After two epic, but contrasting, semi-finals, the Champions League has a final that few expected. Bayern Munich and Chelsea are not the best two sides in Europe, but the nature of knockout soccer means that they will play for the biggest prize in the continent.
Yet, it would be a mistake to draw too many parallels between the clubs' progress to the final. While Chelsea showed the important role that fortune can play in two-legged contests, Bayern are testament to the potential of an underdog to match up well against favored opponents and simply outplay them.
Chelsea rightly earned plaudits from many for their strength of character and organization in knocking-out favorites Barcelona, particularly after being reduced to 10-men in the second-leg. But with the praise has also come a huge amount of criticism.
While calls of anti-football are perhaps misplaced, there is no doubt that there was an element of just sitting back and hoping for the best to Chelsea's play. Boss Roberto Di Matteo admitted that the Blues would need a fair bit of luck and they got it--by the bucket load.
It is difficult to say that Chelsea's tactics worked when abiding by all reason Barcelona would have won the tie comfortably. The Catalans missed a host of chances at Stamford Bridge, hitting the woodwork twice and at the Camp Nou Lionel Messi missed a penalty as the Chelsea goalposts were rattled twice more.
It was a result that went against all logic given what transpired over the 180 minutes.
Bayern Munich, despite also being underdogs, undertook their task in an entirely different manner. The Bavarians were proactive from the off against Real Madrid, Juup Heynckes' selection giving them an advantage in the key midfield area in both legs.
Even when going 2-0 down in the Bernabeu, Bayern's players were unfazed and then were the team who looked the likelier to get a decisive goal as the dramatic tie edged toward penalties.
There is much irony in the fact that it is Bayern who made the Champions League final in what is seen as the lottery of spot-kicks, while Chelsea in the end won with something to spare, on the score line at least.
Against Bayern in the final, it would be disappointing if Chelsea were similarly defensive-minded. But with an attacking trident featuring Mario Gomez, Franck Ribery and former Chelsea star Arjen Robben, the Blues will not exactly find keeping Bayern at bay a walk in the park after the trials of Barcelona.
But it is in the center of the field where this final could well be decided. The element of control Bayern maintained, with Toni Kroos thriving in place of the more advanced Thomas Muller, was crucial to their victory over Real and could well see them prevail against Chelsea.
With Di Matteo's men set to miss Raul Meireles and Ramires through suspension, Roberto Di Matteo is likely to field a midfield three of Mikel John Obi, Michael Essien and Frank Lampard. Both Essien and Lampard, through injury and age, respectively, are not the players of old and could struggle to compete against a Bayern three, admittedly missing the suspended Luiz Gustavo.
With injuries and suspension also afflicting both defenses there are likely to be goals at both ends. But with a stronger midfield and a greater threat going forward, coupled with the advantage of their fans and familiarity with the Allianz Arena, Bayern Munich should become the first side to win in their home stadium since Inter in the San Siro in 1965.