PAT NEVIN: GOALS ON THE CARDS

As this week's main event draws ever closer, columnist and former Chelsea star Pat Nevin looks at the state of the two teams eyeing the European Cup…


The end of one of the most incredible seasons in English football history is almost upon us. It would be a little myopic to only consider Chelsea, especially considering the tussle at the weekend between United and City for the title. For City fans it has been a long wait and you could scarcely grudge them their last-minute glory after a fine season. United fought well but with Chelsea having suffered last-gasp pain against them in Moscow, as Bayern Munich did against them in Barcelona, maybe it is time they understood the torture of others.

The talk of total domination of any one side that was suggested early on looks a bit silly now that Liverpool have won the Carling Cup, we have won the FA Cup and City grabbed the Premier Leaguetitle. On the other hand if we can win this weekend in Germany it is beyond argument that Chelsea have had the best season of any English club. Even if we don't win it, runners up in the biggest club competition of all would still have the rest looking enviously at us.

The game against Blackburn was of course pretty satisfying in that it produced three points with a hugely changed side. Maybe the biggest plus was that it showed Robbie that one or two who have been out of the picture may well be able to be trusted for the big one.

Right now the expectations from everyone are that Chelsea have little or no chance against Bayern Munich in their own stadium, but there are actually one or two positives to be considered. First of all, being underdogs is always a less stressful situation when you are playing in such a pressure game, simply because you know for a fact that there is more pressure on your opponent. Of course we are going to have some big players missing through suspension and possibly injury too which doesn't help, but that also clarifies the thinking of the manager. I am sure Roberto Di Matteo already has his game plan in mind and will work on it all week.

There has also been the opportunity to rest quite a few of the players who needed a bit of a break after what has been a physically and mentally draining period. We will need every ounce of energy that Frank Lampard, Juan Mata, Ashley Cole and the others have if we are going to have any chance at all.

For all the obvious negatives, this group knows fine well after the performances against Barcelona that anything is possible with a fair wind and the right spirit. The spirit of course is now a given within the group after the Nou Camp and then at Wembley, a point that will not have been missed by the Bayern players. Bayern themselves are a very good side, there is no doubting that, but had you given me the choice of facing them or Real Madrid or Barcelona, I would take the Germans every time.

They are good but not unbeatable; their capitulation in the Bundesliga to Borussia Dortmund has made that abundantly clear. Then there was the German cup final at the weekend which will be poured over by the Chelsea staff. With the quality of Ribery, Gomez and Robben all on show, it was the defensive disasters that caught the eye in the 5-2 mauling once again by Borussia Dortmund. At the back they could only be described as a shambles on the day, with goalkeeper Neuer looking strangely off form but then he was given precious little help from a back line that was all over the place.

Bayern will miss three defensive-minded players, Alaba, Badstuber and Gustavo, for the final and that cannot be ignored. Judging by those missing for both Chelsea and Bayern, do not expect a 0-0 draw after 90 minutes in this one!

Bayern know they had a bad day at the office, but for me the biggest problem for them was being unable to cope with quick counter attacks. Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba must be licking their lips as they watch the DVD of this game. It really is a shame that Ramires is so cruelly banned for the final, I just don't think they could have coped with his speed on the counter. Having said that, Frank Lampard isn't too bad in those situations is he?

Lampard


The problem is of course stopping their very impressive attack, especially with so many of our first choice defenders likely to be missing. What a boost it would be if both David Luiz and Gary Cahill could just make it back from injury in time. Arjen Robben we are aware of and he can be unstoppable on his day, while Mario Gomez has been on superb scoring form. Frank Ribery scored a goal in the 5-2 cup final defeat that was one of the best anywhere in Europe this season, I had to watch it three times to actually figure out what he had done with his drag backs, so the Frenchman is still on form, if a bit unreliable at times.

Much has also been made of the home advantage that Bayern have in that the game is being played at the fantastic Allianz Arena. Of course it gives them an edge, but the tickets will be fairly well split, so with our fans making at least as much noise as theirs it isn't quite as much of a benefit as it would usually be. Remember again that in the Nou Camp there were tens of thousands more Spanish fans than English and it counted for little in the end.

Like every Chelsea fan I will be trying to think of how we will set up depending on whether or not Cahill and David Luiz are available. Maybe one important player could be Michael Essien, his adaptability could be very useful in what will have to be a patched-up side. I just hope our former Player of the Year can roll back the years and produce one of his superhuman performances, but then every Chelsea player will be expected to do the same. At least the team talk will be easy for Robbie, 'You are just one win from immortality in Chelsea and football folklore.' That should do the trick.

Last week's quiz was pretty easy, I asked you to name a Serbian player other than Branislav Ivanovic who has signed for Chelsea. You could have gone for the late, great Peter Borota, Slavisa Jokanovic, Mateja Kezman, Nemanja Matic, Slobodan Rajkovic, Mario Stanic or even arguably Marko Marin. Everyone got at least one right, so the lucky winner this time chosen at random by a birthday girl getting behind the wheel of a car for the first time today (Lord help us all) is Steve Raison from Middlesex.

To have a chance this week of winning a DVD collection of Chelsea's FA Cup Finals, signed by one of the players, we all know that Didier Drogba tends to score winners in FA Cup finals, but can you name a player who has played for Chelsea who has also scored in a European Championship Final? (Not a Champions League Final!) Answers as ever to me at pat.nevin@chelseafc.com

I hope that next time I write about Chelsea it is about the European champions, if not I will still be proud of everything the team has done this season. It has been one of the most incredible seasons in English football history; it still could be the most incredible if the boys can do it on Saturday.