Blogs & Opinion


Jeff Stelling talks Champions League final, Tony Pulis and Hartlepool

Features - Jeff Stelling Posted 23rd May 2013 view comments

I am on the way to Jamie Carragher's retirement do up in Liverpool as I write this column but the Champions League final is in the forefront of my mind.

Big games don't always live up to their billing but I'll be extremely surprised if this one doesn't because Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund are arch-rivals; the two clubs don't like each other and they never have.

Schweinsteiger: Bayern's midfield general has spent his entire career with the club

Schweinsteiger: Bayern's midfield general has spent his entire career with the club

The fact that Dortmund's injured playmaker Mario Gotze is switching allegiances over the summer and could be joined at the Allianz Arena by team-mate Robert Lewandowski adds extra spice to proceedings.

But even without that, the match would probably still be a classic as the two sides have tremendously vocal support and are extremely good footballing teams.

Bayern can cut you open like a surgeon but they can also go long to lone frontman Mario Mandzukic.

Jeff Stelling
Quotes of the week

LIVE ON SKY SPORTS

Champions League Final
Bayern v Dortmund
6pm, Sat, Sky Sports 1 HD

Bayern, who are controlled in the middle of the park by Bastian Schweinsteiger, can cut you open like a surgeon but they can also go long to lone frontman Mario Mandzukic, who is mobile and holds the ball up brilliantly.

Dortmund, meanwhile, are a fantastic passing team with bundles of energy, but if I had to give one side the edge I would probably choose Bayern because they are like dynamite down the flanks with Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery and have a bit more quality in their back four.

Dortmund, though, will fancy Lewandowski up against Daniel Van Buyten if the Belgian plays at centre-half, while in manager Jurgen Klopp they have the most charismatic man in European football - and I include Jose Mourinho in that.

Klopp is engaging, zany, fantastically astute, plays brilliant football - who can forget the display his men put on against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium earlier this season - and is a real breath of fresh air, so I would love him to prevail on Saturday night.

But if you look at what Bayern have done this campaign against Arsenal at the Emirates and in both legs of their semi-final versus Barcelona, and how clinical their game is, my head says they will lift the trophy.

Change

Tony Pulis, meanwhile, departed Stoke this week after seven years in charge and people must remember what a magnificent he job did there.

The Potters are not a Cinderella club and have reasonable resources but Tony has still done brilliantly to establish them in the top flight.

Stoke have been also been in an FA Cup final under his tutelage and enjoyed a European adventure, but I can understand the fans' desire for the game played a little differently and see why the club's hierarchy have decided to make a change.

However, City could suffer if the new boss rips up Tony's blueprint because some of the players that are steeped in the Pulis style may not be able to adapt to a more technical approach. Considerable surgery may be needed.

In Peter Coates, though, you probably couldn't end up working for a better owner; he has backed the club with potloads of his family's money and supported Pulis throughout the hard times.

Hartlepool have made a managerial change, too, with John Hughes - who only joined the previous November from Scottish side Livingstone - leaving Victoria Park after being unable to keep my club in League One.

John is a lovely guy, very charismatic and did get some great results but I think some fans were frustrated that he was reluctant to play the likes of Luke James, 18, and Greg Rutherford, 19. A lot of people, myself included, think they are the future of Hartlepool.

With that in mind, I'm not surprised that he has headed through the exit door.

JEFF'S GEM OF THE WEEK

It has to be Yeovil. I thought they would be in the lower reaches of League One this term but unbelievably they secured a spot in the Championship on Sunday by beating Brentford at Wembley.

They say never go back but Gary Johnson (pictured) has proved that to be wrong. He got the Glovers promoted from the Conference and from League Two and has now lifted them into the second tier upon his return.

It is a wonderful achievement for town of just 40,000 people and a club whose average home gate is a tad over 4,000 and whose most expensive player - Irish striker Paddy Madden - cost only £15,000.

Gary, his coaching staff and his players deserve all the plaudits.

back to top

Other Football Experts:

Latest Posts in Football:

Jamie Redknapp

Redknapp fears for City

Jamie Redknapp says Man City are set to limp out of the Champions League after their draw in Moscow....

Latest News RSS feeds

Gerrard: Reds have point to prove

Steven Gerrard says Liverpool respect Real Madrid – but won’t let them have things their own way at Anfield.

Liverpool v Real Madrid preview

Liverpool face a real test of their Champions League credentials as they host holders Real Madrid at Anfield.

Gourlay to leave Chelsea

Chelsea have announced that chief executive Ron Gourlay is stepping down after 10 years on the club's board.

Anderlecht v Arsenal preview

Team news for Wednesday's Champions League Group D clash between Anderlecht and Arsenal.

El Clasico Combined XI

Our Spanish football experts pick a Real Madrid-Barcelona XI - but Guillem leaves out Bale and Neymar!

Features

El Clasico Combined XI: Guillem Balague leaves out Neymar and Gareth Bale

El Clasico Combined XI: Guillem Balague leaves out Neymar and Gareth Bale

Real Madrid host Barcelona in the first El Clasico of the season on Saturday, live on Sky Sports 5 at 5pm. Here, Spanish football expert Guillem Balague picks a combined XI of Real and Barca players. Do you agree with his selections?

Champions League: Brief history of Liverpool v Real Madrid

Champions League: Brief history of Liverpool v Real Madrid

With 15 wins between them Liverpool and Real Madrid account for over a quarter of the European Cup winning teams since the tournament’s inception in 1956. And yet, the two clubs have faced each other competitively on just three occasions.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are closing in on Raul's UEFA Champions League goalscoring record of 71

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are closing in on Raul's UEFA Champions League goalscoring record of 71

With Barcelona and Real Madrid once again among the favourites for Champions League glory and El Clasico coming up this weekend, the rivalry between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo shows no signs of abating. There's even a game between Argentina and Portugal in London next month.