Vanguard (Lagos)

18 May 2012

Nigeria: Can Chelsea Break the Champions League Winless Jinx?

Photo: Austin Osuide/Wikipedia
Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson

analysis

A day of destiny awaits at the Allianz Arena as Chelsea and Bayern Munich stand on the brink of European glory after another remarkable year in the UEFA Champions League.

The continent's No.1 club competition has produced some extraordinary drama since the first round of qualifying last June and Saturday's showpiece promises to deliver a thrilling climax to the season.

A fascinating story will unfold either way in Munich, as Bayern have the chance to lift the trophy at their home stadium and Chelsea are going in search of their first European crown.

It has been Roman Abramovich's dream to win the Champions League since he took control of the club in 2003 and he has been ruthless with those managers that have failed to bring success.

Roberto Di Matteo is the eighth boss to have worked with Abramovich, having replaced Andre Villas-Boas in early March at a time when Chelsea's campaign appeared to be heading towards a dismal conclusion.

What has followed over the past couple of months could have been straight from the script of a footballing fairytale, with Chelsea now just one game away from the happiest of endings.

The Blues had already had a narrow escape to make it out of the group stage by the time Di Matteo replaced Villas-Boas, but they have since pulled off two of the all-time great European comebacks.

Trailing 3-1 against Napoli at the halfway point of their last-16 tie, Chelsea triumphed 4-1 in the second leg on a famous night at Stamford Bridge.

Having seen off Benfica in the quarter-finals, Chelsea then stunned reigning champions and tournament favourites Barcelona at Camp Nou as they somehow prevailed 3-2 on aggregate even after having captain John Terry sent off before half-time.

Chelsea have since gone on to beat Liverpool in the final of the FA Cup to ensure they will finish the season with some silverware, but it is Saturday's clash with Bayern that could prove to be the ultimate job audition for Di Matteo.

Having only been appointed on an interim basis until the end of the season it remains to be seen who will be handed a permanent deal for the start of next term, but if the Italian can mastermind a victory in Munich it is likely to make Abramovich's mind up for him.

Chelsea have been here before, of course, having lost to Manchester United in the most agonising fashion in 2008's Moscow final, when Terry missed the opportunity to be a hero in the penalty shoot-out.

The Blues need to beat Bayern to make sure they will get back into the competition next season after finishing a disappointing sixth in the Premier League this term.

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