The final of the Champions League finally comes after ten months of qualifying, group stages and knockout rounds. Internazionale and Bayern Munich will contest the first ever European Cup final to take place on a Saturday as television becomes an even bigger part of the larger story of European football. More people watched Barcelona dismantle Manchester United in last season’s final than watched the Super Bowl. This season’s final will probably not attract quite as many viewers as the two clubs involved are not quite as marketable as last year, but it does obviously feature two highly competent sides.
Inter will be playing perhaps their final match with José Mourinho as boss as their eccentric manager is weighing all his options, including a move to Real Madrid. The Italians clinched their fifth consecutive Serie A title and would complete what has been probably the second-most successful spell in their history with a European Cup. Inter have done it so far with a combination of stiff defense and will-power with several highly skilled players up front adding the necessary goals for advancing. Wesley Sneijder and Diego Milito will be counted on to provide offense against a Bayern side who do not particularly like to defend, while Maicon can be expected to drift forward and batter a shot or two at the German goal.
Bayern have been able to eke out advancement in several knockout rounds and have been far from a dominant side in the Champions League this season. But it appears they are hitting their stride at the perfect time, having won the domestic double in Germany with a late-season burst. The return of Arjen Robben has been the catalyst for the turn-around for Bayern and his presence in the final will always give the Germans a chance. Franck Ribéry will have to miss the final after his appeals to UEFA were denied following a red card he received in the first leg of the semi-final. Strangely, Bayern have often been better when Ribéry has not been on the pitch, so perhaps the Germans will not necessarily miss one of their biggest stars.