By Marcus ChhanFollow @@MarcusChhan
The Blues have treated their fans to a topsy-turvy season which has seen them win the FA Cup but finish a very poor sixth in the Barclays Premier League. Similarly, Saturday's final will also represent one last shot at redemption for Bayern Munich as well. The Germans lost out to domestic rivals Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga and the DFB-Pokal this season.
Both Chelsea and Bayern will have just 90 - or maybe 120 - minutes football of football left to salvage their season and when the final gets underway at the magnificent Allianz Arena on Saturday we can expect players from the two sides to leave it all out there on the pitch.
Bayern will have the honour of becoming the first team to play at home in the UEFA Champions League final come Saturday. On paper it seems obvious that this should give the Germans a clear advantage over Chelsea as they look to win their fifth European Cup.
This view is backed up by former Chelsea midfielder Michael Ballack, who left Bayern in 2006 to join the Blues.
"I think Barcelona would have been the only team capable of contesting a final abroad and winning it," he told the Bild in a recent interview.
"It is a huge advantage when you are at home in a final, where a lot of emotions play a role. This is an emotional advantage that Chelsea cannot compensate for."
Ballack's claims are logical but they come from a person who was always comfortable playing on the big stage whether at international or club level. The burly German was a big game player and so it is natural he thinks like one, but we're not so sure Bayern have enough of these sorts of characters to give them such a clear home advantage against quality opposition like the Blues. This is why Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben will be so crucial for Bayern; they are the go-to guys for Jupp Heynckes.
And this is where Chelsea can start to try and turn Bayern's home field advantage into a disadvantage. It won't be easy but if Chelsea can defend in numbers to stop Ribery and Robben from influencing the game in the first 30 minutes or so, this could unsettle the Germans and from there Chelsea can slowly take control of the game. At this point, the Bayern fans might start to get on the players' backs and a few of them could go ‘missing' - especially since Bayern's current mental state is pretty fragile following their 5-2 humbling at the hands of Dortmund in the final of the DFB-Pokal over the weekend.
Interestingly, Dortmund managed to win the DFB-Pokal by tearing Bayern apart on the counter-attack and this is also what Chelsea should be trying to do on Saturday. As the home side, the pressure will be on the Bavarians to attack and take the match by the scruff of the neck while Chelsea can sit back and hit their opponents on the break as they did against Barcelona.
Further enhancing Chelsea's chance of success on the counter-attack is the news that David Alaba, Luiz Gustavo and Holger Badstuber are suspended for Saturday's showpiece. Bayern's defensive strength in midfield will be heavily weakened by these suspensions.
However, the German club have a lot of things going for them as well. Heynckes has already faced the best team in England this season at home - and won!
They beat Manchester City 2-0 at the Allianz Arena in the Group Stage and have won an incredible 14 of their last 15 European home games. Worryingly for Blues fans, Chelsea have won just once on their travels in this season's competition.
In total, seven first-team players will be suspended from Saturday's Bayern-Chelsea clash with Bayern's Luiz Gustavo, David Alaba and Holger Badstuber joining Chelsea's John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, Ramires and Raul Meireles as final absentees.
For Bayern, you would expect Thomas Muller to come into the first XI for defensive midfielder Luiz Gustavo but that does leave Heynckes's side looking very attack-minded in midfield which plays into Chelsea's hands. The absence of Alaba compounds Bayern's problem here too, as the midfielder's all-round game will be missed especially if Heynckes chooses to go with Ribery, Muller, Robben, Schweinsteiger and Kroos in midfield.
Equally troubling from a defensive point of view for Bayern is Badstuber's suspension. He's been Bayern's best defender this season which means Jerome Boateng is going to have to step up in his absence and form a decent partnership with either Daniel van Buyten or Anatoliy Tymoshchuk - Chelsea probably won't be losing too much sleep over the thought of facing any of them in Saturday's final.
Of course, Chelsea will be affected by the suspensions too. In some ways more so than Bayern as recent injuries to David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Florent Malouda have left Roberto Di Matteo with an almighty task just to get 11 players on the field.
So far the Italian has been super-cool - if not a little arrogant - at press conferences but you have to wonder how much toll the enormity of Saturday's game, coupled by a huge injuries / suspensions list must be having on Di Matteo. There's very little doubt that Chelsea's Champions League final with Bayern will either make-or-break his career at Stamford Bridge and beyond. The rewards are there for everyone to see but it is in the risks and the gambles he takes which will create a lasting legacy for Di Matteo, football manager.
Does he start with Luiz (who has more Champions League experience than Cahill) or will he run the risk of wasting two of his three allotted substitutions on the night by putting both of them in his starting XI even though there are no guarantees they can last 90 minutes?
The Champions League final has always been the stage where good players rise and emerged as legendary players. Who can forget Zinedine Zidane's volley (on his weaker foot too!) for Real Madrid to win the Champions League in 2002 against Bayer Leverkusen?
As the 2012 finale approaches, there are plenty of players from both Bayern and Chelsea who could cement their status in the game with a match-winning display on Saturday.
Bayern's Frank Ribery and Arjen Robben are already considered world class players but perhaps they are still one magical European Cup final performance away from being classed in the elite category alongside names like Zidane while the German side's star striker Mario Gomez is yet to carve out a world class reputation for himself despite another stellar season.
And then there's Didier Drogba.
Chelsea's only previous UEFA Champions League final appearance came in 2008 in Moscow when they suffered a 6-5 penalty shoot-out loss to Manchester United following a 1-1 draw.
Drogba was sent off in that final and it has been well documented that the Ivorian was pencilled down to take the penalty which skipper John Terry eventually had to take instead - and then missed.
Redemption beckons for the veteran. Can he rise to the occasion - perhaps for the final time in his Chelsea career?
Tale of the Tape
UEFA Champions League statistics for Bayern and Chelsea in this season's competition.
|Goals scored ||25||24|
|Attempts on target ||90||78|
|Attempts off target||65||83|
|Fouls committed ||195||157|
|Yellow cards ||28||27|
|Red cards ||1||1|