UEFA Champions League Final Preview (and the essential places to watch the game in LA)

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Coverage begins at 11 a.m. on Fox for the third consecutive year; kick off is at 11:45 a.m. FOX Deportes is also carrying the match live in Spanish.

Perhaps the best place for Bayern Munich fans to watch the game in the Los Angeles area is Alpine Village, which also is the location for an official Fox Soccer and American Youth Soccer Organization viewing party. Doors open at 11 a.m.

Freeway close, great beer selection including Stone’s smoked porter and Double Bastard and it’s a huge German style beer hall so getting a seat is never an issue (it’s where I’m likely heading).

Said Alpine Village’s Facebook page: “Chelsea fans are welcome but there’s no Fuller’s to be had!”

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Virtually any English pub will have plenty of Chelsea fans including Ye Olde King’s Head in Santa Monica where LA Chelsea fans hang out and The Old Ship in Santa Ana, 1120 W. 17th St Santa Ana. where OC Chelsea fans gather.

A word of warning from the latter location: “we open at 7:00 am and expect to be full. So come early because we will be limiting the crowd for safety.”

Neutrals may want to give this Hollywood event a try.

If you know of a happening place for the game feel free to leave a comment.

Finally, to get you primed, here’s a game preview from Associated Press Sports Columnist John Leicester:

MUNICH (AP) — The dream Champions League final, in pure soccer terms, would have been Barcelona vs. Real Madrid.

But the world’s two best players, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, both fluffed penalty kicks in the semifinals, leaving us with the thinking fan’s final, instead.

Which isn’t to say that Bayern Munich against Chelsea is a dull second-best. European club soccer’s most coveted trophy and, in some ways, its soul — not to mention UEFA boss Michel Platini’s ambitions for the future — will all be in play when the sober Bavarian and glitzy west London teams meet at the Allianz Arena in Munich.

A final with the Spanish giants might have produced a better show and a bigger global television audience. But Bayern vs. Chelsea could be more significant, philosophically.

Bayern touts itself as a model for the type of club Platini wants to see and is pushing for:
Financially sound and adroitly managed, profitable for the past 19 years, living within its
means, not beholden to a rich sugar daddy, and certain to field some homegrown stars on Saturday night.

Chelsea, on the other hand, is Roman Abramovich’s vanity project. Because he can, the Russian billionaire has poured in the region of $1.2 billion into the club he saved from possible bankruptcy in July 2003.

He has spent tens of millions of pounds on hiring and then firing managers who failed to meet his lofty expectations, hundreds of millions more on players (often buying at inflated prices), and enabled Chelsea to post eye-watering financial losses. And, unlike Bayern,
all of Chelsea’s starters on Saturday will likely be players bought in from other clubs.

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Big club, big money: Expensive signings like the much-maligned Fernando Torres, right, taking a ball around Salomon Kalou during a training session this week have come to define Chelsea (AP Photo).

So, in simplest terms, the final will be a contest of two business models — one, Bayern’s, which purists like Platini believe is both financially and morally right for soccer, against another which many feel is dangerous for the long-term health of the sport.

One shouldn’t be too simplistic. Abramovich isn’t Darth Vader and Bayern isn ‘t a ragtag bunch of rebels succeeding on determination alone.

Both clubs have spent fortunes to reach this pinnacle match. Bayern’s attacking trio of Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Mario Gomez and its goalkeeper Manuel Neuer didn’t
come cheap. But proponents of the Bayern model argue, somewhat smugly, that its wealth
is generated sustainably, from huge commercial revenues, its regularly packed stadium,
and on-field success, and that Chelsea wouldn’t be competing at the top in Europe if not for Abramovich’s financial doping.

“Bayern never spends more money than it has,” Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes said Friday. “We don’t make debts.”

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Last dance: Bayern’s Ivica Olic of Croatia trains today in Munich; he will play his final game for Bayern Saturday after agreeing to join Wolfsburg (AP Photo).

So a Bayern victory will feel like a cheer, too, for Platini’s Financial Fair Play rules which
aim to steer European clubs away from the Abramovich model and wean them off huge losses to make them more financially stable and sustainable.

A loss could also leave Chelsea in a financial hole, by depriving it of Champions League soccer next season and the wealth brought by participation in that competition.

But, on a human level, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and their Chelsea teammates fully deserve to be in this final. What warriors. At 34 for Drogba and 33 for Lampard, they’re proving wrong those who said they were too old.

Chelsea’s semifinal defeat of Barcelona wasn’t pretty. By defending doggedly in numbers and scoring three goals against the run of play, Chelsea offended fans of Barcelona’s artful style and of its master, Messi. But Barcelona isn’t somehow entitled to places in finals simply because it plays the most visually pleasing soccer. Chelsea had the better
luck but also put away its chances. Barcelona couldn’t make its superiority count.

Which gives thinking fans something else to ponder on Saturday night: Is it more important to play beautifully or to win? Ideally, of course, neutrals would like to see both. But not all teams can do that. History remembers teams that are engraved on trophies, not always who they beat to get there, how they did it, or that it cost their owner $1 billion
to buy the win.

Abramovich has chopped and changed his way through seven managers in nine
years. It would be deliciously ironic if the coach who gets him what he wants — Chelsea’s first Champions League trophy — is Roberto Di Matteo, the former assistant and now “interim” coach in charge only because Abramovich ditched the last guy, Andre Villas-Boas, in March.

The big regret Saturday is that six players who should play will be absent.

Bayern’s David Alaba, Holger Badstuber and Luiz Gustavo, and Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic, Raul Meireles and Ramires are suspended for one of the biggest matches of their careers.

So, too, is John Terry, Chelsea’s captain. Terry kneed Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez in the back in the semifinal and got sent off.

The other six, however, are banned only because they picked up their third yellow cards of the competition in the semifinals.

That they and Terry, whose offense was far graver, should essentially receive the same
punishment — being kept from the final — seems cruel and disproportionate.

So the final will not be a Spanish ‘clasico’ but it will still have plenty for fans to get their
heads around.

John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The Associated
Press. Write to him at jleicester(at)ap.org or follow him at http://twitter.com/johnleicester

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About Nick Green

South Bay-based Los Angeles News Group columnist and blogger Nick Green writes about soccer at the 100 Percent Soccer blog at www.insidesocal.com/soccer and craft beer at the Beer Goggles blog at www.insidesocal.com/beer. Cheers!