Inter and Bayern chase treble in final of wonder
Saturday`s Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Inter Milan is so much more than just one game of soccer with a myriad of intertwined storylines promising an intriguing night whatever happens on the field.
Munich: Saturday`s Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Inter Milan is so much more than just one game of soccer with a myriad of intertwined storylines promising an intriguing night whatever happens on the field.
The first final to be played on a Saturday brings together two teams gunning for trebles and is crucial to whether Germany or Italy have four Champions League qualifying berths from 2011.
The future of Inter`s larger-than-life coach Jose Mourinho, who learnt part of his trade under Bayern boss Louis van Gaal when they were at Barcelona, will also be decided after the game with the Portuguese tempted to quit for Real Madrid.
If he does leave after taking 1964 and 1965 winners Inter to their first final since 1972, it will be because of his hatred of the Italian press and soccer establishment rather than any problems he has with the club or his beloved players.
"I love everybody. From the first to the last they give everything. They are great the way they have survived this incredible season playing a match every three days," Mourinho told reporters.
The irony of the final being played in Real`s Bernabeu stadium will not have been lost on the savvy Mourinho, who will take two or three days after the game to mull his options whether or not Inter complete an unprecedented Italian treble.
Van Gaal`s future appears to be more clear cut after the Dutchman said he would stay even if Bayern seal a treble, reversing a decision he took some months ago.
"A defeat can happen in the final... but it would be unbelievable if you won the treble with a new team and a new coach in the first season,." Van Gaal told reporters.
Many German football fans are viciously envious of the four-times winners but most will be rooting for them on Saturday given a win for Bayern or a draw after 120 minutes would mean four Bundesliga clubs will enter the Champions League pots for the 2011/12 season at the expense of one Italian team.
Under UEFA`s coefficient rules, Inter need to win without penalties to keep the status quo of Serie A having four Champions League slots, one a qualifying round berth.
The match itself is struggling to avoid becoming a side issue with neutrals moaning that a Bayern v Inter final is one of the most boring they could have imagined.
Both coaches have hit back, saying their sides can put on a great show despite their tough-tackling traits.
Some flair will be missing, though, given Bayern winger Franck Ribery and Inter`s stylish midfielder Thiago Motta are suspended after being dismissed in the semi-finals.
Apart from Ribery, Van Gaal has a full squad to chose from with Hamit Altintop the likely replacement for the Frenchman while Mourinho`s only variable is whether to play 4-3-1-2 or a 4-2-3-1 with Goran Pandev or Mario Balotelli on the wing.
Bayern`s Mark van Bommel will clash with fellow tough guy Esteban Cambiasso in midfield with the Dutch captain eager for a second Champions League winners` medal after clinching the title with Barcelona four years ago.
"This team has grown together and everything works," Van Bommel told reporters, donning an expensive watch given to him by the Catalan club after their victory in 2006.
"We will be ready and we should not change a thing from what we have been doing because we want to win this thing with the big ears (the trophy)."
Bayern Munich: 22-Hans-Joerg Butt; 21-Philipp Lahm, 5-Daniel van Buyten, 6-Martin Demichelis, 26-Diego Contento; 8-Hamit Altintop, 17-Mark van Bommel, 31-Bastian Schweinsteiger, 10-Arjen Robben; 11-Ivica Olic, 25-Thomas Mueller.
Inter Milan: 12-Julio Cesar; 13-Maicon, 25-Walter Samuel, 6-Lucio, 4-Javier Zanetti; 19-Esteban Cambiasso, 5-Dejan Stankovic; 10-Wesley Sneijder; 9-Samuel Eto`o, 22-Diego Milito, 27-Goran Pandev