Before the action gets underway in Germany, we have the small matter of the Championship Play-Off final at Wembley to enjoy. West Ham United and Blackpool will battle it out for a place in the top flight and the two clubs reached Wembley under very different circumstances.
West Ham finally looked like the side they were supposed to be against Cardiff as they dispatched them with consummate ease. Throughout the season the Hammers struggled to deal with the pressures of playing at Upton Park, but they seemed to play without reserve in the semi-final.
Sam Allardyce already has a Premier League standard squad and he’ll still be wondering how the club didn’t get automatic promotion at the first time of asking. The Hammers will be careful not to underestimate Blackpool as they’ve been here and done it before.
Ian Holloway deserves manager of the year in my eyes. He’s got Blackpool to the final again on a shoe-string budget and they’ve played some cracking stuff. They crept up the blindside to finish in the top six, but I’m a little concerned how much the two games against Birmingham affected them. Compared to their opponents they have a much smaller squad and there could be some tired legs in the side. West Ham have the fresher players and the talent to book their place back in the top flight.
Then we’re off to Germany to see if Roberto Di Matteo can deliver Roman Abramovich the greatest prize of all. Chelsea were a post away from landing the Champions League in 2008 and they face another tough challenge against Bayern Munich on their own patch.
Chelsea can of course win it as anything can happen in a final. Both clubs are missing important players following various suspensions and it could make for one of the most open finals for years.
Bayern will really miss Holger Badstuber and David Alaba at the back, as it looks like Anatolii Tymoschuk will start at centre-back. The Ukrainian is a centre-midfielder by trade and Didier Drogba could chuck him around like a rag doll if he’s on his game.
However, Chelsea are missing John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic and Bayern will be looking to get at a new-look defense. Bayern are offensively minded by nature with players like Franck Ribery, Mario Gomez and Arjen Robben. Having lost the league and cup final, Bayern really only have the Champions League to make an otherwise disappointing season into one to remember.
Di Matteo might have seen Borussia Dortmund dismantle Bayern in the cup final, but the cups don’t have the same significance in Germany as they do in England. Bayern are also used to having plenty of possession and I don’t think they’ll be fazed if Chelsea try to replicate Dortmund’s tactics.
Home advantage should have a crucial impact and I fancy Bayern to spoil the Blues’ party. The hosts have too much going forward and they should bring home a fifth European title.
I’d even be keen to have a double on West Ham and Bayern Munich.
Betting on BETDAQ – Alan’s Punts:
West Ham v Blackpool: Back West Ham at 1.98
Bayern Munich v Chelsea: Back Bayern at 1.81
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