Chelsea FC head into this season's UEFA Champions League final against FC Bayern München looking to banish the memory of the 2007/08 showpiece when they lost to Manchester United FC on penalties. The Blues will be buoyed by their elimination of pre-tournament favourites and holders FC Barcelona in the semi-finals but are still widely considered to be the underdogs, with the final taking place at the Fußball Arena München, their opponents' home ground. However, Roberto Di Matteo's charges have upset the form book more than once en route to the final so will be confident of defying the odds again and claiming the biggest prize in European club football for the first time in their history.
Story of the season
It has been a tough season at Stamford Bridge. Long out of the Premier League title race, the Blues parted company with manager André Villas-Boas after the round of 16 first-leg loss to SSC Napoli. Results have picked up since under interim boss Di Matteo and, despite a gloomy outlook at the beginning of 2012, Chelsea finished sixth in the league, beat Liverpool FC 2-1 to claim the FA Cup and have every chance of finishing what has been a difficult campaign in glorious fashion in the UEFA Champions League showpiece.
P1 W0 L1
Last: 2007/08 v Manchester United FC (1-1, Man. United win 6-5 on penalties)
Record against Bayern
Chelsea triumphed on the only previous occasion that the two sides met in the UEFA Champions League. Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard were on target in both legs as the Blues established a 4-2 first-leg lead before surviving a late rally in the return to reach the semi-finals. However, their campaign came to an end in the last four when they were eliminated by Liverpool FC, who staged one of the great European comebacks in the final before beating AC Milan on penalties.
Key moment of the season
Chelsea have had to dig deep more than once this season. They required a matchday six result against Valencia CF to make the knockout stages, and had to survive a nervy few minutes late on in their quarter-final defeat of ten-man SL Benfica. However, the round of 16 second-leg performance against Napoli marked a return to Chelsea's belligerent best, as they overturned a 3-1 deficit at Stamford Bridge. After the tie was taken to extra time, Branislav Ivanović struck a 105th-minute winner to send the home supporters into raptures.
They also defied the odds to eliminate holders Barcelona in the semi-finals. Despite being 2-0 down at the Camp Nou, trailing 2-1 on aggregate and reduced to ten men, Di Matteo's charges rallied valiantly. Ramires pulled a goal back with a delightful finish and, having watched Lionel Messi hit the crossbar from the penalty spot, Chelsea kept the four-time winners at bay until Fernando Torres sealed a remarkable aggregate triumph late on.
Quote: Roberto Di Matteo, Chelsea interim manager
"I am very happy but most of all pleased for the players because they deserve this. They have had a difficult season and they seem to be able to do something special when they need to. This seems to be the DNA of these players."
Drogba's total of five European goals may seem modest, but the fact they have come in only six starts outlines the impact the experienced Ivory Coast striker can still make. Furthermore, Drogba has tended to score at key times, striking twice in the 3-0 win against Valencia, igniting the Napoli comeback with the opener in the return leg and scoring the winner in the semi-final first leg against Barcelona.
Much has been said about the Chelsea old guard – the likes of Frank Lampard, John Terry, Drogba – and their contribution to the Blues' resurgence. Yet some of the younger members have played a big part, too – including David Luiz and Ramires, although the latter will miss the 19 May showpiece through suspension. With Terry sometimes absent through injury, Luiz has stepped up impressively at centre-back. He was rock solid in the 1-0 win in Lisbon against his old side Benfica, and even popped up with a goal against Bayer 04 Leverkusen. The 25-year-old missed the semi-final against Barcelona with a hamstring injury but is a strong favourite to fill the void left by Terry's three-game ban in the Munich final.
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