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When FC Bayern München returned home reflecting on a 1-0 loss in their round of 16 opener against FC Basel 1893, their dream of filing out onto their own pitch to contest the UEFA Champions League final suddenly seemed flimsier than ever.
Not since AS Roma in 1983/84 had any team survived to dispute a European Champion Clubs' Cup decider in their own stadium, and Bayern's wavering domestic form gave little cause for comfort. Fears that Jupp Heynckes' men were heading for an early exit were nonetheless dispelled in a masterful 7-0 home win against Basel, since when the German giants have progressed past Olympique de Marseille and Real Madrid CF to set up Saturday's showpiece with Chelsea FC.
"At the time, we were in a very difficult period, not only in the Champions League but also in the Bundesliga," Arjen Robben told UEFA.com. "We lost a lot of points, [but] we had some good team meetings and we talked about it a lot. In the end, you have to find yourself, your way back up and you can only do that by training and by fighting; you have to fight back and that's what we did.
We found our rhythm again and I think also that team spirit was very important; everybody was working for one another."
With Bayern having ultimately sealed their final spot with a penalty shoot-out success at the Santiago Bernabéu – Robben's spot kick having taken the game to extra time – the gifted winger now feels the side are set for the biggest game in their history. "Everybody is talking about the final, of course, and you see it everywhere," he said.
"I think it's also great for the people inside the club who have been here for such a long time and who have seen the club develop and become what it is today. This is one of the biggest clubs in Europe, with a great history, and it always has been. To reach the final and to play in your own stadium is something really amazing and a dream come true for many people inside the club."
It will also be a supremely special occasion for Robben himself. While Bayern will be chasing their fifth European crown, the Dutch international will be keen to claim his first, having finished on the losing side to FC Internazionale Milano in 2010. Before that, he experienced disappointment in the competition with both Madrid and final opponents Chelsea.
"We've already beaten Madrid, of course, another former club of mine, and hopefully Chelsea will be the second," he explained. "
It's always special to play against your former clubs and I had a great time at Chelsea – three years, a lot of success and just a great time. It'll be good to see their people again, [but] hopefully we'll be happier than they are after the game."
For club captain Philipp Lahm, meanwhile, Saturday's showdown with the Blues will be a momentous day for the city where he was born. "It's sensational, of course, and it feels great," said the full-back. "We're the first team to host the Champions League final in our own stadium and that's obviously something great. The city is ecstatic and can't wait for 19 May.
"It's very nice to be among the two best teams in Europe. We have a good chance to win an international title again and this is why you play football: to win the big trophies, international titles."
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