The 2012 Euro kicks off in 20 days, and there’s this feeling of pause and relaxation around Europe before the big football show of the summer begins. Still, despite almost all of the leagues being over, we still have some unfinished business – The French League with Montpellier and PSG, the Cup finals in Italy and Spain and the small matter of the Champions League Final.
Champions League Final – Bayern Munich vs Chelsea, May 19
On one side, the Bavarian giants, now two years without a league title. Something unacceptable at the Allianz Arena, a stadium that also hosts the final, giving Bayern another edge over Chelsea, besides generally being the better side. Like in most Chelsea matches against superior teams, don’t expect any firework. Just a lot of defense and sporadic counter attacking, trying to take advantage of the weak Bayern defense.
English Championship Playoff – Blackpool vs West Ham, May 19
There’s something really special about Wembley, especially when it’s a lower league battle. That ability of English clubs to fill out a 90,000 seat stadium for a lower division match always astounds me. Both teams are only a year away their Premier League experience, going through Cardiff and Birmingham City with flying colors in the Semi Finals. West Ham have the better side; Blackpool have the never ending Kevin Phillips.
Coppa Italia Final – Juventus vs Napoli, May 20
A perfect double for Juventus, or Napoli actually coming away with a title for the first time since 1990? Juve went undefeated during the season in the league, winning a deserved league title while saying goodbye (???) to Alessandro Del Piero. Napoli impressed many with their Champions League performance, but a lack of consistency saw the finish fifth in the league. A place in Europe (Europa League) is a certainty, but some feel that the Southerners deserve to come away from 2012 with something to put in their trophy cabinet.
French Ligue 1 Finish
Two teams can still win the title – Montpellier have a 3 point lead over PSG, meaning they don’t have to win at Auxerre, a team already relegated, to clinch the club’s first league title. PSG play at Lorient, who have survival on their minds. There’s one more Europa League spot to chase, with Bordeaux (58 points) playing Saint-Etienne (57 points) in a direct battle for the spot. Rennes (57 points, playing Dijon) and Tolouse (56 points, playing Ajaccio) are also in the mix.
The bottom of the table is where everything is happening - Dijon, at 19th, with 36 points, need to win, and hope that at least two teams out of the following group – Ajaccio, Caen, Brest and Sochaux also lose. Nice and Lorient can also go down if Ajaccio win and they lose.
Copa Del Rey Final – Barcelona vs Athletic Bilbao, May 25
Barcelona want to have some sort of title from a disappointing finish to the 2011-2012 season, sending off Guardiola with yet another accomplishment. Lionel Messi is at 72 goals and don’t be surprised to see him with more when the evening at the Vicente Calderon is over. For Bilbao, they don’t want another disappointing final against a Spanish team like the one in Romania against Atletico. Despite their 10th place finish they will be in Europe next year, but it’s also about winning the club’s first title since 1984. They lost to this Barcelona team in the 2009 final.