Javier Zanetti (center) and Inter ended a 45-year wait for the Champions League trophy.
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Nearly 11 months of competition have come to this, a Champions League final to be duked out in king of rings, the Santiago Bernabeu. In the blue corner, the lip-curled sneer of Jose Mourinho, who actually seems to be enjoying his success at Internazionale -- this is a league and cup double-winning season -- about as much as a punch in the face. In the red corner, Louis van Gaal, whose Bayern Munich side thrashed Werder Bremen 4-0 to claim its own double last weekend.
The inevitable pre-match war of words had van Gaal insisting that "[Mourinho] trains to win. I train to play beautiful football and win," and he was backed by his (and Mourinho's former Chelsea-) winger, Arjen Robben. "The final is a match between a team who wants to play football and a team who just wants to stop football."
"Football is about balance," Mourinho scoffed in reply, quite possibly casting meaningful glares at Wesley Sneijder and Samuel Eto'o, whom he will be relying upon to create goals to win the trophy, stick it to the doubters and probably earn him his next job at Real Madrid.
Frankly, I can't wait to see how this all ends, and you can follow the game with me, live, from 2.30 p.m. ET. I'll be entertaining your thoughts, football-related or not, via firstname.lastname@example.org throughout -- what have you got to do on a Saturday afternoon that's better than being published on SI.com?
Mourinho has opted for Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso as his two holding midfielders with Cristian Chivu, coming in at left back.
Bayern's team is as expected with Hamit Altintop replacing the suspended Franck Ribery in midfield and Ivica Olic and Thomas Mueller playing upfront.
Holger Badstuber was named left back.
Bayern Munich: 22 -- Hans-Joerg Butt; 21 -- Philipp Lahm, 5 -- Daniel van Buyten, 6 -- Martin Demichelis, 28 -- Holger Badstuber; 10 -- Arjen Robben, 17 -- Mark van Bommel, 31 -- Bastian Schweinsteiger, 8 -- Hamit Altintop; 11 -- Ivica Olic, 25 -- Thomas Mueller.
Inter Milan: 12 -- Julio Cesar; 13 -- Maicon, 25 -- Walter Samuel, 6 -- Lucio, 26 --Cristian Chivu; 4 -- Javier Zanetti, 19 -- Esteban Cambiasso, 10 -- Wesley Sneijder; 9 -- Samuel Eto'o, 22 -- Diego Milito, 27 -- Goran Pandev
Referee: Howard Webb (England)
OK, let's not trundle along on the bandwagon, merrily making out that this match is all about Mourinho and van Gaal; there is the small matter of the 22+ men who've got at least 90 minutes of football to play. Bayern and Inter have had eerily similar domestic seasons -- identical goal difference (41), both have won about 60 percent of their matches and more than half of them have been by at least two goals, and they've both claimed a league and cup double.
However, you'd have to say that Inter are the better team, and its path here, littered with the corpses of Chelsea and Barcelona, was a harder trek than Bayern's -- and even then the Germans needed away goals twice. Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Robben and Olic will need to be at their very best if they're to tip the game in Bayern's favor, but that's by no means impossible, even if it seems less likely than Sneijder and Co. turning it on. I'd be surprised (and disappointed, frankly) if Bayern didn't keep it interesting for at least the first hour. And in other news, when did the Champions League final get such a fancy build-up? I think they've nicked an Olympic opening ceremony from somewhere.
The dancing women have stopped now, though they're still loitering in the back of the picture. The teams are out and tapping their toes to the Champions League theme.
I'm just penning an introductory paragraph or two, but I'm slightly distracted by an elaborate pre-match ceremony involving women in black. Bear with me.
The referee's whistle sets us off, which makes it as good a time as any to mention that the referee is England's Howard Webb. He can be very good, he can be very bad. Very bad.
Webb starts by buying a pathetic dive from Pandev. Fortunately Butt punches the free-kick away.
Robben breaks out to relieve the early pressure on Bayern, but is robustly brought down by Samuel's wafting foot. They fail to make anything of the possession it affords them though.
Whichever teams wins tonight will bag a treble (league, cup, Europe). "When was the last time someone won the treble in Italy and/or Germany?" asks David Shaw, "I have no idea." I believe I'm right in saying that it would be a first in both nations. It's only happened five times previously anywhere in Europe.
Robben's just skinned Chivu to feed Olic in the six-yard box, but he looked as surprised as the Inter defender and could only stab a toe at it.
"Webb might be in a good mood today," says Jason Parker. "Blackpool just went up to the Premiership." Let's see what that does for his performance then. Maicon's just thumped the ball goalwards -- well, loosely speaking. It was literally goalwards, but possibly ended up close to the corner flag.
What an unexpected moment of skill from Altintop! He twists and turns to create space for the shot, but it's blocked. Meantime Sneijder's lucky not to do any damage to Robben after going in studs first.
A ripple through the crowd! Sneijder blasts a free kick straight at Butt with no regard for the 30 or so yards between him and the goal, and it catches Altintop on the way through to force a bigger stretch from the Bayern keeper.
So, we're nearly a quarter of the way into normal time without a goal to shout about. I'd be surprised to discover either side had had vastly greater possession so far, but Inter seem a shade more dangerous when they do get forward. Maybe I just expect more -- Robben's barge past Chivu is still the standout opportunity.
Brilliant juggling from Mueller on the edge of the area, having been played in with a delicate ball from Olic, but his dink towards Robben doesn't fall kindly enough to produce a decent shot from the Dutchman.
"I'm sure Inter fans feel the same gratitude towards Madrid for the gift that was Wesley Sneijder," Jason Parker assures me, poking Real's wound a bit harder, in case it didn't smart the first time. Sneijder tries a repeat of his earlier free kick, but Butt collects comfortably.
Does anyone know the actual, real, correct pronunciation of Bernabeu? So far tonight I've heard Bern-a-bow, Berna-bay-oo, and a half-swallowed combination of the two ...
Robben was about eight inches from finding Mueller there. I've sucked my teeth more often than an emergency plumber so far tonight.
Bayern have really got a grip on the game now, and Altintop's fizzing ball across the area forces Cesar off his line and onto the floor.
Shot from 25 yards from Mueller, but it's always heading high and wide.
Milito puts Inter in front!
Goal - Diego Milito
Long ball from Cesar, Milito nods it down to Sneijder, who weaves the ball through the Bayern defense and back to Milito, who thumps the ball into the top of the net having spun away from the men in red. Who says Route One football doesn't work?
Better first touch from Eto'o and that might have been number two! A sparkling one-touch counter attack puts him on the edge of the area to receive the ball, but it boinks well away from him.
“Is it wrong to be enjoying the image of you as a plumber?" wonders Philip Rice. I suppose it depends whether you think I look like a 300-pound trucker or a theme month on the Playboy calen-- [feminist beliefs kick in] -- yes. It is wrong. Especially when there's a game on.
How did Sneijder not score?! Milito worked his way down the left and rolled the ball across to Sneijder bang in front of the goal, and he hit it straight at Butt just as I was shaping to hit the G on my keyboard.
We'll have one added minute. The half ends with a weak, wide shot from Van Bommel, which just about sums up Bayern's penetrative menace overall so far. Like Barca before it, it's had most of the possession, but has barely made it past the second to last man, let alone got a look at the whites of Inter goalkeeper Cesar's eyes.
"Losing is OK," says Steve Eisenberg. "Losing to the self-anointed 'Chosen One' is not. I pray Van Gaal has something up his sleeve for the second half." A last-minute loan deal for Wayne Rooney, perhaps?
I'm still none the wiser about pronouncing Bernabeu, by the way. Am I talking to myself here? Has it come to that?
Why not more of a fuss about the hand (arm) ball in the box by the Inter defender on that cross midway through the first-half?" wonders Jeremy in Marseille. "Not saying it was intentional, but it did disrupt what would have been a very dangerous header." I did mention it Jeremy (16'), but once it's not been given, there's only so much of a twist it's worth getting your knickers into. Maybe I'm so used to English referees (e.g. Mr. Webb) missing things like that that I've become immune to it.
The second half is underway, and almost immediately Mueller could have put Bayern level! Once again Altintop found his way in and he cued up Mueller perfectly, but Cesar stayed big and blocked the shot.
Finger tip save from Butt as Pandev steers the ball towards the underside of the bar. What a start, just as I was moaning about the quality of the first half.
Schweinsteiger this time works himself towards goal and a back-pedaling defender, but he opts to pass rather than shoot and the chance is lost.
Apparently Germans, according to my new penpal Steve Eisenberg, say Bernabow. Anyone who speaks Spanish care to chip in?
Webb buys another triple pike from Pandev, who's finding it harder to stay on his feet than a first time drag artist ... but Sneijder's free kick lacks anything like the dip it would need to trouble Butt.
Altintop tries to sneak a shot in at the near post after being gifted possession in the box by Lucio (there's a first time for everything), but can't get it on target.
There hasn't been a shot on goal for at least 90 seconds. Outrageous, by the half's standards so far.
As a neutral spectator, there's a satisfying urgency to Bayern's play since the restart. It's probably a bit too frantic at times, given that there's still half an hour in which to equalize, but ...
Out: Altintop , In: Miroslav Klose
Altintop off, Miroslav Klose on. Bayern are pressing and possession since half-time is probably about 80-20 in its favour. Och! Mueller has just swung in a shot that looked to be heading over a flying Cesar before Cambiasso got his pate on it.
Yet another long range free kick from Sneijder, yet another comfortable save for Butt. End-to-end stuff as Robben's just brought an excellent palmed save from Cesar as he tried to curl it into the top far corner.
Defensive move of the night from van Buyten, who hooks a Sneijder through ball out of the air and over his shoulder, away from Milito as he tried to sneak around the back. Chivu makes away for Dejan Stankovic.
Milito grabs a second, Inter 2-0
Goal - Diego Milito
Milito's got a second, entirely against the run of play! Just as you started to think that Bayern's pressing must, must, come to something, Milito completely wrongfoots van Buyten to open up the space to shoot from close range, and takes his chance with conviction.
Out: Olic , In: Mario Gomez
Watching one of those stomach-churning overhead replays, you can appreciate the pass through to Milito from Eto'o, which is perfect. It's about all Eto'o's done, mind. Olic, who's been well below par today, is off, Mario Gomez is on as Van Gaal rolls the dice again.
Out: Pandev , In: Sulley Muntari
The players that needed to have a good night for Bayern haven't really wowed so far, but Inter is defending so deep, and with such rugged commitment, that you wonder what it would take to puncture the back line in any case. It's not as if Barca fared any better, and they certainly have more bite. Pandev off for Sulley Muntari, meanwhile.
Ten minutes left, and if Bayern continue to dominate the ball as they have done, that gives them about six and a half minutes on the ball. It only takes a second ... and Schweinsteiger's won a free kick just outside the area ...
... straight into the wall from Robben.
"Did you know that when you say Olic has been well below par today, it means he has actually been doing something good?" smirks Nate B. "Golf not your forte, eh?" I'm playing next week, in fact. But par means standard on or off the course, it's only on it that below par is good.
Not that Bayern will care for semantics in the next few minutes. This is put-put-putting to a close and a treble for Internazionale.
Impressive solo run straight down the middle from Eto'o, who knocks the ball over to Milito but doesn't get the kind of return ball he wanted as he broke over the edge of the D.
Out: Milito , In: Materzzi
Marco Materazzi comes on for Milito, who gets a standing ovation.
Internazionale is Serie A champion, Coppa Italia holder and Champions League winner for 2010. Hugs all round on the touchline, flags are waving all over the terraces, Milito runs onto the pitch and mounts Maicon in jubilation.
Hold the press: Mourinho is crying. Not quite Porto 2004, eh?
I'm going to hang around for the presentation, if you'll humour me for a moment longer, but beforehand, some reflection. I feel obliged to note Mourinho's now spectacular résumé. If you want to win things, he is most certainly your man.
But there were do-or-die performances from all over the pitch in blue and black tonight, regardless of how discomfiting it might be to see a team win the European Cup on 31 percent possession. It might be far from Total Football, but Lucio, Maicon, Zanetti and particularly Cambiasso played out of their skins tonight. Try telling them they don't deserve a winners' medal. Milito looked incredibly assured in front of goal, and Eto'o was dutiful if not dazzling.
Medals for the referees first, which has put a big smile on Howard Webb's face -- I half expect him to make a lunge for the trophy and head for the exits.
Inter applauds Bayern's squad as they clog up to collect their runners up medals. Philipp Lahm looks utterly miserable. Mourinho appears to be meditating with his face cast to the stands of the Bernabeu as he waits to collect his medal. The trophy's up in the air, the confetti is falling, the fireworks are banging ... and Jose Mourinho's ducking away.
What a night for Internazionale, its first European Cup since 1965, when they beat Benfica 1-0.
That's all from me for now, have a good evening.