Bayern Munich Vs. Chelsea, 2012 UEFA Champions League Final: How Chelsea Got Here

Chelsea may have entered the competition at the group stage, and as a top seed in Group E, but by no means were The Blues considered legitimate challengers for European football's biggest trophy.

Andre Villas-Boas' side (as it was then) were given what looked a tough group despite the lack of ‘big' names which they managed to top with 11 points, ahead of Bayer Leverkusen who finished on 10 points, as well as Valencia (8 points) and Genk (3 points).

The opening match day was a good one for Chelsea as they came up against Bayer Leverkusen at Stamford Bridge, turning the German side over 2-0 thanks to a second half goal from David Luiz, while Juan Mata killed things off in the dying moments.

Matchday two saw Chelsea travel to Valencia. A game which on paper looked incredibly tough given the Blues' stuttering league form at the time, however Frank Lampard's 56th minute strike gave them an unlikely lead. From then on it was very much a case of backs to the walls for them, and it looked as though they might have just got away with it until 87th minute when Salomon Kalou gave away a penalty which Roberto Soldado despatched with ease.

A home tie with Genk on matchday three was the perfect tonic for their previous heartbreaking outing in the competition, and the Blues dominated Genk for the full 90 minutes, coming away with a comfortable 5-0 victory. Raul Meireles opened the scoring after just eight minutes before Fernando Torres, at the time serving a domestic suspension, grabbed the first of his two goals on the night three minutes later. Branislav Ivanovic and Salomon Kalou also chipped in with strikes on a memorable night for the club.

Perhaps there was a touch of over confidence and expectancy when they travelled to Genk for the return leg a month later, where they could only manage a 1-1 draw, leaving Group E wide open. Raul Meireles opened the scoring with a thunderous drive off the underside of the crossbar, and comforting second goal was almost Chelsea's however David Luiz has his penalty saved by Laszlo Koteles. The miss would prove costly as Jelle Vossen out muscled Ashely Cole to force home an equalizing goal.

In matchday five, The Blues tasted defeat for the first time in the competition as they continued to underperform away from home, when they took on Bayer Leverkusen. Despite Dider Drogba giving them the lead shortly after half time, a second half equalizer from Eren Derdiyok and a late, late winner from Manuel Freidrich saw the Germans claim the points, and move to the top of the Group E table.

On the final matchday, Chelsea needed to beat Valencia and hope Leverkusen dropped points to top the group, and they stuck to their side of the bargain by beating the Spanish side 3-0 at Stamford Bridge thanks to a double from Didier Drogba and one from Ramires. Meanwhile in Belgium, Genk made things difficult for Leverkusen, and a 1-1 draw between the two sides saw Chelsea top the group, but a difficult tie with Napoli was now on the cards for them.

With pressure mounting on Andre Villas-Boas by the minute, his team selection at the San Paulo was deemed by many to be effectively his own resignation letter as John Terry missed out entirely, while Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard were among the senior names relegated to the bench.

This risky move spectacularly back-fired as the Londoners were downed 3-1 by the Italian side, with Ezequiel Lavezzi grabbing two goals and Edinson Cavani adding another late on to cancel out Juan Mata's opening goal.

By the time the difficult looking return leg came around, Villas-Boas had been replaced by assistant Roberto Di Matteo. The new man in charge didn't make the same mistake as his predecessor and brought in all the familiar names who had served Chelsea so well in previous years, and it paid off as they triumphed in extra time.

Having clawed back the two goals needed to tie things up, and indeed hold an away goals lead in the tie, the home crowd were stunned when Gokhan Inler's spectacular drive handed Napoli the advantage. With 15 minutes remaining though, the home side were given a lifeline when Andrea Dossena handled in the area. Frank Lampard stepped up and ensured we'd get another 30 minutes of what was a pulsating game, during which Branislav Ivanovic was the unlikely hero when he slammed the ball home from Dider Drogba's cross in the 105th minute.

This set up a quarterfinal tie with Benfica, who Chelsea made relatively light work of, winning 1-0 at the Estadio Da Luz, thanks to Salomon Kalou's late strike. In the return leg, Frank Lampard's penalty and Raul Meireles's superb 93rd minute strike made Javi Garcia's 85th minute goal for the Portuguese side on the night inconsequential.

Next however stood Chelsea's biggest test of the season so far, a semi-final clash with an all conquering Barcelona side.

The home tie was one that will live long in the memory of Blues fans who were at Stamford Bridge to see Dider Drogba give his side a 1-0 advantage to take to Camp Nou two weeks later, although it wasn't all plain sailing for Chelsea who coupled some steely defensive work with a little bit of luck as Alexis Sanchez and Pedro both struck the post for the visitors.

In the return leg, all they had to do was hold on for 90 minutes, and as they gained a 2-2 draw on the night to send them to Munich this weekend, there were long periods where it looked like they'd crash out of the tournament at the penultimate hurdle.

Things started badly when in a matter of minutes Sergio Busquets has cancelled out the first leg advantage, and Chelsea had gone a man down after John Terry needlessly and foolishly kicked Alexis Sanchez off the ball.

The uphill battle became an up-mountain battle when Andres Iniesta doubled the home side's lead giving them a 2-1 advantage on aggregate, but joy was short lived for the Catalans as Ramires scored one of the goals of the tournament to give Chelsea a priceless away goal. Having latched on to a perfectly weighted ball, the Brazilian showed some outrageous skill to lob deftly over the advancing Victor Valdes from just inside the area.

With only 45 minutes standing between Chelsea and a trip to Munich, Barcelona threw everything at them, abandoning all defensive work and pinning Chelsea into their own area. For long periods it looked as though they'd kept the door firmly shut, but the Blues shot themselves in the foot when they handed Lionel Messi the opportunity to equalize from the penalty spot.

The world's greatest player fluffed his lines and sent it high over the crossbar.

Invigorated by this, the energy levels raised and on the counter attack, substitute Fernando Torres wiped out any jokes about his £50m transfer fee by latching on to a clearance, out pacing what remained of the Barcelona defence, rounded Valdes and sent Chelsea fans around the world delirious with virtually the final kick of the game.

The win came at a cost though. Aside from John Terry's sending off meaning he misses this Saturday's showpiece, Branislav Ivanovic, Ramires and Raul Meireles all picked up bookings which mean they'll be missing.

All that however will be forgotten and forgiven if the Blues lift the Champions League trophy for the first time in their history this Sunday. Having overcome huge odds to actually make it this far, there's a very distinct possibility that this could be their moment.

We'll have updates throughout the week in our 2012 UEFA Champions League Final StoryStream. For more on Bayern, head over to Bayern Munich blog Bavarian Football Works. For more on the Blues, check out Chelsea FC blog We Ain't Got No History. For more on the entire world of football, follow @SBNationSoccer on twitter.

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