the ball

Clash of the titans: Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery fight for the ball

16min: A strong penalty claim from Bayern Munich, as Philipp Lahm's shot is clearly blocked from a raised Pique arm. It's very subtle from the defender but he is very fortunate to get away with that.

14min: From InfostradaLive:

Bayern have never lost a CL semifinal match at home (5W – 1D). Their only draw was in April 1995: 0-0 against Ajax.

11min: A very even opening to a game which neither side has yet to take control of. Barcelona's passing looks better at this stage but it's Valdes who has had to make the only save of the match so far.

Aiming low: Bayern Munich's Arjen Robben sees a shot saved by Barcelona's Victor Valdes

Aiming low: Bayern Munich's Arjen Robben sees a shot saved by Barcelona's Victor Valdes

8min: In fact one or two players are slipping on other areas of the watered pitch as Barcelona win their first corner, which is headed wide by Gerard Pique.

5min: The home side have settled now but we have the bizarre case of a waterlogged pitch.

There's been no rain in Munich today but the centre-circle is holding standing water from what is most likely from the sprinklers that watered the pitch before the game.

2min: It takes nearly 80 seconds for Bayern to touch the ball but they carve out the first opportunity. Arjen Robben's through pass feeds in Javi Martinez, and after the forward returns the favour with a cut-back, the winger's low shot is well blocked by Victor Valdes.

Ready to go: The players arrive on the pitch at the Allianz Arena

Ready to go: The players arrive on the pitch at the Allianz Arena

Kick-off: Away we go at the Allianz Arena as Barcelona possession is immediately jeered by the home crowd.

19.41: Both sets of teams are on the field, as the home fans raise red and white cards to represent Bayern Munich's colours.

19.36: From InfostradaLive:

Bayern are the first German team to play two consecutive Champions League semifinals since 1998/1999, 1999/2000 and 2000/2001, when they themselves achieved this feat.

Preparing: Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer saves a shot warming up

Preparing: Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer saves a shot warming up

19.31: Viktor Kassai is in charge of tonight's game – with the Hungarian a lucky charm of some sort for Barcelona.

He oversaw their 4-0 win over AC Milan at the Nou Camp earlier this year and was also in charge of the 2011 Champions League final at Wembley where the Spanish side defeated Manchester United 3-1.

Bayern Munich last had the official in their 2-1 defeat at Real Madrid in last year's semi-final.

19.26: They may be stars everyone wants to see but Barcelona were greeted by jeers from the home fans as they took to the pitch for their warm-up.

19.23: Whatever you think of this current Bayern Munich team there is no denying how impressive their current form is. They have won 19 of their last 20 matches in all competitions – with that one blemish being the second-leg defeat against Arsenal in the last 16.

Jupp Heynckes' team have won all 13 Bundesliga games this year and are on course for the treble having reached the final of the German cup following a 6-1 semi-final win over Wolfsburg.

Club legend: Bayern president Uli Hoeness arrives at the Allianz Arena

Club legend: Bayern president Uli Hoeness arrives at the Allianz Arena

Flying the flag: Bayern Munich and Barcelona fans gathered outside of the Allianz Arena

Flying the flag: Bayern Munich and Barcelona fans gathered outside of the Allianz Arena

Flying the flag: Bayern Munich and Barcelona fans gathered outside of the Allianz Arena

19.18: From InfostradaLive:

Victor Valdes plays his 48th CL KO match, overtaking Ryan Giggs (47) as player with most CL KO appearances.

19.13: Full line-ups from the Allianz Arena:

Bayern Munich v Barcelona
Bayern Munich: Neuer, Lahm, Boateng, Dante, Alaba, Javi Martinez, Schweinsteiger, Robben, Muller, Ribery, Gomez. Subs: Starke, Van Buyten, Shaqiri, Rafinha, Pizarro, Gustavo, Tymoschuk.

Barcelona: Valdes, Dani Alves, Pique, Bartra, Jordi Alba, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Sanchez, Messi, Pedro. Subs: Pinto, Fabregas, Villa, Thiago, Montoya, Abidal, Song.

Referee: Viktor Kassai (Hungary)

19.08: From OptaPaolo:

25 – Bayern have always scored at home in the Champions League against Spanish opposition (13 games), scoring 25 goals in total. Assurance.

Way back when: Bayern Munich's Stefan Effenberg (right) tracks Barcelona's Sonny Anderson

Way back when: Bayern Munich's Stefan Effenberg (right) tracks Barcelona's Sonny Anderson

Revenge: First leg goals from Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry helped Barcelona thump Bayern Munich 5-1 on aggregate in the 2009 Champions League quarter-finals

Revenge: First leg goals from Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry helped Barcelona thump Bayern Munich 5-1 on aggregate in the 2009 Champions League quarter-finals

Revenge: First leg goals from Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry helped Barcelona thump Bayern Munich 5-1 on aggregate in the 2009 Champions League quarter-finals

19.05: Bayern Munich won two Champions League group stage meetings in 1998, but Barcelona finally triumphed over the German side when they strolled to a 5-1 aggregate victory in the Champions League quarter-finals four years ago.

In fact they effectively won the tie by half-time of the first leg at the Nou Camp, following a brace from Lionel Messi and strikes from Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto'o.

19.00: Despite their regular participation in Europe's top competition – these sides have only clashed in three previous seasons.

The first was in the 1996 UEFA Cup semi-final when Bayern edged through 4-3 on aggregate – a tie where in the clash at the Nou Camp, Sergio Busquets' (who starts tonight) father Carles featured – as did Pep Guardiola.

18.55: Mario Mandzukic is suspended for Bayern, so therefore Mario Gomez plays up top. The more agile Jerome Boateng starts in front of Daniel van Buyten.

French following: A fan holds a France flag with Bayern's Franck Ribery on the front

French following: A fan holds a France flag with Bayern's Franck Ribery on the front

18.50: So Messi returns for Barcleona and will lead an attack along with Pedro Rodriguez and Alexis Sanchez. Marc Bartra starts in defence in place of injured pair Javier Mascherano, Carlos Puyol and the suspended Adriano.

18.45: Barcelona starting XI:

Valdes, Alves, Bartra, Pique, Alba, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Pedro, Messi, Alexis.

18.40: Bayern Munich starting XI:

Neuer, Lahm, Boateng, Dante, Alaba, Schweinsteiger, Martinez, Robben, Muller, Ribery, Gomez.

On the move: Mario Gotze (centre) will join Bayern Munich this summer

On the move: Mario Gotze (centre) will join Bayern Munich this summer

18.35: Bayern Munich have already been making headlines today, after it emerged Mario Gotze will join the club from Borussia Dortmund for 32m in what will be Pep Guardiola's first signing when he takes over at Munich this summer.

A huge statement of intent that, with the 20-year-old midfielder one of Europe's most highly sought after players.

18.30: From OptaJean:

1 – Barcelona have only won one of their 6 competitive encounters with Bayern Munich (D2, L3). Stress.

18.25: The fact that Barcelona are not huge favourites (if they are favourites at all) to win tonight shows just how far Bayern Munich have come this season.

They continue to shine in Europe of course but their domestic form has been nothing short of devastating – it should be quite a contest.

Back in business: Lionel Messi is poised to return for Barcelona

Back in business: Lionel Messi is poised to return for Barcelona

18.20: It's been a lovely sunny St. George's Day in the UK, and the weather is looking good in Munich too ahead of tonight's game. It's 16 degrees at the Allianz Arena where fans are already arriving.

18.15: No full team news yet but it seems Lionel Messi is fully fit for Barcelona, having not featured since coming off the bench in the quarter-final win against Paris Saint-Germain in the last round. That's a big boost for Barca who have stuttered at times on their travels around the continent this term.

18.10: There may be no English teams left but what a final four we have in this season's Champions League!

As it turns out it will be a double dose of Spain v Germany, and while Real Madrid are favourites to edge past Borussia Dortmund, it appears much closer between Bayern Munich and Barcelona – the latter of course, the main event this evening.

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On the ball: Bayern Munich's Bastian Schweinsteiger trains in preperation for the semi-final

On the ball: Bayern Munich's Bastian Schweinsteiger trains in preperation for the semi-final

Gareth Bale injury latest: Tottenham to use blood-spinning technique to speed up Welshman"s return

Spurs banking on blood-spinning remedy to get star man Bale back in double-quick time

By
Sami Mokbel

PUBLISHED:

22:02 GMT, 8 April 2013

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UPDATED:

01:41 GMT, 9 April 2013

RACE FOR TOP FOUR – AS IT STANDS

TOP FOUR

Click HERE for the full Premier League table

Tottenham are putting their faith in the once controversial blood-spinning technique to speed up Gareth Bale's recovery from an ankle injury.

Bale's season looked to be over last Thursday after the Welshman sustained a serious looking ankle injury in Spurs' 2-2 draw against Basle.

But after a scan on Friday, it emerged
that Bale would only miss two games – Sunday's 2-2 draw against Everton
and the Europa League quarter-final second leg clash in Switzerland on
Thursday night.

Scroll down for Premier League highlights

Scare: Gareth Bale was stretchered off against Basle at White Hart Lane

Scare: Gareth Bale was stretchered off against Basle at White Hart Lane

Crucial: Bale has scored 17 league goals for Tottenham this season

Crucial: Bale has scored 17 league goals for Tottenham this season

Manager Andre Villas-Boas is understandably keen to have Bale fit again as quickly as possible and club doctors will use the blood-spinning method to aid his recovery from injury as Tottenham look to get their star man back on the field for the visit of Manchester City on April 21.

The technique, which was also used on Jermain Defoe earlier in the season as he struggled to overcome a pelvic injury, involves a small sample of a person's blood being injected out of the body before it is spun to increase the concentration of the growth hormone.

The blood sample is then injected into the athlete's problem area which can help an injury heal five times faster.

Blood-spinning first came under the spotlight in 2005 when Chelsea, then managed by Jose Mourinho, were warned by the World Anti-Doping Agency that their use of the method to speed up Arjen Robben's recovery from injury may be illegal – but it is now more commonly used in sport.

Meanwhile, there was better news on the injury front for Tottenham on Monday night as Younes Kaboul made his long-awaited return from a knee injury.

The French defender has not played since the opening-day defeat by Newcastle, but he is on course to play a part in Spurs' crucial Premier League run-in after making his return to action against West Ham Under 21s on Monday.

Back: Younes Kaboul (right) made his long-awaited return from injury on Monday night

Back: Younes Kaboul (right) made his long-awaited return from injury on Monday night

VIDEO: Watch highlights of Tottenham's 2-2 draw against Everton

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Robin van Persie injury "not serious", says Dutch coach Louis van Gaal

Don't worry Fergie, Van Persie injury 'not serious', insists Dutch coach Van Gaal

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UPDATED:

12:38 GMT, 12 September 2012

Holland coach Louis van Gaal played down concerns over the fitness of Robin van Persie after the Manchester United striker was replaced at half-time during Tuesday's World Cup qualifying victory over Hungary.

Van Persie was forced out of the 4-1 win in Budapest after suffering a knock to his thigh, with Klaas Jan Huntelaar brought on in his place, but the Oranje boss insisted he was merely erring on the side of caution.

Taken off: Robin van Persie (left) was replaced at half-time

Concern: Robin van Persie (left) was taken off with a thigh injury

'We took off Robin for precautionary measures,' Van Gaal said.

'It doesn't seem to be too serious, but you never know. We didn't want to take any risks.'

The 29-year-old has scored four goals in three games for United and also found the net in Holland’s 2-0 World Cup qualifying win against Turkey on Friday.

Another United new boy Shinji Kagawa missed Japan’s World Cup qualifier against Iraq on Tuesday with a back problem but has also reassured fans over the injury.

‘Obviously it's a shame I wasn't able to play. It's not that serious and I don't think it will keep me out for long,’ Kagawa said.

Sir Alex Ferguson, who was in New York to witness Andy Murray’s US Open success, is already without injured striker Wayne Rooney.

Defenders Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are also out, but Jonny Evans could return for Saturday's Premier League clash against Wigan.

Evans had surgery on his ankle over the summer but played 90 minutes for Northern Ireland in both Friday's 2-0 defeat in Russia and Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw at home to Luxembourg.

Van Persie's injury scare came after the Dutch had already lost Arjen Robben to a groin strain in the warm-up, with the Bayern Munich winger's misfortune allowing Jeremain Lens into the starting XI.

Setback: Van Persie has a history of getting injured on international duty

Setback: Van Persie has a history of getting injured on international duty

And Lens did not let his opportunity pass him by, turning in a man-of-the-match display.

The PSV Eindhoven striker, winning only his sixth cap, scored twice and
hit the crossbar before setting up the fourth goal for Huntelaar.

Young defender Bruno Martins Indi
scored his first international goal, rendering Balasz Dszudszak's
eighth-minute penalty for the hosts irrelevant in the final analysis.

'I have to highlight Jeremain Lens' performance,' Van Gaal said.

'He had an excellent game despite the fact he only got into the starting XI just before the match started.'

Van Gaal has marked the start of his second spell in charge of Holland by giving opportunities to a host of new faces.

Feyenoord midfielder Jordy Clasie was among those to impress last
night, but the coach reserved praise for experienced pair Joris
Mathijsen and Maarten Stekelenburg, both of whom have been edged out of
the first team by younger players in recent times.

Hot shot: Van Persie has scored four goals in three games for Manchester United

Hot shot: Van Persie has scored four goals in three games for Manchester United

Stekelenburg returned to the fold after Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul was ruled out through
injury, while defender Mathijsen entered the fray after an hour when
Martins Indi picked up a knock.

'Immediately after Krul could not continue I could tell Stekelenburg he would goalkeeping,' said Van Gaal.

'Both he Mathijsen have behaved as professionals. Which is how it should be, but it is not always.'

Van Gaal added that his move towards younger players represented a
risk, but was delighted that so far it had paid off with two wins from
two in Group D.

'It's about the experience,' he said.

'As a club coach you can easily take such a risk. As a national coach it is that much harder. It's a risk.

'Because if it goes wrong, then my head gets chopped off.

'But six points from two games, six goals for and one against. That's fine.'

Euro 2012: Ruud Gullit made favourite for Holland job

Ruud awakening: Gullit made favourite to replace Van Marwijk as Holland boss

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UPDATED:

08:34 GMT, 29 June 2012

Holland legend Ruud Gullit has been installed as the favourite to become the country's new national team boss.

Bert van Marwijk stepped down this week following the country's disastrous Euro 2012 campaign, where they were knocked out at the group stages after losing all three games.

Favourite: Gullit takes in a round of golf in his homeland

Favourite: Gullit takes in a round of golf in his homeland

Euro 2012 email button

Gullit, who has been writing for Sportsmail throughout Euro 2012, guided Holland to their only major tournament success as captain of the Euro 1988-winning team.

The Dutch headed into Euro 2012 ranked as the No 2 team in the world after finishing as runners-up in the 2010 World Cup – where they were also led by Van Marwijk.

Disaster: Van Marwijk presided over Holland's dreadful Euro 2012 campaign

Disaster: Van Marwijk presided over Holland's dreadful Euro 2012 campaign

But despite the 60-year-old only recently penning a new four-year deal, he was hounded out of the job after his side – including the likes of Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben – were beaten by Denmark, Germany and Portugal.

Former Chelsea and Newcastle boss Gullit was last employed as manager of Russian side Terek Grozny, by whom he was sacked after just five months in charge in June 2011.

Euro 2012: Arjen Robben and Rafael van der Vaart hint at Dutch squad divisions

Robben and Van der Vaart hint at Dutch squad divisions, labelling Euro 2012 campaign 'rubbish'

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UPDATED:

23:11 GMT, 17 June 2012

Arjen Robben and Rafael van der Vaart laid the blame of Holland's disastrous Euro 2012 campaign firmly at the door of the players – and not under-fire boss Bert van Marwijk.

The Dutch, who reached the World Cup final two years ago, lost to Denmark, Germany and Portugal to finish bottom of Group B.

With allegations of divisions swirling through the Dutch camp, a furious 28-year-old Robben would only say: 'Those problems inside the camp have to stay in the dressing room. I don’t want to really talk about it.

Down and out: Arjen Robben

Down and out: Arjen Robben

'I would prefer to get on a bus right now but I am here in front of a camera because it is part of the job.’

'We have failed with the entire squad. It is time to look in the mirror with all the players. We must all do that. Individually we should look in the mirror and as a team. We have been knocked out in a major tournament with three defeats and that is the stone hard truth. It was a disastrous campaign.'

And Van der Vaart, who hit the stunning opener in the 2-1 defeat to Portugal added: 'Holland was poor. The conclusion of this tournament has to be hard and we were bad.

Feeling for the fans: Rafael van der Vaart

Feeling for the fans: Rafael van der Vaart

'The players all have to take the blame. We have all been below par. None of us have delivered. But what is the whole point of concluding that, actually.

'I feel most sorry for the Dutch fans. They turned up in thousands to watch this rubbish.'

Meanwhile, Van Marwijk responded shirtily to questions surrounding his future.

'I'm still not concerned with my future,' he said when asked if he would resign. 'It is too soon after the match.'

Under pressure: Bert van Marwijk

Under pressure: Bert van Marwijk

Mark van Bommel, who was left out of the starting line-up by father-in-law Van Marwijk in preference of the more attacking Van der Vaart, told De Telegraaf: 'After the last two years things have changed and the atmosphere was different this time. I'm talking only for myself.'

Champions League final: Arjen Robben distraught after terrible penalty

It was terrible! Robben bemoans penalty miss as Bayern pay price in Champions League final

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UPDATED:

10:31 GMT, 20 May 2012

Arjen Robben was distraught after his penalty cost Bayern Munich dearly in their Champions League final defeat to Chelsea.

Robben had the chance to put Bayern on their way to European glory in extra time last night when Didier Drogba fouled Franck Ribery inside the box.

But Petr Cech saved what was a poor spot-kick from his former Blues team-mate before going on to help his side win a dramatic penalty shootout.

Denied: Arjen Robben saw his extra-time penalty saved by Petr Cech (above) and was dejected afterwards

Denied: Arjen Robben saw his extra-time penalty saved by Petr Cech (above) and was dejected afterwards

Bayern Munich player Arjen Robben and his wife Bernadien, attend a banquet in Munich southern Germany early Sunday

Bayern led that shootout early on having also been two minutes away from winning the final in normal time.

Robben, who also fluffed a penalty in their Bundesliga title showdown with Borussia Dortmund, said: 'I can't describe how I feel with words, but it's been a terrible night.

'Two or three times, you feel you have the cup in your hands but at the end you stand with nothing.

'It wasn't a good penalty. I wanted to shoot the ball hard and high in the goal, but the ball didn't go high enough. It was a terrible penalty kick.

'After that, I still played well but you have to change your mindset at that point.'

Get me out of here! Robben looks as if he'd rather be anywhere else than Bayern's post-match banquet

Get me out of here! Robben looks as if he'd rather be anywhere else than Bayern's post-match banquet

Get me out of here! Robben looks as if he'd rather be anywhere else than Bayern's post-match banquet

Robben was consoled by both match-winner Drogba and UEFA president Michel Platini after Bayern's 4-3 shootout defeat, following a 1-1 draw at the Allianz Arena.

'The fact that Drogba and Platini tried to cheer me up was nice, but it's worth nothing,' Robben said.

'I wanted that cup but it didn't happen.'

Team-mate Thomas Muller, who thought he had scored the winner for Bayern, insisted the better team lost.

You should have it gone the other way! Thomas Muller talks to Robben after his penalty miss

You should have it gone the other way! Thomas Muller talks to Robben after his penalty miss

Hard luck: Robben is consoled by the Chelsea players after the final in Munich

Hard luck: Robben is consoled by the Chelsea players after the final in Munich

He told Sky Sports: 'That is football, we have seen it in the past. It is not always the better team that have the cup in the end.

'When you score in front of your own fans so close to the end and then you watch Chelsea holding the cup, you can see that a lot has happened.

'It is hard to find words for that, but football is not everything.'

Bayern Munich v Chelsea: Champions League final analysis

Bayern Munich v Chelsea: Champions League final analysis

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UPDATED:

00:45 GMT, 19 May 2012

RAMPAGING RIBERY

Playing right back for Chelsea will be the hardest job on the pitch and it is Roberto Di Matteo’s toughest decision whether to go for Jose Bosingwa or Paulo Ferreira to replace Branislav Ivanovic.

Containing Franck Ribery is key for Chelsea. If the full back does a proper job on him, Ribery can drift inside looking for the ball and his attacking threat can get snarled up in midfield traffic. But if he stays wide, is given space and plenty of ball, Ribery can destroy defences.

Wing wizards: Arjen Robben (left) and Franck Ribery will pose a danger

Wing wizards: Arjen Robben (left) and Franck Ribery will pose a danger

That is why Di Matteo’s selection decision is crucial. I think he’ll go for Bosingwa because Ferreira lacks a bit of pace and, with two centre halves nursing injuries, Bosingwa could move seamlessy to replace one of them
if he has to.

THE CENTRAL ISSUE

The absence of John Terry is a huge miss. Gary Cahill and David Luiz last started a Champions League match together away to Napoli, where Ashley Cole effectively kept them in the competition with a top clearance. If it was not for Cole’s brilliance, Chelsea would have been 4-1 down… and out.

But they can take confidence from the way Chelsea have finished the season. Stop Bayern’s wingers and you stop Bayern. Ribery and Arjen Robben are inside-out wingers (left-footed Robben on the right,
right-footed Ribery plays on the left), but it is not just the full backs or Luiz and Cahill who must be on their game.

Pep talk: Gary Cahill will feature for Chelsea after returning from injury

Pep talk: Gary Cahill will feature for Chelsea after returning from injury

Ramires not playing puts extra pressure on the two wide players Di Matteo selects to track back and double up. Salomon Kalou has the energy to
do that, so I would not be surprised to see him starting. Chelsea cannot afford to let Bayern’s two wingers go one-on-one.

KROOS CONTROL

Toni Kroos was probably the best player on the pitch against Real Madrid,
so it’s a blessing for Chelsea that he is being forced into a deeper position. Kroos is like a silent assassin; you hardly notice him because
everything he does is so tidy and quick. Luiz Gustavo’s suspension means Kroos will have to play in the middle alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger, with Thomas Muller playing off striker Mario Gomez. Bayern will miss Kroos’ clever link play in advanced areas.

I would play Juan Mata in a central position, it is where his guile is most effective for Chelsea. Di Matteo may go for Michael Essien but he
has seen little first-team action and seems to have lost some of his pace and power.

Midfield maestro: Toni Kroos may be hindered by his deeper position

Midfield maestro: Toni Kroos may be hindered by his deeper position

DIDIER MUST DELIVER

Didier Drogba is unplayable — my Sportsmail colleague Martin Samuel summed it up perfectly. Didier will be licking his lips playing against Bayern’s two central defenders.

They are stand-in centre halves, because of injury and suspension. Anatoliy Tymoshchuk is a defensive midfielder and Jerome Boateng played at full back at Manchester City. Didier must let them feel his power and not waste energy diving. His contribution is vital for Chelsea.

Gary Neville: Bayern Munich v Chelsea – the key issues

Bayern Munich v Chelsea – the key issues which will decide who will win the Champions League final

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UPDATED:

22:48 GMT, 12 May 2012

The 1999 Champions League winner on the key issues that will determine who comes out on top in Munich.

Chelsea's Didier Drogba

Bayern Munich's striker Mario Gomez

Sharp shooters: Drogba (left) and Gomez

Gomez and Drogba

Both strikers are built like an old-fashioned centre-forward: physical, strong, powerful. But they lead the line on their own, effectively doing the job that two men used to do. Very few can manage that but these two are among the best in the world.

The pair have carried their teams at times. Didier Drogba had four monster displays in games that mattered for Chelsea – Valencia at home, Napoli at home and Barcelona home and away. He did whatever his team needed, whether it was breaking up the play, sacrificing himself in midfield in the Nou Camp – or scoring the goals they needed, such as the winner over Barcelona at the Bridge.

If Chelsea are to win the Champions League, Drogba is going to have to have a big night. Mario Gomez has an almost surreal scoring record, with 80 goals in 90 appearances for club and country in the past two years and 12 in the Champions League this season. He's surrounded by more fashionable players, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, who grab the headlines. But he probes around that last defender, is physically difficult to get near to and hard to mark at crosses.

Munich or bust

More frightening than travelling to
Munich for Chelsea is that this game is their last chance of making the
Champions League. You can imagine the glory of being the first players
in the club's history to win this trophy and the first club from London
to do so. But lose and there will be the knowledge this is a pivotal
moment. Sixth in the Premier League isn't much of a return for Roman
Abramovich after spending 130million on players in the last 18 months.
If there is no Champions League football at Chelsea next season, just
when the Financial Fair Play regulations come into force, how will they
cope with the new era Chelsea are at a fork in the road: one way lies
immortality, down the other lies a very uncertain future.

Stunning venue: Munich's Allianz Arena

Stunning venue: Munich's Allianz Arena

Football coming home

Much has been made about Bayern being at their home ground. Theoretically you could change the venue but, in reality, this is now a huge occasion, much more than a match, that takes years to plan. And it's not unique. Liverpool beat Roma at the home of the Italians to win the European Cup in 1984, while Real Madrid won it at the Bernabeu in 1957 and Inter at the San Siro in 1965. Manchester United had a home advantage of sorts, too, playing at Wembley last year. While it does give Bayern a slight advantage, staying in a familiar routine and having more fans won't be the decisive factor. Because of the magic of the occasion and the huge Chelsea support, it will hardly feel like an average home game. I doubt whether Chelsea will have any negativity about that. Rather like Bruce Grobbelaar, whose wobbly legs in the penalty shoot-out became the iconic image of that famous 1984 final, they should be inspired by the challenge.

The makeshift defences
Chelsea's Michael Essien

The suspensions on both sides have dominated the build-up and the absence of Branislav Ivanovic and John Terry, who misses out after being sent off against Barcelona, is a big blow for Chelsea.

They are defenders' defenders who would have been ideal for doing a job on Mario Gomez. David Luiz and Gary Cahill may deputise but neither will have played for four weeks, so Michael Essien (right) may have to play as an emergency centre-half.

With Gomez working off Robben and Ribery and Toni Kroos or Thomas Muller just behind them, this is Roberto di Matteo's biggest concern.

Bayern have similar troubles

Left-back David Alaba Alaba is out and he's a real talent who gives them great balance, while protecting Ribery amd offering an attacking threat. Centre-half Holger is suspended, meaning Daniel van Buyten might be rushed back for his first game since January. Or, more likely, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, a holding midfielder, will come in and do a job like Essien might have to.

Tymoshchuk has played at centre-half but it's such a specialised role that it's always hard to adapt. It's something I had to do at times, switching from my normal position at right-back, and it can take time to adjust to seeing the game from a different angle.

Day of destiny

We've talked about tactics, suspensions, back fours and strikers but you can't dismiss the importance of that feeling that your name is on the trophy.

When Lionel Messi missed his penalty against Chelsea in the Nou Camp, I found myself saying: 'Maybe this is just written in the stars.'

And in 1999, when I won the trophy with Manchester United, there were those crazy couple of minutes in injury time during which Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored and all conventional football went out of the window.

Sometimes it feels like something extraordinary is happening and that this is your year. Chelsea will have felt that in the Nou Camp and now, going into the lion's den in Munich, they might feel the same.

They were a penalty kick away from winning the trophy in 2008 and must feel they've had their fair share of pain. I'll be looking out for signs, around about the hour mark, to see if that momentum is gathering among the players, that sensation that defies logic. You don't know why and you can't explain how but you sense the trophy is destined to come to you. Chelsea have to believe that it's their time in Munich.

Euro boost for Chelsea as sloppy Bayern are thrashed in German Cup final

Euro boost for Chelsea as sloppy Bayern are thrashed in German Cup final

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UPDATED:

20:31 GMT, 12 May 2012

Borussia Dortmund demolished Bayern Munich to complete their first league and cup double with victory in the DFB-Pokal final.

Robert Lewandowski scored a hat-trick
for Jurgen Klopp's side, who underlined their superiority in German
football this season with a convincing win over a Bayern side with a
Champions League final against Chelsea to come next weekend.

Hot shot: Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski beats Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer

Hot shot: Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski beats Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer

Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery were on target for Bayern, whose performance suggested the players' minds may have been on other things.

Shinji Kagawa scored the opener on what could be his last game for the Westphalians – the Japan midfielder has been linked with a move to the Premier League – while former Bayern player Mats Hummels also scored.
Bayern were looking to end a four-game losing streak to Dortmund, but they suffered a setback after just three minutes.

Kagawa shot Dortmund in front with their first attack, Jakub Blaszczykowski's low, inviting cross giving his team-mate a simple tap-in.

Head boy: Lewandowski scores from close range

Head boy: Lewandowski scores from close range

Bayern levelled in the 25th minute when
goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller brought Mario Gomez down inside the area,
and Robben, who missed a penalty in the league match between the sides a
month ago, stepped up to score low into the bottom corner.

Weidenfeller was replaced 10 minutes later when he had to come off, having taken a blow to the ribs earlier in the game.

But Dortmund took the lead with a penalty of their own in the 41st minute.
Jerome Boateng felled Blaszczykowski inside the area and Hummels beat Manuel Neuer from the spot.

Dejection: Bayern's Arjen Robben of the Netherlands reacts as Dortmund celebrate their second goal

Dejection: Bayern's Arjen Robben of the Netherlands reacts as Dortmund celebrate their second goal

Lewandowski scored his first goal of the evening in the first minute of
stoppage time at the end of the first half as he beat Neuer from 15
yards to complete a clever counter-attack.

Lewandowski added a fourth in the 58th minute. Kagawa was again involved
in the build-up, sending a pass through to Kevin Grosskreutz, who
threaded the ball through the legs of Bastian Schweinsteiger into the
path of the Polish striker, who made no mistake with the finish.

Bayern refused to throw in the towel, though, and Ribery pulled a goal
back for the in the 75th minute with a fine individual effort, but
Lewandowski had the final word, completing his hat-trick in the 81st
minute after a mistake from Neuer gifted Lukasz Piszczek the ball.

High point: Borussia Dortmund's Lewandowski celebrates

High point: Borussia Dortmund's Lewandowski celebrates

Arjen Robben still has plenty to prove after Chelsea knockback

'Ego-shooter' Robben still has plenty to prove after Chelsea knockback

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UPDATED:

21:06 GMT, 12 May 2012

Arjen Robben is still finding it hard
to shake his egotistical reputation, seven years after he left Chelsea
with a flea in his ear from manager Jose Mourinho.

The Dutch winger spent three years at Stamford Bridge, helping the club win two successive Premier League titles.

Dutch courage: Arjen Robben spent three seasons at Chelsea

Dutch courage: Arjen Robben spent three seasons at Chelsea

But Mourinho sold Robben to Real Madrid because he felt the talented but fragile wideman did not have the will to succeed on the biggest stage.

Mourinho's spokesman, Eladio Parames said: 'Jose has always said it – Arjen simply lacks character, and the absolute will to win.

'After the smallest knock, he could not play, so Jose had to let him go.'

After just two years at the Bernabeu, Robben moved to Munich – but the belief that he still only plays for himself persists. German newspaper Bild recently dubbed him an 'ego-shooter' and, when an embarrassing altercation with Franck Ribery over the right to take a free-kick in the semi-final with Real turned into a changingroom fight, there were fears that Robben could be tempted by an offer from Juventus.

However, he has signed a contract extension until 2015 and insists he could not be happier as he prepares to face Chelsea in the Champions League final on Saturday.

'It's the first time I have renewed with a club. This says it all,' he said. 'I can imagine finishing my career here.'

Most Chelsea fans will remember Robben's last appearance for the club as being typical of the way he performed for the Londoners. He came off injured despite only coming on as a substitute against Manchester United, in the first FA Cup final at the new Wembley.

But the 28-year-old also said he bore no ill feelings towards Chelsea and insisted he 'had three fantastic years there'.

He added: 'They've had lots of criticism but they've recovered and they've shown that they're still up there with the best.'