In terms of coaching experience, there is hardly any comparison – when Jupp Heynckes began his first spell in charge of FC Bayern München, Chelsea FC manager Roberto Di Matteo had yet to even make his professional debut as a player.
Heynckes has achieved so much since then, most notably steering Real Madrid CF to their first European Cup in 32 years in 1998, but, despite the clear disparity in coaching pedigree, the 67-year-old has been impressed with Chelsea since Di Matteo took over in March. And, as Bayern prepare to tackle their English rivals at the Fußball Arena München on Saturday, the veteran knows not to take anything for granted on the tactical front.
"You can see that Chelsea can play different systems," said Heynckes, aiming to become only the fourth coach to win the trophy with different clubs. "They played completely differently against Benfica [in the quarter-finals] than they did against Barcelona [in the last four]. I expect Chelsea to be a bit different than against Barcelona. The team has been going through a really good period in the last weeks, and they're playing better, more successful football."
The former West Germany striker, who took the Bayern reins for the third time last summer, also has plenty of respect for the men at Di Matteo's command. "
They have a lot of experienced players in their team and it's clear that the veterans, the players who've been playing at Chelsea for many years, want to win something big. And that's very dangerous for us. The match will be open and the chances are 50-50, but it might be a little advantage to play here at home."
As well as an advantage, Heynckes knows that contesting the showpiece on home soil represents an opportunity to write a new chapter in the history of the club he led to consecutive Bundesliga titles in 1988/89 and 1989/90. After all, no side has triumphed on their own turf in the UEFA Champions League era. "It's something special to play the final in your own stadium," he said. "It's something extraordinary, something that's never happened [since 1965], something historic. So, of course, it would be massive to win the final."
It would likewise provide a chance to relax after a long season that has brought highs and lows – and little time to savour the highs. "It's a bit difficult to enjoy it," he explained. "After the team wins a match or plays well, that takes a certain burden off me and I can enjoy it. Then I reflect on how we played. I analyse the matches with the team and I can only say that we've played excellent football this season, especially in the Champions League. But in the last few weeks there has been a lot of travelling, preparation and debriefs, match analysis, matches, etc. All of that takes a huge effort."
One issue now taxing the former VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach stalwart is how to cope with the absence of suspended trio Holger Badstuber, David Alaba, and Luiz Gustavo in Saturday's decider. Chelsea will have one ineligible player more given that Branislav Ivanović, Raul Meireles, Ramires and John Terry are all missing, but Heynckes does not feel that will lend his team any sort of edge.
"I can't say that because I think Chelsea's players have the same weight as ours," he commented. "I would love to have them with us because they deserved it. Throughout the season, they have been key players in my team and that's why it’s a real pity."
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