It’s Saturday Night fever for Chelsea who have set up a date with Bayern Munich on May 19, 2012.
And as we all know (see the other article titled Will Chelsea Be Second Time Lucky in the Champions League Final), the loss in the earlier final against Man United in 2008 cost the then manager Avram Grant his job.
Chelsea are now led by a caretaker manager, Di Matteo. He replaced Andre-Vilas Boas who was ceremonially sacked after he failed to set the Premier League on fire. Chelsea appear to have turned a new leaf with Di Matteo’s arrival at Stamford Bridge. The side have since won the FA Cup beating Liverpool, though, admittedly, coming unraveled in the league.
The Champions League final could be the beginning of a glorious career for Di Matteo. Were his wards to win the title, the caretaker manager is likely to become the permanent manager. But were Chelsea to lose to Bayern on Saturday, Di Matteo shouldn’t waste much time packing his suitcase, “and don’t let the door hit you on the way out”!
To understand Abramovich’s desperation to win the Champions League, we must go all the way back to 2003. The Russian billionaire had just acquired the club, then managed by Rainieri, an emotional Italian. Known as the Tinkerman, Rainieri had a reputation for tinkering with the team and some of his gambles paid off making him very popular with players and fans alike.
Rainieri’s finest moment came after beating Arsenal in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. It was common knowledge that Abramovich was hunting for Rainieri’s replacement. And here the Italian manager was, having led his team into a Champions League semi-final against Monaco.
Chelsea and Monaco were tied 1-1 when Makelele dived in the Monaco half and had Andreas Zikos sent off. With Monaco down to ten men, it was reasonable to expect Chelsea to press home the advantage. What transpired instead was bizarre.
Rainieri first chose to replace right back Mario Melchiot with Hasselbank, a striker. Next, the Italian manager brought in central defender Robert Huth in place of right-side midfielder Scott Parker. Ten-man Monaco couldn’t believe their luck and rode it to lay asunder Chelsea’s fatally unbalanced defence. The result: Monaco 3-1 Chelsea. Watching the match from the stands, Abramovich is said to have wept.
Under the away goals rule, a 2-0 win in the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge would have sufficed, and Chelsea led 2-0 at half-time on the back of Lampard’s goal just before the break added to Gronkjaer’s early lead on 22 minutes. An arm of God goal by Ibarra followed by a strike by Morientes made it 2-2 and meant that Chelsea’s Champions league had evaporated. And with that, so had Rainieri’s job.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Jinxatious is the Chief Editor of SportingAttitude.com
An avid writer, on an eclectic range of subjects, he brings to bear editorial experience garnered with a national newspaper in South-East Asia. He also has sportscasting experience, as a cricket commentator, and his passion for sport extends beyond Cricket, to Football, Tennis, and Olympic Sports.