Roberto Di Matteo was probably watching intently as Dortmund rampaged through the Bayern Munich players for a fifth consecutive time, and although his team cannot play like Klopp’s squad, there was much to learn about the frailties and weaknesses of his opponents next Saturday in the Champions League Finals.
Chelsea have a match to play against Blackburn, but couldn’t care less about what happens in the 90 minutes. Blackburn have no chance of avoiding relegation, Chelsea have given up on earning Champions League qualification last week. All their hopes are thrown at winning the final in Munich.
And while last night’s German Cup final wasn’t a home match for Bayern, it was a rude awakening, once again, as to the place they’re in, currently, in German football. A step behind Dortmund. Not because of funds or economic abilities. Because of the way they’ve always gone; the FC Hollywood way, and preferring individual talent to team cohesion and tactical evolution. After losing five times in two season while yielding the league title twice, it’s not longer a matter of a bad day.
And as much as Di Matteo had to learn from Dortmund’s perfect game (will we see it in the Champions League next year?), Chelsea can’t play the way Dortmund did. This isn’t a fine tuned machine, with young players that work, attack and defend as one unit. Chelsea defend very well when they park the bus, but they’ll be missing a few vital pieces at centre back. Emulating Dortmund with their current squad isn’t an easy thing.
So we can’t expect Chelsea to press up and down the field for 90 minutes. An older team than Dortmund, they just don’t have the players to create advantage in attacking men against Bayern through counter attacks. When Chelsea counter, it’s a much more limited affair. Dangerous, and deadly (to Barcelona), but you rarely see the Blues attack and score while pushing up numbers.
Knowing who to target is just as important. Luis Gustavo is the weak link in the Bayern midfield. Jerome Boateng is the weak link in Bayern’s defense. Isolating Bastian Schweinsteiger, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery from the rest of their teammates makes Bayern look bad. Ribery and Robben are special, but when they try to win the game by themselves, feeling cut off from the rest of the field by clever marking, they don’t pose much of a danger.
Overcrowding the crucial zones. It felt like Dortmund always had an extra man or two whenever a Bayern player was thinking of doing something dangerous or creative. It had a lot to do with Heynckes’ inferiority to Klopp. Too much distance between his players. Too slow actions. Pressure on the decision makers and not giving Bayern any respect is the way to go.
You could do a university class about what Klopp did with Dortmund over the last three years, turning them in a Bundesliga juggernaut who might be able to transform local success into Champions League dividends the second time around. Di Matteo’s Chelsea is more about maximizing individual talent while defending and putting your body on the line for the team. I don’t see them doing what Dortmund did against Bayern, but I don’t think they’ll be rabidly defending their goal like against Barcelona.
Underdogs? You might say that, despite the bad form in which Bayern go into their second UCL final in three season, with pretty much the same squad, same key players. It worked well for them before. But Bayern are a different beast in the Champions League. Just ask Real Madrid. At home, despite the ‘neutral’ label to the match, expect a wild and aggressive start from Bayern, who have the quality advantage. Will it be enough? For once, it should.