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A Complete Guide To The Final 16 Teams Of The Champions League

UCL-Draw

Manchester United and Arsenal, the only two remaining English sides, will be looking to avoid the big guns in the draw for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League, which takes place in Nyon (Switzerland) on Thursday 10:30am GMT.

Manchester United qualified as Group H winners and so are seeded in the draw but they still could be drawn against the big sides, while Arsenal finished as runners-up and like United could face the top guns especially Barcelona (third time in the past four seasons) in the knockout stages. On the other hand, Chelsea became the first holders to be eliminated in the group stages, while Manchester City were completely knocked out of Europe as they ended bottom of their group.

Group Winners: Paris Saint-Germain, Schalke, Malaga, Borussia Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Group Runners-Up: Porto, Arsenal, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic, Galatasaray

Below we have a look at each of the above 16 teams in detail..

PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN

Country: France
Coach:
Carlo Ancelotti
Key Player: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Other Star Players: Thiago Silva, Ezequiel Lavezzi & Javier Pastore
Rising Star: Marco Verratti
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Semi-final 1995
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Arsenal, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic, Galatasaray
Chances: PSG are one of the richest clubs in the world and have ambitions to win the Champions League this term. If striker Ibrahimovic can continue his superb form from the group stages, it might just happen.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

SCHALKE 04

Country: Germany
Coach:
 Jens Keller
Key Player: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar
Other Star Players: Benedikt Howedes, Lewis Holtby & Kyriakos Papadopoulos
Rising Star: Julian Draxler
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Semi-final 2011
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, AC Milan, Shakhtar Donetsk, Galatasary, Valencia, Celtic, Real Madrid
Chances: The Germans were unbeaten through their group which consisted the likes of Arsenal, Olympiakos and Montpellier, which shows they are not a team to be taken for granted. One their day they could upset the big guns.
Prediction: Round of 16

MALAGA

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Manuel Pellengrini
Key Player: Isco
Other Star Players: Joaquin, Martin Demichelis & Eliseu
Rising Star: Francisco Portillo
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Debutants
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Arsenal, Shakhtar Donetsk, Celtic, Galatasaray
Chances: Have been very impressive so far in their debut season in the Champions League, but their inexperience in the competition may prove costly in the knockout stages.
Prediction: Round of 16

BORUSSIA DORTMUND

Country: Germany
Coach:
 Jurgen Klopp
Key Player: Marco Reus
Other Star Players: Roberto Lewandowski, Mats Hummels & Mario Gotze
Rising Star: Moritz Leitner
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1997
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Arsenal, AC Milan, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic,Galatasaray
Chances: The reigning Bundesliga champions have very much caught the eye in the group stages after finishing at top of the Group of Death and are the team to beat. Considered as the dark horses for the title.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

JUVENTUS

Country: Italy
Coach:
 Antonio Conte
Key Player: Arturo Vidal
Other Star Players: Andrea Pirlo, Gianluigi Buffon & Giorgio Chiellini
Rising Star: Paul Pogba
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1985, 1996
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Valencia, Celtic, Galatasaray
Chances: The reigning Serie A champions remained unbeaten in the group stages and topped their group by winning on the final matchday. The Italians are expected to step it up when the competition resumes in February.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

BAYERN MUNICH

Country: Germany
Coach:
 Jupp Heynckes
Key Player: Franck Ribery
Other Star Players: Arjen Robben, Bastian Schweinsteiger & Philipp Lahm
Rising Star: David Alaba
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1974, 1975, 1976, 2001
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Arsenal, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Celtic,Galatasaray
Chances: The current Bundesliga leaders ended as the beaten finalists last season and will be looking to make amends for it. They have been in fine form so far and are one of the favourites to lift the trophy in May.
Prediction: Semi-Finals

BARCELONA

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Tito Vilanova
Key Player: Lionel Messi
Other Star Players: Andres Iniesta, Xavi & Sergio Busquets
Rising Star: Christian Tello
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1992, 2006, 2009, 2011
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Arsenal, Galatasaray, AC Milan
Chances: The Catalans were the pre-tournament favourites to win the competition and there has been very little so far to suggest that they won’t win it this term. Vilanova has done brilliantly since taking over from Pep Guardiola in the summer.
Prediction: Winners

MANCHESTER UNITED

Country: England
Coach:
 Sir Alex Ferguson
Key Player: Wayne Rooney
Other Star Players: Robin van Persie, Nemanja Vidic & Antonio Valencia
Rising Star: Rafael
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1968, 1999, 2008
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic
Chances: Unlike last season, United have marched pretty easily into the knockout stages and with Van Persie & Rooney both in form they are a team to fear. Surely one of the contenders for the title.
Prediction: Semi-Finals

PORTO

Country: Portugal
Coach:
 Vitor Pereira
Key Player: Jackson Martinez
Other Star Players: Joao Moutinho, Lucho Gonzalez & Nicolas Otamendi
Rising Star: James Rodriguez
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winner 1987, 2004
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Schalke, Malaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Chances: The Portuguese champions have gone all the way before but its very unlikely it will happen again this season. They have a very good squad with some very talented players but its highly unlikely they will trouble the big teams.
Prediction: Round of 16

ARSENAL

Country: England
Coach:
 Arsene Wenger
Key Player: Santi Cazrola
Other Star Players: Jack Wilshere, Thomas Vermaelen & Lukas Podolski
Rising Star: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Runner-up 2006
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Malaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona
Chances: The Gunners have had a stuttering season both domestically and in Europe – especially at home. They will need to improve a lot in the second half of the season if they want to be genuine title contenders.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

AC MILAN

Country: Italy
Coach:
 Massimiliano Allegri
Key Player: Stephan El Shaarawy
Other Star Players: Philippe Mexes, Ricardo Montolivo & Kevin-Prince Boateng
Rising Star: Mattia De Sciglio
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1963, 1969, 1989, 1990, 1994, 2003, 2007
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Chances: Like Arsenal, the Rossoneri are struggling this term domestically and in Europe. They are not the force of the old, although their pedigree and experience in this competition means they should not be taken lightly.
Prediction: Round of 16

REAL MADRID

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Jose Mourinho
Key Player: Cristiano Ronaldo
Other Star Players: Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos & Mesut Ozil
Rising Star: Raphael Varane
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1966, 1998, 2000, 2002
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Manchester United
Chances: Its been over a decade since Real Madrid last won the Champions League and the boss Mourinho has never appeared more determined to win the tournament for the club this season. With the team they have they are regarded as the joint favourites alongside Barca.
Prediction: Runners-Up

SHAKHTAR DONETSK

Country: Ukraine
Coach:
 Mircea Lucescu
Key Player: Luiz Adriano
Other Star Players: Darijo Srna, Willian & Fernandinho
Rising Star: Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Quarter-final 2011
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Malaga, Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Chances: Like Dortmund, Shakhtar are another side that have grabbed the attention of many in the group stages. They are the ones who dumped Chelsea out of the tournament and a side very few people would want to face in the knockout stages.
Prediction: Round of 16

VALENCIA

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Ernesto Valverde
Key Player: Roberto Soldado
Other Star Players: Jonas, Sofiane Feghouli & Adil Rami
Rising Star: Daniel Parejo
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Runner-up 2000, 2001
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Dortmund, Juventus, Manchester United
Chances: The Spaniards have been very impressive in the group stages with their star striker at the top of his game but do not appear equipped for a really extended run in competition this season.
Prediction: Round of 16

CELTIC

Country: Scotland
Coach:
 Neil Lennon
Key Player: Giorgos Samaras
Other Star Players: Fraser Forster, Victor Wanyama & Gary Hooper
Rising Star: Anthony Watt
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1967
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Málaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Manchester United
Chances: Had little hopes of making it through to the knockout stages after being grouped with Barcelona, Benfica and Spartak Moscow but they did it. Anything else from now will be a bonus for the Scottish champions.
Prediction: Round of 16

GALATASARAY

Country: Turkey
Coach:
 Fatih Terim
Key Player: Burak Yilmaz
Other Star Players: Felipe Melo, Nordin Amrabat & Hamit Altintop
Rising Star: Semih Kaya
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Semi-finals 1989
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Málaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona
Chances: Snatched the second spot from CFR Cluj on the final matchday. Like Celtic, anything else they achieve from now on will be a bonus for the Turkish side and very few teams will fancy making the trip to the intimidating Turk Telekom Arena in Istanbul.
Prediction: Round of 16

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Germany v Italy Preview

Joachim Low’s Germany will have to defy history if they are to beat Italy today at the National Stadium in Warsaw and set up a repeat of the 2008 final against Spain on Sunday.

Germany boss Joachim Low knows his side must disturb Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo, who was allowed to dictate play in Italy’s quarter-final victory over England. Low said: “He’s the Italian player who directs the game. “We have to disturb him, stop him playing, get in his way, and think of a way how we can do better than Italy in midfield.” But Low has also called for focus from his own side, believing they must play to the strengths which has seen them win all their games so far. “It’s a confidence thing. We have to be cheeky, strong and brave,” he said. “We have to concentrate and work very hard. I don’t think we have to worry too much about our opponents. We have to impose our own ideas.”

Despite never having lost a competitive match against Germany, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli knows it will be tough to beat their opponents. “The Germans, alongside Spain, are the favourites to win the European Championship,” he said. “I’m not the first to discover how good they are, they are playing very well.”

TEAM NEWS

Germany

Low has received a boost with the news influential midfielder Bastian Schweinsteigerwill be fit after shrugging off a sore ankle following the 4-2 win over Greece. But he has decisions to make after surprisingly leaving Arsenal new-boy Lukas Podolski, Thomas Muller and tournament top scorer Mario Gomez out of his starting line-up against Greece. He is expected to restore the trio to his side, despite Marco Reus and Andre Schurrle adding pace to the German attack in their place, while Miroslav Klose scored against the Greeks.

Italy

For Italy, the team’s medical staff are doing their bets’ to get injured Daniele De Rossi, Ignazio Abate and Giorgio Chiellini back to fitness for the game, with the trio undergoing intensive physiotherapy. Midfielder De Rossi and right-back Abate were substituted with muscle injuries in Sunday’s quarter-final penalty victory over England, while Chiellini missed the game with a thigh problem. Chiellini has since returned to training and will probably come in for Leonardo Bonucci if he is fit, while Antonio Nocerino will likely replace De Rossi should he miss out. Coach Prandelli has a big decision to make if Abate fails to recover as fellow right-back Christian Maggio is suspended.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Played – 30
Germany Wins – 7
Draws – 9
Italy Wins – 14

FORM GUIDE

Germany – WWWWW
22-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Germany 4-2 Greece
17-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Denmark 1-2 Germany
13-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Netherlands 1-2 Germany
09-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Germany 1-0 Portugal
31-May-12 – Friendly – Germany 2-0 Israel

Italy – DWDDL
22-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – England 0-0 Italy
18-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Italy 2-0 Ireland
14-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Italy 1-1 Crotia
10-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Spain 1-1 Italy
01-Jun-12 – Friendly – Italy 0-3 Russia

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany)
The 27-year-old Bayern Munich midfielder has been struggling with an ankle injury and looked uncharacteristically wasteful in possession against Greece in the quarter-finals. With the Italian midfield packed with skillful passers of the ball, the German star will be under pressure to cover plenty of ground and set the rhythm and tempo of the team in the middle of the park.

Mesut Ozil (Germany)
The Real Madrid playmaker has had a quiet tournament until the quarterf-inal game against Greece where he showed his true best setting up two goals. The former Werder Bremen midfielder is the main creator of chances in this German lineup. His smart passes and brilliant through balls would be the key to unlocling the solid Italian defence. If he is kept quiet then the Italian would have a real chance.

Andrea Pirlo (Italy)
The former AC Milan player has been Italy’s best player in the tournament so far and he singled handedly dominated the previous game against England. He has been an inspirational and the guiding force behind the Italian success till now. He has been dictating the game from his defensive midfield posituon and has shown his quality time and time again. Another classy performance today and his side will have a huge chance of upsetting the favourites.

Mario Balotelli (Italy)
The Manchester City forward was one of the star performers for Italy during their penalty shoot-out win over England. The former Inter Milan striker has shown he has got the talent and potential to be the best in the world but has failed to perform on a consistent basis. His pace, his ability to get in the right position at the right time and to shoot from distance, can trouble the opposition but he needs to work more on his finishing and convert the chances he gets.

PROBABLE LINEUPS

Germany (4-2-3-1): Manuel Neuer; Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Holger Badstuber, Philipp Lahm (C); Sami Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger; Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Lukas Podolski; Mario Gomez.

The Germans are set to bring back their three big guns Mario Gomez, Thomas Muller and Lukas Podolski after handing them rests in the quarter-finals against Greece. Joachim Low is set to stay with his 4-2-3-1 formation that has worked like a dream till now. However, the only worry is a nagging injury to the experienced Bastian Schweinsteiger, however, the German campaign has declared that the midfielder will play through the pain and is expected to take the field against Italy today.

Italy (4-3-1-2): Gianluigi Buffon (C); Ignazio Abate, Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Federico Balzaretti; Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi; Thiago Motta; Mario Balotelli, Antonio Cassano.

The Italians will start with the same 4-3-1-2 formation that started against England in the previous game. However they might have to make a couple of chances with Ignazio Abate and Daniele De Rossi struggling with injuries. If Abate fails to recover in time then Prandelli will have to change back to the 3-man defence with second-choice right Christian Maggio suspended. Antonio Nocerino may come in for De Rossi, if he fails to pass the fitness test. Thiago Motta will be another chance in the side and will replace Ricardo Montolivo in the lineup.

MATCH ODDS

Germany 5/6 Draw 12/5 Italy 18/5

PREDICTION

If last night’s drama was anything then this match is going to be a cracker of a game. Germany have been the team of the tournament, while Italy have been the best defensive side. The fact that Germany had 48 hours more than Italy to prepare and rest for this match is a huge advantage. The Italians were too good against an average England side, but beating the pre-tournament favourites – who have won all their matches so far – is a huge task. The history is on Italy’s side and if they are able to get past Germany today then it will surely be an upset.

Predicted Score – Germany 2-1 Italy

Germany v Greece Preview

The pre-tournament favourites Germany take on massive outsiders Greece  in the quarter-finals in Gdansk today – with the Germans looking to join Portugal in the final four, while the Greeks will be hoping for an upset.

Greece provided arguably the biggest shock of Euro 2012 so far by jumping from the foot of Group A to second with a 1-0 win over Russia in their final group game. And their unexpected title triumph at Euro 2004 is another indication of how dangerous the Greeks can be. Greece coach Fernando Santos believes the example of eight years ago is giving his squad belief as they enter the knockout stages. “I would like to seize this opportunity to say what an inspiration for us the 2004 success is,” said Santos. “We showed great resolution and strength and we were written off before that tournament, but we still reached the final and won the cup. That should be a source of inspiration for us this time.”

It may need more than inspiration if they are to beat Joachim Low’s team. Germany are the only team at Euro 2012 to win all their matches so far – even also winning all 10 qualifying games. Although Low is not taking Greece for granted, he remains convinced his team will progress to the semi-finals. “Logically we are favourites, but we can deal with that,” he said. “But remember – knockout games have their own character so it will not be the case that the favourite automatically reaches the next round. We saw that in the group when Russia were the big favourites and we have all seen what happened. But if we show all of our inner strength and belief, then we are strong enough to beat the Greeks of course. I am convinced we will win.”

TEAM NEWS

Germany

Germany welcome Jerome Boateng back after he missed the 2-1 win over Denmark due to suspension. Lars Bender should therefore return to the bench despite scoring the winner against the Danes. The rest of the team is expected to be the same, meaning the likes of Miroslav Klose, Mario Gotze and Toni Kroos must continue to wait for a start.

Greece

Fernando Santos must do without skipper Giorgos Karagounis and left-back Jose Holebas, who were both suspended in the win over Russia. Georgios Tzavelas had already usurped Holebas in the left-back slot so will continue, but the likes of Sotiris Ninis, Grigoris Makos and Giorgos Fotakis will battle for Karagounis’ midfield berth.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Played – 8
Germany Wins – 5
Draws – 3
Greece Wins – 0

FORM GUIDE

Germany – WWWWL
17-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Denmark 1-2 Germany
13-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Netherlands 1-2 Germany
09-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Germany 1-0 Portugal
31-May-12 – Friendly – Germany 2-0 Israel
26-May-12 – Friendly – Switzerland 5-3 Germany

Czech Republic – WLDWD
16-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Greece 1-0 Russia
12-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Greece 1-2 Czech Republic
08-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Poland 1-1 Greece
31-May-12 – Friendly – Greece 1-0 Armenia
26-May-12 – Friendly – Greece 1-1 Slovenia

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Mesut Ozil (Germany)
The Real Madrid star has had a relatively quiet tournament so far with just one assist to his name, but Joachim Low has backed the playmaker to “explode” in the knockout rounds just like he did in the World Cup two years ago. Indeed, a return to the form he showed in South Africa which earned him a move to Real Madrid may just be what is needed to get the zip back into Germany’s build-up play in the final third, which has at times looked a bit lifeless.

Mario Gomez (Germany)
Coming from a highly successful season with Bayern Munich and with already three goals in three group games, the German striker is the favourite to win the Golden Boot award. But with Greece boasting a record of the least number of goals conceded during qualifying, the former Stuttgart striker will have to be at his very best to score today and help his side reach the semi-finals.

Kyriakos Papadopoulos (Greece)
With Greece most likely to sit on the backfoot and defend rather than playing some free-flowing, eye-catching attacking football, their defending will have to be up to the task to give them any chance of pulling off an upset against the slick passing game of the Germans. The 20-year-old Schalke defender, Papadopoulos was reliable at the back in the group stages and his physical strength and ability to read the game will aid him well in his duel with Mario Gomez.

Geiorgios Samaras (Greece)
The Celtic striker was impressive against the Russians the other night, holding up the ball and going past the defenders with ease. Often played out on the wide, the 27-year-old put in some dangerous crosses and also tracks back to help out his defenders. Although he hasn’t scored in the tournament yet, he remains an integral part of the Greece as justified by manager Fernando Santos by handing him a start in all the games till now.

PROBABLE LINEUPS

Germany (4-2-3-1): Manuel Neuer; Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Holger Badstuber, Philipp Lahm; Sami Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger; Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Lukas Podolski; Mario Gomez.

Germany have stuck with their best players all through the tournament and coach Joachim Low will not wish to mess with the winning eleven much. Bayern stopper Neuer will start in between the sticks and will be hoping to deal with the Greek attacks. The defence will see the return of Jerome Boateng  in place of Lars Bender after serving his suspension, despite the later scoring the winning goal against Denmark. Hummels, Badstuber and Lahm are expected to make up the rest of the defence. Khedira and Schweinsteiger will protect the defensive line while also assisting the attacking midfield trio of Muller, Ozil and Podolski. Star striker Mario Gomez, who is the joint topscorer in the competition with 3 goals and will get the nod again ahead of the veteran Miroslav Klose.

Greece (4-2-3-1): Michalis Sifakis; Vasilis Torosidis, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Avraam Papadopoulos, Giorgos Tzavelas; Kostas Katsouranis, Giannis Maniatis; Dimitris Salpigidis, Giorgos Fotakis, Geiogios Samaras; Theofanis Gekas.

Greece coach Fernando Santos will be without captain Giorgos Karagounis and Jose Holebas, who are both suspended, while goalkeeper Kostas Chalkias is unlikely to recover from his hamstring injury in time. Sifakis who has yet to concede a goal in his two appearances since coming on as a substitute against the Czech Republic will start in the between the sticks for the Greeks. The back four of Torosidis, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Avraam Papadopoulos and Tzavelas will guard the goal ahead of Sifakis. Katsouranis and Maniatis will play in the midfield protecting their defence as well as assisting in the attack. Ninis might get a chance over here with skipper suspended but Santos may go for the experience of Fotakis to play behind the striker Gekas and in between Samars and Salpigidis.

MATCH ODDS

Germany 3/10 Draw 21/5 Greece 10/1

PREDICTION

The Germans are known for their free-flowing attacking football, while the Greeks are known to be defensively very sound and they showed it against the Russians. It’s going to be a contest of attack versus the defence, as the Germans would look to attack from the first minute and look score an early goal, while the Greeks would look to defend and try to hit their opponents on the counter or from the set-peices. Greece have some very hardworking players who gave their best to win the match against Russia, but the Germans have talent and quality in their side alongwith some game changing individuals and that might be too much for Fernando Santos’ men to handle.

Predicted Score – Germany 2-0 Greece

Team Of The Group Stages

With the group stages done & dusted on Tuesday and the knockout stages to begin from today, with the Czech Republic v Portugal match at the National Stadium in Warsaw, we have decided to create the team of the group stages. A team consisting of the best performers in every position from the three group game. Here is the team below using the 4-2-3-1 formation.. 

IKER CASILLAS (GK) – SPAIN

Casillas has been by far the most consistently performing goalkeeper in the this year’s European Championship. The Real Madrid shot stopper has been an inspirational skipper and has led his country from the front making several very important saves in the three games he has featured in. The most important of all his saves has to be the terrific save from a Ivan Rakitic close range header in the second half against Croatia which kept Spain in that game and most importantly in the tournament.

THEODOR GEBRE SELASSIE (RB) – CZECH REPUBLIC

Selassie has been one of the gems of the the tournament. The right back from African origin was completely unknown outside Czech Republic before the European Championships, but with his energetic performances for his country in the three group games so far he will surely attract many and bigger European clubs in the summer. The Slovan Liberec full back has impressed everyone with his pace and work rate on the right side of the Czech defence and also created his side’s second goal in the important win over Greece.

PEPE (CB) – PORTUGAL

Pepe has been the rock in the center of the defence for both Portugal and Real Madrid this season. The former FC Porto man has been a determined customer at the back and at times has been seen shouting out instructions to his fellow defenders and kept them well organised. He is not only a very good defender but also an attacking threat from the set-pieces. He scored his side’s opener from a corner against Denmark in the second group game and was very close of doing the same against Germany in the first game.

MATS HUMMELS (CB) – GERMANY

If Pepe was the reason for Portugal’s success from the so called Group of Death, then the Dortmund defender has been Germany’s reason for success in the same group. Hummels has been an imperious presence in the heart of the German defence that have conceded just two goals in the three group games they have played. His aerial ability and no-nonsense defending has been the keys aspects to his defending. At the same time he is a threat from the set-pieces and is also good going forward with ball, as he showed against the Dutch.

JORDI ALBA (LB) – SPAIN

The Valencia full back, who is expected to sign for Barcelona in the summer, has been one of the players to watch during the European Championship and he has not let anyone down by his performances. The fast improving left back has been very impressive for La Furia Roja in Poland/Ukraine, as he has been a threat to deal with when going forward, and at the same time solid at the back. He has been the important part of the Spanish defence that has kept two cleans during the group stages and will be hoping to do the same against France in Donetsk.

STEVEN GERRARD (CM) – ENGLAND

In the absence of Wayne Rooney, all eyes were on Gerrard on how he would lead his team in the European Championship and he has done a brilliant job. Played in a bit defensive role by Roy Hodgson, the Liverpool skipper has shown his class in all the three group games he has played in, and has led his team from the front with some clam performances. He has been the inspiration figure on and off field, and at the same time has been his side’s and tournament’s top goal creator with three assists. His good form in the knockout stages will be the key for England success in the competition.

CLAUDIO MARSCHISIO (CM) – ITALY

Coming from winning the Serie A with Juventus, Marschiso has carried his club form for his country in the European Championship. The center midfielder has been Italy’s top performer in Poland/Ukraine. The Juventus man has put in energetic displays in all the three group games but the game against Spain stands out. He showed some great stamina to run the Spainish defence to the end and force a late save from Casillas. At the same time, he was solid in the midfield and often stole possession for his side.

CRISTIANO RONALDO (AML) – PORTUGAL

Ronaldo was not at his best against Germany in the opening group game and missed a couple of golden chances against Denmark in the second game but when it mattered the most, he scored twice against the Dutch in the final game and guided his country to the last eight. The Real Madrid star has been a constant threat to defences in this tournament with his pace, trickery and his ability to shoot from distance.  The Czech defence will have to be at their best to deal with threat possessed by Ronaldo, and if they succeed in keeping him quite then Petr Cech’s side are in with a huge chance.

ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC (AMC) – SWEDEN

Even though Sweden are not through to quarter finals, Ibrahimovic makes the team as he has been the most valuable player of the tournament. Playing just behind the main striker, the AC Milan hitman has been very impressive for Sweden by scoring goals and creating chances for his teammates. He scored a goal against Ukraine but it was all overshadowed by Andriy Shevchenko’s brace and Ukraine’s victory, he was his team’s best player against England and scored most probably the goal of the tournament against France which won him the Man of the Match in the final group game. Sweden ended at the bottom of Group D, but Ibrahimovic has been one of star performers this summer.

ANDRES INIESTA (AMR) – SPAIN

Cesc Fabregas grabbed the headlines for scoring the equaliser against Italy, Fernando Torres did the same after scoring a brace against Ireland and Jesus Navas got took the back pages with the winner against Croatia, but the real hero in all three three matches was Andres Iniesta. The Barcelona playmaker has been Spain’s unsung hero in the tournament so far. The Spainiard has been superb throughout the tournament creating numerous chances for his teammates and has hardly misplaced a pass. He has adapted very well to the advanced role when Vicente Del Bosque has opted to play without a striker.

MARIO GOMEZ (ST) – GERMANY

Gomez has scored 41 goals this season for Bayern Munich and he has continued his club form for his country in the European Championships. The German striker has been deadly in front of goal and leads the race for the Golden Boot award with three goals in three matches so far. The former Stuttgart striker scored a powerful header that turned out to be the winner against Portugal in the first game and then scored a brilliant brace against the Netherlands in the second game that guaranteed his side a place in the quarter finals.

SUBSTITUTES

Manuel Neuer (Germany), Stipe Pletikosa (Croatia), Alvaro Arbeloa (Spain), Olof Mellberg (Sweden), Joleon Lescott (England), Fabio Coentrao (Portugal), Vaclav Pilar (Czech Republic), David Silva (Spain), Mario Mandzukic (Croatia), Alan Dzagoev (Russia), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany), Karim Benzema (France).

Netherlands v Germany Preview

Netherlands meet Germany in today’s do-or-die Group B clash in Kharkiv, knowing that another defeat will mean the end an early exit in the group stages for the 2010 FIFA World Cup finalist. 

Bert van Marwijk’s side have to pick themselves up after Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Denmark, in a match the Dutch had largely dominated but were very wasteful. They now have to beat rivals Germany at the Metalist Stadium, then Portugal on Sunday to be sure of qualifying from the group, which has been dubbed ‘The Group of Death’. While the Dutch will be fighting for survival, Germany know another win will put them in the quarter-finals following their 1-0 victory over Portugal.

Clashes between Holland and neighbours Germany are amongst the biggest in world football and always tend to be spicy affairs and there will be no quarter given when they renew their historic rivalry. This will be the eighth time the teams have met at a finals tournament and the fifth occasion at a European Championship. Germany have three wins against two for the Dutch and two draws. And there have been some classic matches between these countries such as the 1974 World Cup final, when Johan Cruyff’s team scored an early penalty, only to lose 2-1 to the Germans in Munich. The Euro ’88 semi-final in Hamburg was a special moment for the Oranje Army as Marco Van Basten scored a last minute winner to beat the hosts 2-1. And then there was the tempestuous 1990 World Cup second round encounter at the San Siro in Milan which Germany won 2-1, after their striker Rudi Voeller and Dutch stalwart Frank Rijkaard were sent-off before Andreas Brehme curled home a late winner.

TEAM NEWS

Netherlands

Netherlands have received a boost with the return to fitness of veteran defender Joris Mathijsen ahead of Wednesday’s crucial Euro 2012 showdown with Germany. The Malaga centre-back missed the 1-0 defeat to Denmark with a hamstring problem but looks set to return to the Dutch lineup in place of Ron Vlaar. Midfielder Wesley Sneijder should feature despite sustaining a minor knock, while coach Bert van Marwijk will have to make a very big decision of either playing Robin van Persie or Klaas-Jan Huntelaar or maybe both.

Germany

On the other hand, Germany boss Joachim Low has no pressing injury concerns but could make changes to liven up his attack after a low-key performance against Portugal. Andre Schurrle, Marco Reus and Mario Gotze are all vying for starting berths, with Lukas Podolski or Thomas Muller likely to make way.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Played – 38
Netherlands Wins – 10
Draws – 14
Germany Wins – 14

FORM GUIDE

Netherlands – LWWLL
09-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark
02-Jun-12 – Friendly – Netherlands 6-0 Northern Ireland
31-May-12 – Friendly – Netherlands 2-0 Slovakia
26-May-12 – Friendly – Netherlands 1-2 Bulgaria
23-May-12 – Friendly – Bayern Munich 3-2 Netherlands

Germany – WWLLW
09-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Germany 1-0 Portugal
01-Jun-12 – Friendly – Germany 2-0 Israel
26-May-12 – Friendly – Switzerland 5-3 Germany
01-Mar-12 – Friendly – Germany 1-2 France
16-Nov-11 – Friendly – Germany 3-0 Netherlands

KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH

Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands)
The Inter Milan playmaker was impressive in the first game against Denmark but yet he was on the losing side. Sneijder was Netherlands’ star at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa helping them reach the finals, but ever since the final against Spain he has not produced the same kind of form. He has been troubled by injuries and has had a very poor season for Inter Milan. If Netherlands have to progress from the so called ‘Group of Death’ then Sneijder will have to be in top form today.

Arjen Robben (Netherlands)
Like Sneijder, Arjen Robben is very important to Netherlands success this summer. The Bayern Munich winger reached the Champions League final and ended runners-up in the Bundesliga this season, but the reality is that Robben has been less than impressive. The former Chelsea man missed a penalty against his old employees in the Champions League and was too selfish the other day against Denmark. Robben will have to be at his very best against a very strong German defence and especially Philipp Lahm to help his country reach the quarter finals.

Mesut Ozil (Germany)
The Real Madrid playmaker has had a very successful season both personally and as a team. The 23-year-old has made his mark in world football and is now one of the best attacking midfielders around. The elegant midfield provides guile and craft to the German midfield and his probing passes are sure to test the Dutch backline, which looked vulnerable against Denmark. The former Werder Bremen star hardly losses possession and enjoyed a lot playing in the possession-heavy style adopted by Joachim Low.

Mario Gomez (Germany)
The Spanish origin striker is Joachim Low’s first choice striker ahead of the veteran Miroslaw Klose and is expected to start again today after the scoring the winner against Portugal the other night. The former Stuttgart hitman has been in top goal-scoring form for Bayern Munich this season scoring 41 goals 52 matches and has also netted ten goals for his country in the past one. His ability of being in the right position and at the right time will be the key and a threat to deal with for the Dutch defence.

PROBABLE LINEUPS

Netherlands (4-2-3-1): Maarten Stekelenburg; Gregory van der Wiel, Joris Mathijsen, Johnny Heitinga, Jetro Willems; Nigel De Jong, Mark van Bommel (C); Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Robin van Persie; Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.

With Joris Mathijsen fit, the Malaga man will be back in the side in place of Ron Vlaar, who had a poor game, in the center of the defence alongside Heitinga. The young Jetro Willems impressed many the other day and he will keep his position in the side with Van der Wiel on the right. The experience of Nigel De Jong will see him get the nod ahead of Kevin Strootman along side Mark van Bommel, while Ibrahim Afellay who had a poor game against Denmark in the Group B opener, will be demoted to the bench and Robin van Persie will be moved out on the left wing. The top scorer in the qualifiers, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar will lead the lineup for the Dutch with Wesley Sneijder just playing behind him and Arjen Robben on the right wing.

Germany (4-2-3-1): Manuel Neuer; Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Holger Badstuber, Philipp Lahm(C); Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sami Khedira; Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Lukas Podolski; Mari Gomez.

Joachin Low said in his pre-match press conference that he is not afraid to chance winning team, but I don’t think there will be any chances for this game especially against the Dutch. This is Germany’s best team and Low will stick with it. Gomez will lead the line with Muller and Podolski join him from the wings. Ozil will operate just behind them and will try and find the killer through balls. Schweinsteiger and Khedira will play center of midfield connecting the defence and attack. Lahm will again start on the left-back with Jerome Boateng on the right-back and the pair of Hummers and Badstuber, who looked well organised against the Portuguese, in the heart of the defence. The ever safe hands of Manuel Neuer will be in the between the sticks for the Germans.

MATCH ODDS

Netherlands 19/10 Draw 23/10 Germany 7/5

PREDICTION

With the Dutch having to win this game to stay in the tournament, they will attack from the start. On recent form, one has agree the Germans are favourites to win and with a settled side & an opening game victory under their belt, the German players will play with less pressure compared to their opponents. The Dutch will need their star players to perform and play as a team. The 2010 FIFA World Cup finalist have a huge task of beating Germany – who have one the most settled units and the best defence in the tournament – and so we are going for a narrow win for the 2008 UEFA European Championship finalist.

Predicted Score – Netherlands 1-2 Germany

Champions League Final In Pictures

What a Saturday Night it was in Munich as Chelsea created history by winning the Champions League for the first time ever in their history by defeating the hosts Bayern Munich.

The Germans dominated the game completely but in end it were Blues from west London who walked out as winners. Want to relive it again? Then, take a look below as we recap the final in pictures. Note: Click on the Images to view in Bigger Size. 

General view of the stadium some one hour before kickoff. And it’s already packed!
The trophy for which the two teams will play for, is up for display in the stadium ahead of kickoff.
The teams are out and going through the formalities before going head-to-head for the greatest prize in club football.
The Bayern Munich supporters show their support to their team during the opening ceremony before kickoff.
Chelsea fans have their own banner, they are the pride of London tonight as the world watches on.
The action begins. Bayern start to apply pressure on nervous Chelsea. Mario Gomez tries to win a header over David Luiz.
Bayern skipper Philipp Lahm tries to get past Chelsea’s Champions League debutant Ryan Bertrand as Bayern stay on offensive.
Bayern Munich and Mario Gomez rue a hat full of chances in the first half and second half is no different.
Bayern supporters light up the arena with flares, there’s a lack of flair on the pitch at the moment as the game remains in deadlock.
Franck Ribery finally puts the ball in the back of the net, but he is offside. TV replays show it’s very close.
Bayern’s number 25 sneaks in at the far post to meet a cross from Toni Kroos. Muller heads the ball hard into the ground and it bounces up over Cech.
Bayern get their goal finally in the 83rd minute. Frank Lampard looks on as the Bayern players celebrate a possible winner.
With just minutes on the clock. Juan Mata’s corner is headed by Drogba into the back of the net. Manuel Neuer could just palm the Ivorian’s powerfull and well-directed headed into the top corner.
Remarkable!! Match is not over yet. Drogba – man for the big finals – celebrates his equaliser with his Chelsea team-mates as the match goes in extra time.
In extra time. Drogba undoes his hard work and gives away a cheap penalty by fouling Franck Ribery in the box. But Petr Cech to the rescue, as he guess the right side and saves Arjen Robben’s penalty.
The challenge from Drogba ended Franck Ribery’s night. The Frenchman is substituted by Ivica Olic, who misses a glorious opportunity in the second half of extra time. The match goes in penalties.
Philipp Lahm scores Bayern Munich’s first penalty but Juan Mata misses for Chelsea.
The German side look happy as their keeper makes the first save. Advantage Bayern!
David Luiz, Mario Gomez, Frank Lampard and Manuel Neuer all score before Petr Cech saves Ivica Olic’s penalty. Ashley Cole scores the next penalty to level the things.
Petr Cech makes yet another penalty save as he denies Bastian Schweinsteiger, who scored the winning penalty in Madrid. It’s advantage Chelsea!
It’s written in the stars that Didier Drogba should step up to score the winning penalty for Chelsea.
The Ivorian calmly sends Neuer the wrong way and wins it for Chelsea.
Wild celebrations follow as Chelsea win their first ever Champions League title in history.
The big scoreboard in the stadium display Chelsea are the Champions Winners 2012.
Frank Lampard and the suspended skipper John Terry lifts the Champions League trophy and celebrates with the team.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich finally holds the Champions League trophy high, which he most wanted.
While Chelsea celebrate, Bayern Munich players lay on the pitch sad and dejected after losing on penalties.
Chelsea are the Champions of Europe and the celebrations continue as they pose with the trophy.

UEFA Champions League Final Preview – Chelsea v Bayern Munich

Munich is the place to be on Saturday night when two giants of the game, Chelsea and Bayern Munich go head to head against each other with European glory up for grabs in the Champions League final at the Allianz Arena.

Bayern Munich, who are only the 4th team in the history of the Champions League to make it through to the finals in their own backyard, have won four European cups compared to Chelsea’s none. Both teams have had fair share of pain heartbreaks, as far as this competition is concerned, and on both occasions, it was Manchester United that inflicted all the pain. While the Bavarians will never forgot what happened in the dying minutes of the final in 1999 at Nou Camp, the Blues still have nightmares of John Terry’s fateful slip during the penalty shoutout in 2008.

Both sides earned surprise victories over their fancied Spanish opponents in the semi-finals, thus killing the dream of an El-Classico Champions League final. Munich have history on their side as the record twenty-two-time Bundesliga winners march into their 9th Champions League final, while Chelsea on the other hand have made it to the big stage only once previously. Bayern have a good record against English sides in the competition, winning 7 of the 17 ties against teams from the United Kingdom. Although they have lost the final to English opposition on two occasions, against Aston Villa in 1982 and Manchester United.

TEAM NEWS

Chelsea

Chelsea will have defenders David Luiz and Gary Cahill available for selection, with the duo appearing to be winning their fitness battles following hamstring injuries. The news will come as a boost to interim boss Roberto Di Matteo, as regular defenders John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic are serving suspensions along with Ramires and Raul Meireles. Winger Florent Malouda (hamstring) is a doubt, while Didier Drogba should get the nod up front ahead of Fernando Torres.

Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich will be without suspended trio Holger Badstuber, David Alaba and Luiz Gustavo. Defender Breno (knee) is out and Daniel Van Buyten is short of match fitness, so Anatoliy Tymoshchuk and Diego Contento are likely to deputise for Badstuber and Alaba respectively. Thomas Muller should get a recall to the starting XI, with Toni Kroos dropping into a deeper midfield role alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger.

ROAD TO MUNICH

Chelsea

13 Sep – Group E – Chelsea 2-0 Bayer Leverkusen (Torres, Mata)
28 Sep – Group E – Valencia 1-1 Chelsea (Lampard)
19 Oct – Group E – Chelsea 5-0 Genk (Meireles, Torres(2), Ivanovic, Kalou)
01 Nov – Group E – Genk 1-1 Chelsea (Ramires)
23 Nov – Group E – Bayer Levekusen 2-1 Cheksea (Drogba)
06 Dec – Group E – Chelsea 3-0 Valencia (Drogba(2), Ramires)

21 Feb – Rnd of 16, 1st Leg – Napoli 3-1 Chelsea (Mata)
14 Mar – Rnd of 16, 2nd Leg – Chelsea 4-1 Napoli (Drogba, Lamaprd, Terry, Ivanovic)
27 Mar – Quarter Finals, 1st Leg – Benfica 0-1 Chelsea (Kalou)
04 Apr – Quarter Finals, 2nd Leg – Chelsea 2-1 Benfica (Lampard, Meireles)
18 Apr – Semi Finals, 1st Leg – Chelsea 1-0 Barcelona (Drogba)
24 Apr – Semi Finals, 2nd Leg – Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea (Ramires, Torres)

Bayern Munich

14 Sep – Group A – Villarreal 0-2 Bayern Munich (Kroos, Rafinha)
27 Sep – Group A – Bayern Munich 2-0 Manchester City (Gomez(2))
18 Oct – Group A – Napoli 1-1 Bayern Munich (Kroos)
02 Nov – Group A – Bayern Munich 3-2 Napoli (Gomez(3))
22 Nov – Group A – Bayern Munich 3-1 Villarreal (Ribery(2), Gomez)
07 Dec – Group A – Manchester City 2-0 Bayern Munich

22 Feb – Rnd of 16, 1st Leg – Basel 1-0 Bayern Munich
13 Mar – Rnd of 16, 2nd Leg – Bayern Munich 7-0 Basel (Robben(2), Muller, Gomez(3))
28 Mar – Quarter Finals, 1st Leg – Marseille 0-2 Bayern Munich (Gomez, Robben)
03 Apr – Quarter Finals, 2nd Leg – Bayern Munich 2-0 Marseille (Olic(2))
17 Apr – Semi Finals, 1st Leg – Bayern Munich 2-1 Real Madrid (Ribery, Gomez)
25 Apr – Semi Finals, 2nd Leg – Real Madrid 2-1 Bayern Munich (Robben)

OVERALL FORM

Chelsea – WLWLW
13 May – Premier League – Chelsea 2-1 Blackburn
09 May – Premier League – Liverpool 4-1 Chelsea
05 May – FA Cup Final – Liverpool 1-2 Chelsea
03 May – Premier League – Chelsea 0-2 Newcastle
29 Apr – Premier League – Chelsea 6-1 QPR

Bayern Munich – LWWLW
12 May – DFB Pokal Final – Dortmund 5-2 Bayern Munich
05 May – Bundesliga – FC Koln 1-4 Bayern Munich
28 Apr – Bundesliga – Bayern Munich 2-0 Stuttgart
26 Apr – Champions League SF, 2nd Leg – Real Madrid 2-1 Bayern Munich
21 Apr – Bundesliga – Werder Bremen 1-2 Bayern Munich

HEAD TO HEAD

12 Apr 05 – Champions League QF, 2nd Leg – Bayern Munich 3-2 Chelsea
06 Apr 05 – Champions League QF, 1st Leg – Chelsea 4-2 Bayern Munich

PROBABLE LINEUPS

Chelsea

David Luiz and Cahill have been training this week and Chelsea will hope the centre-backs can make it in time for Saturday. Di Matteo needs at least one of the pair to be fit to avoid a major catastrophe. If they do make it through, Jose Bosingwa and Ashley Cole will start on either side, with Jon Obi Mikel holding fort ahead of the backline. Frank Lampard will drop into a deeper midfield role and although Michael Essien is available, the Ghanaian is unlikely to garner a starting berth. With Malouda suffering from an injury too, Di Matteo must decide f he wants to go with both Dider Drogba and Fernando Torres, with the Spaniard starting on the right. Juan Mata will once again be the creative force in the centre while Salomon Kalou is expected to take the left-wing position.

Probable XI (4-3-3): Cech; Bosingwa, David Luiz, Cahill, Cole; Mikel, Lampard(c), Mata; Kalou, Torres, Drogba.

Bayern Munich

The suspensions could actually force Heynckes into a more attacking line-up although Bayern will start in their usual 4-2-3-1 formation. Antoliy Tymoschuk might move into the centre-back position alongside Jerome Boateng, with Danijel Pranjic also an option. For the full-back positions, Rafinha could come in at right-back while Phillip Lahm moves to the left or the manager could stick with Lahm on the right and bring in Diego Contento on the left. Bastian Schweinsteiger will be the general in midfield and he is expected to have Kroos for company. With Kroos dropping deep, Muller looks set to join the attack, sandwiched between Ribery and Robben and behind Gomez.

Probable XI (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Rafinha, Boateng, Tymoschuk, Lahm(c); Kroos, Schweinsteiger; Robben, Muller, Riberty; Gomez.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Mario Gomez – Bayern Munich

He has been phenomenal for Bayern Munich this season. He has completely defined the world ‘goalscoring machine’. The German international who joined Bayern from Stuttgart in 2009, has managed to score 40 goals this season out of which 12 have come in the Champions League.

Didier Drogba – Chelsea

He is the man for the big games. Drogba loves playing high-profile matches as it tends to raise his game. He was Chelsea’s key man against Barcelona in the first leg where he scored the all important winner. This may be his last game for Chelsea and he would love to finish his Blues career on a high by winning the coveted Champions league trophy.

Arjen Robben – Bayern Munich

The ex-Chelsea plays has been Bayern’s star since joining the Reds from Real Madrid. The ex-Chelsea man, who scored the all important goal from the penalty in the 2nd leg of the semi finals at the Bernabeu, would be eager to showcase his skills and talent against his former employees.

THE STADIUM

Home to FC Bayern München and TSV 1860 München, the Fußball Arena München will host the 2012 UEFA Champions League final following a decision made by the UEFA Executive Committee in January 2009. The showpiece will take place on Saturday 19 May 2012.

• The Fußball Arena München took less than three years to build from start to finish, and was completed on 30 April 2005. It was conceived following a referendum in October 2001 when 65.8% of Munich’s citizens voted to construct a new arena rather than regenerate the Olympiastadion, venue for the 1972 summer Olympic Games and previous home of Bayern and 1860 München.

• A year to the day after that vote, work commenced on the stadium, including the construction of the unique exterior. The Fußball Arena München’s transparent outer wall is comprised of foil panels which are lit from the inside and can change colour depending on who is playing; red for Bayern, blue for 1860 München and white for Germany.

• The arena opened its doors to competitive football on 5 August 2005 when a full house of 66,000 watched Bayern defeat VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach 3-0. In January 2006, city authorities approved a 3,901 increase in capacity which means the stadium can now house 69,901 supporters. Some of these reside in standing terraces which are created for domestic games by converting 10,400 seats in each of the north and south stands.

• Located on Werner-Heisenberg-Allee – named after famous German atomic physicist and 1932 Nobel Prize for Physics winner Werner Heisenberg – the Fußball Arena München played host to the opening game of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Germany’s 4-2 victory against Costa Rica. A further five matches in the tournament were played at the arena, including France’s 1-0 semi-final win against Portugal.

• While some 106 VIP boxes, 400 media seats and 11,000 parking spaces cater for those attending the game, the players make do with two warm-up rooms, a nursery and four changing rooms – one each for Bayern, 1860 München and their respective opponents.

• The Olympiastadion hosted three European Champion Clubs’ Cup finals. Trevor Francis’s strike earned Nottingham Forest FC victory against Malmö FF in 1979 and there was also only one goal in it 24 years later when Olympique de Marseille beat AC Milan to claim the inaugural UEFA Champions League title. In 1997 two Karl-Heinz Riedle efforts set BV Borussia Dortmund on course for a 3-1 win against Juventus.

(source: uefa.com)

THE MATCH BALL

The official match ball for the 2012 UEFA Champions League final – the adidas Finale Munich – has been officially presented at the venue for this season’s showpiece match, the Fußball Arena München.

As the 12th adidas supplied match ball for a UEFA Champions League final, the adidas Finale Munich will be the first “final ball” to be used throughout the UEFA Champions League knockout stages and not just for the final itself.

The ball’s graphics are inspired by the shape of the Fußball Arena München and they enhance its iconic starball logo design, while the blue and acqua tones are strongly influenced by the reflection of modern local architectural materials, which also build the UEFA Champions League Final Munich 2012 brand identity.

The adidas Finale Munich makes its debut tonight when the UEFA Champions League resumes with two of the eight round of 16 ties – the first leg matches between Olympique Lyonnais and APOEL FC, and Bayer 04 Leverkusen and FC Barcelona. The UEFA Champions League final takes place in the Bavarian city on Saturday 19 May.

(source: uefa.com)

THE TROPHY 

The current UEFA Champions League trophy, which stands 73.5cm tall and weighs 8.5kg, is the sixth overall and dates back to 2006.

A rule introduced in the 1968/69 season allowed the cup to become the property of any club which won the competition five times or three years in a row. That means Real Madrid CF, AFC Ajax, FC Bayern München, AC Milan and, since 2005, Liverpool FC all have an original in their trophy rooms. Under new regulations, any club which wins the trophy three consecutive times or five times in total receives a special mark of recognition, with the club then starting a new cycle from zero.

The trophy that the winning captain will lift at Wembley Stadium in London is the fifth version of the current design. After Real Madrid were allowed to keep the original in 1967, UEFA’s General Secretary, Hans Bangerter, decided to create a new design and called in a local specialist in Berne, Jürg Stadelmann.

“My father Hans and I went along to Herr Bangerter’s office and covered the whole floor with the drawings,” recalled Stadelmann. “He made comments like, ‘The Bulgarians would like the bottom of that. The Spaniards would like that, but the Italians would prefer that and the Germans would go for this bit.’ We put the design together like a jigsaw puzzle. It was a design constituted of many parts yet I like it and I think everyone in football likes it as well.

“I remember that it had to be finished before 28 March,” Stadelmann added, “because I was getting married and taking my wife on a ten-day boat trip to Los Angeles. The trophy took 340 hours to make. I did the finer work, then it was finished off by the engraver, Fred Bänninger. On time, I am glad to say.”

(source: uefa.com)

THE REFEREE

Pedro Proença of Portugal will take charge of Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final between FC Bayern München and Chelsea FC at the Fußball Arena München (Munich, 20.45CET).

Proença, a financial director from Pinhal Novo, will be assisted by countrymen Bertino Miranda and Ricardo Santos. The fourth official will be Carlos Velasco Carballo from Spain. The two additional assistant referees are Jorge Sousa and Duarte Gomes, while reserve assistant referee – Tiago Trigo – completes the lineup of the officiating team.

The 41-year-old Proença, who made his international debut in 2003, has officiated more than 65 UEFA matches in a refereeing career that has been on the rise ever since he took charge of UEFA European Under-19 Championship final in 2004.

He refereed the 2007 and 2010 Portuguese Cup finals and also ran the rule over two FC Porto successes in the domestic Super Cup in August 2003 and 2006. The Portuguese took charge of two UEFA EURO 2008 qualifiers and was at the 2009 UEFA European U21 Championship, overseeing three games as a referee and acting as fourth official in Germany’s 4-0 final defeat of England.

Promoted to UEFA’s Elite category at the start of 2009/10, he oversaw four games in that season’s UEFA Champions League group stage and five in the 2010/11 competition, including Manchester United FC’s defeat of FC Schalke 04 in the semi-final second leg.

Proença has handled five UEFA Champions League matches since the beginning of the current season, including, among others, the round of 16 second leg between FC Internazionale Milano and Olympique de Marseille, as well as two UEFA Europa League matches, including the first leg of the quarter-final between FC Schalke 04 and Athletic Club.

(source: uefa.com)

THE AMBASSADOR 

Having lifted the European Champion Clubs’ Cup for FC Bayern München, scored in Germany’s victorious FIFA World Cup final in Munich and been brought up just 50km away there are few people better placed than Paul Breitner to act as ambassador for the 2012 UEFA Champions League final at the Fußball Arena Munchen on 19 May.

The former Real Madrid CF midfielder saw it all in a glittering 13-year player career, but the return of club football’s biggest game to Munich for a fourth time, and first at the new stadium, is a source of great pride for the 60-year-old. “The Champions League final next year in May is the highlight of the whole season, for the city of Munich and for Bayern,” he told UEFA.com. “The people of Munich, including me, think we have the most beautiful city in the world.”

As well as being a tourist attraction, Munich is also a footballing hotbed and the Fußball Arena Munchen, which opened in 2005 and houses almost 70,000 spectators for Bundesliga matches, is home to both TSV 1860 München and Bayern, Germany’s most successful club. And it was with the three-time European champions that Breitner first made his name in some 41 years ago.

“In 1970, it was a time of evolutionary change at Bayern Munich. Uli Hoeness, the current club president, and I arrived at the right time to grow into the team, to learn from Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Müller. We went through a development phase which led us, after our fourth season, to play in our first European Cup final, winning against Atlético Madrid in a replay after drawing the first match.”

That victory came in May 1974, two years after Breitner had helped West Germany win the UEFA European Championship, and two months before he lifted the World Cup. He would go on to become one of his country’s most successful footballers, winning five Bundesliga titles with Bayern and two Spanish championships with Madrid. In 1982 he became only the third player after Brazilians Vavá and Pelé to score in two World Cup finals (an elite club since joined by Zinédine Zidane).

(source: uefa.com)

BETTING ODDS

Match Result
Bayern Munich – 5/6
Draw – 14/5
Chelsea – 16/5

Correct Score
Bayern Munich 1-0 – 11/2
Draw 0-0 – 10/1
Chelsea 1-0 – 10/1
Bayern Munich 2-0 – 7/1
Draw 1-1 – 11/2
Chelsea 2-0 – 20/1
Bayern Munich 2-1 – 15/2
Draw 2-2 – 16/1
Chelsea 2-1 – 12/1
Bayern Munich 3-0 – 14/1
Draw 3-3 – 66/1
Chelsea 3-0 – 50/1
Bayern Munich 3-1 – 12/1
Draw 4-4 – 150/1
Chelsea 3-1 – 33/1

Half Time/Full Time
Bayern Munich / Bayern Munich – 15/8
Draw / Bayern Munich – 7/2
Chelsea / Bayern Munich – 20/1
Bayern Munich / Draw – 16/1
Draw / Draw – 5/1
Chelsea / Draw – 16/1
Bayern Munich / Chelsea – 28/1
Draw / Chelsea – 17/2
Chelsea / Chelsea – 13/2

Under/Over 2.5 Goals
Under 2.5 Goals – 4/5
Over 2.5 Goals – 10/11

Both Teams to Score
Yes – 5/6
No – 5/6

To Lift the Trophy
Bayern Munich – 4/9
Chelsea – 7/4

Goalscorer
No Chelsea Goalscorer – 11/8
Didier Drogba – 11/4
Mario Gomez – 11/4
Fernando Torres – 3/1
Arjen Robben – 7/2
No Bayern Munich Goalscorer – 7/2
Franck Ribery – 4/1
Frank Lampard – 9/2
Nils Petersen – 9/2
Daniel Sturridge – 9/2

Winning Margin
Bayern Munich by Exactly 1 Goal – 5/2
Chelsea by Exactly 1 Goal – 11/2
Bayern Munich by Exactly 2 Goals – 4/1
Chelsea by Exactly 2 Goals – 14/1
Bayern Munich by 3 or more Goals – 11/2
Chelsea by 3 or more Goals – 40/1

(source: skybet.com)

PREDICTION

The defensive absentees could make this game an open game of football and as with any final one can only hope this doesn’t turn out to be one boring cagey affair. Drogba will be a threat for any centre-back pairing that Bayern start with but at the same time the same thing can be said about Mario Gomez at the other end. With John Terry suspended and both David Luiz and Gary Cahill just coming back from injuries it would be very difficult for the Blues to defend against a very strong and attacking Bayern side. Expect Bayern to attack a lot, while Chelsea would be happy to hit the hosts on the counter.

Bayern Munich 2-1 Chelsea