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Champions League Group Stage Ultimate XI

Group Stage Ultimate XI

The Champions League group stages are done and dusted with Chelsea becoming the first holders in the history to be knocked out in the group stages, Manchester City completely out of Europe, Real Madrid finishing second and Lionel Messi in fine form.

Here, IntoTheTopCorner picks its Group Stage Ultimate XI, containing the very best performers over the six matchdays in a 4-5-1 formation. There’s an alternative to each selection, so have a look at the team below…

GK – FRASER FORSTER (CELTIC)

Forster

Celtic are through to the knockout stages for the first time since the 2007/08 season and they had some individual performances to thank for. The former Newcastle United shot-stopper is one of them, as he had two brilliant games against Barcelona that actually secured their qualification. A last-gasp defeat at the Camp Nou and a historical win at Celtic Park did their confidence a world of good, and their final matchday win over Spartak Moscow was more than deserved.

Alternative – Joe Hart (Manchester City)

RB – PHILIPP LAHM (BAYERN MUNICH)

Lahm

Bayern’s skipper and Mr. Consistent, Philipp Lahm, has proved dependable yet again as the Bundesliga leaders secured the top spot in Group F ahead of Valencia. Though, the German international captain did his best work on the left flank he comes in our side as a right-back. He managed three assists and won one penalty in the five matches he played and looked very solid at the back.

Alternative – Lukasz Piszczek (Borussia Dortmund)

CB – THIAGO SILVA (PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN)

Thiago Silva

The Brazilian is known as one of the best defenders in the world of football at the moment and he didn’t let anyone down. The former AC Milan centre-back was very consistent throughout the group stages as he helped the French side to first place in Group A in their long-awaited return to Europe’s elite. He scored two goals including the opener in PSG’s important win over Porto on Matchday six.

Alternative – Martin Demichelis (Malaga)

CB – MATS HUMMELS (BORUSSIA DORTMUND)

Hummels

Dortmund – surprisingly – topped the Group of Death and they had their solid defence to thank for it. Hummels, the integral part of the reigning Bundesliga champions’ back four, was at his very best as Die Schwarzgelben remained unbeaten in all of their six group games and also managed to keep three clean sheets in the process.  All the defence played their part, but the German international was perhaps the standout performer in Jurgen Klopp’s back four.

Alternative – Nicolas Otamendi (Porto)

LB – GIORGIO CHIELLINI (JUVENTUS)

Chiellini

Juventus secured their passage through to the knockout stages as Group E winners thanks to an unbeaten run of six games. Their last three were impressive wins and also clean sheets, while the Old Lady came out victorious in Donetsk – a feat achieved by very few teams in the past 12 months or so. The Italian international was perhaps the most impressive player in Antonio Conte’s back three.

Alternative – Christian Fuchs (Schalke)

CDM – ARTURO VIDAL (JUVENTUS)

Vidal

The Chilean international has to be one of the players of the group stages. The former Leverkusen man is a typical box-to-box midfielder combining defensive steel with goal-scoring prowess at the highest level. His partnership with Claudio Marschisio is the engine of Conte’s team. In the group stages, he averaged 4.8 tackles per game and scored three goals with one assist—an absolutely remarkable feat for a defensive midfield.

Alternative – Victor Wanyama (Celtic)

CM – WILLIAN (SHAKHTAR DONETSK)

Willian

The Brazilian alongside the Chilean gives our side some South American feel in the midfield. Willian, who has attracted a lot of interest from the Premier League clubs like Chelsea and Tottenham in the past, was one of the top performers for Shakhtar scoring four goals and creating two as they made it through to the last-16 and dumped the holders out of the competition in the process.

Alternative – Fernandinho (Shakhtar Donetsk)

CM – ISCO (MALAGA)

Isco

The 20-year-old Spaniard scored twice and assisted two in six games to announce himself on the European stage and walk straight into our line-up. While he has failed to to translate this form into his La Liga games, Isco has been in super form in the Champions League. It’s his form in the in Europe’s elite competition that has clubs scrambling to meet his €18.5 million buyout clause before Malaga extend his contract, and it’s clear this kid has something slightly special.

Alternative – Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich)

RW – CRISTIANO RONALDO (REAL MADRID)

Ronaldo

Love him or hate him, but the Portuguese is surely one of the best players in the world and he proved it with his performances for the Spanish champions in the group stages. The former Manchester United star managed to scored six goals in the group of death and will be hoping to score many more in the later stages as he hopes to guide the Los Blancos to their first ever Champions League title in over a decade.

Alternative – Juan Mata (Chelsea)

LW – LIONEL MESSI (BARCELONA)

Messi

A Champions League team without the best player in the world? Not possible at all. The Barca striker is at his very peak and was again at his very best in the group stages scoring five goals and creating two as he helped the Catalans top their group. The Argentine has had the best year having scored 90 goals and will be hoping more of the same in 2013 as he looks to guide his team to yet another European success.

Alternative – Burak Yilmaz (Galatasaray)

ST – ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC (PARIS SAINT-GERMIAN)

Ibrahimovic

Out strike force is a nightmare to any team and Ibrahimovic leads it. The Swede has played for the many elite club during his career but his contributions for the French capital side in this season’s campaign can’t be ignored. He has managed to score just two goals in the six games but it’s the five assists that are the most impressive. Ezequiel Lavezzi, Javier Pastore and Jeremy Menez must really enjoy playing alongside the Swede as he continues to impress.

Alternative – Jackson Martinez (Porto)

Group Stage Ultimate XI

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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

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