Special Night for the Special One
Bayern Munich and Inter Milan go head-to-head in the Champions League final in Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday evening.
Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan overcame tournament favourites Barcelona in the semi-finals to book their final place in the Spanish capital.
They were underdogs to progress ahead of the second leg even after they had inflicted a 3-1 defeat on the reigning champions in Milan. Heroically, they restricted the Catalans to a 1-0 scoreline and it was they who went through. Stoic and brave defending was needed and given after Thiago Motta's first half red card. Mourinho commented that it was "more a case of parking an aeroplane in front of the goal than a teambus."
Bayern had a somewhat more comfortable semi-final against a disappointing Lyon team. A 1-0 victory at the Allianz Arena was blighted by the sending off of the inspirational Franck Ribery. The French ace's appeal against the three-match ban has been unsuccessful and therefore he will play no part in the final.
His Bayern team mates didn't look too lost without him in the second leg at the Stade Gerland as an Ivica Olic hat-trick put the tie to bed with ease.
Inter Milan captain Javier Zanetti is set to move up from defence to replace suspended midfielder Thiago Motta, with Cristian Chivu playing at left-back.
Centre-back Lucio has recovered from a calf injury and should anchor the defence with Walter Samuel.
Mourinho is likely to deploy the same attacking quartet of Samuel Eto'o, Diego Milito, Wesley Sneijder and Goran Pandev that started the games against Chelsea and the first leg against Barca.
Bayern Munich are without the aforementioned winger Franck Ribery through suspension so Thomas Mueller should partner Ivica Olic in attack.
Argentine centre-back Martin Demichelis is fit again so Van Gaal must decide whether to stick with Diego Contento or recall the Argentine Demichelis.
The betting is tight for this Champions League final. Inter Milan will step out onto the famous Bernabeu pitch as favourites, the ‘Nerazzurri' are 13/10 to win the game in 90 minutes and 4/7 to lift the trophy in the outright market.
It's necessary to remember that four of the last ten Champions League finals have ended level and required penalties. The draw in 90 minutes is priced at 21/10. If you think the game to go to penalties then this can be backed at 9/2 while Inter are 8/1 to win by this method and Bayern 9s.
The German giants are looking to secure their fifth win in Europe's most prodigious tournament and know that they will keep the trophy if they can do so. Munich are 23/10 to defeat the Italians and 11/8 to win the tournament outright.
The first goal in this game could be crucial.
If the first goal is scored by a player in the famous black and blue stripes then it could be a long and difficult night for Bayern. Inter's defensive display in the Nou Camp showed the world that the Italian art of defending is still alive, purveyed through the Portuguese master Mourinho.
Samuel Eto'o is looking to become only the second player ever to score in three different finals. The Cameroon hitman is 6/1 to open the scoring and 6/4 anytime.
His strike partner Diego Milito is in terrific form, scoring the crucial goals that have already secured Inter Lo Scudetto and the Coppa Italia. The Argentine frontman is 11/2 to break the final deadlock and 6/5 to notch at anytime.
If Bayern can score the opener, which they couldn't manage in either tie against Manchester United interestingly, then it must force Inter to be become more expansive where Munich could pick them off.
The Bavarians' star in the semi-finals was undoubtedly the Croatian Ivica Olic. He is 8/1 to open the scoring to add to the hat-trick in the semi-finals and the two goals he got in the quarters.
Arjen Robben is the creative star at the hub of the Ribery-less Bayern attack. Without the Frenchman all the pressure falls on the shoulders on Robben. The Dutchman is no stranger to the Bernabeu or to Jose Mourinho, having played for Real Madrid and under Mourinho at Chelsea. The winger is 8/1 to break the deadlock and 6/4 to score at anytime.
When the draw for the knockout stages of the Champions League was made, this final was supposed to be the rematch between Manchester United and Barcelona. It was written in the stars that the teams that play the most eye-catching football in Europe would reconvene to do battle once again.
Mr Van Gaal and the Special One had other ideas.
Now it is they who stand only one match away from glory.
My recommendation for this game is for the Italians to defeat the Germans by a score of 3-1. This correct score can be backed at odds of 18/1.
As always you can bet in-play on this match at William Hill.