|The biggest game of a league season in Europe is upon us, who will take the day? (Photo credit: Twitter)
Manchester City vs ChelseaEstadio Do Dragao8:00pm
The day has finally come, Pep Guardiola’s date with fate, against a team that last tasted such glory in 2021, with a manager that got burnt at this stage last year, lots of players who are experiencing this for the first time, ultimately it’s City’s day reckoning!
Chelsea’s road to the final was strangely smooth, having
to beat the best to get here is laudable, managerial changes didn’t derail
them, in fact it spur them on to challenge and dare the obvious, they didn’t
beat Atletico and Real Madrid to settle for less, they mean business.
Step forward Pep Guardiola and Manchester City, the team that was nowhere near this level a decade ago or thereabouts, the big takeover by the oil rich Abudhabi Princes changed their narrative altogether and the rest is history.
This right here is the second match up of all English final in three years with Liverpool and Spurs going head to head two years ago in a game that crowned a terrific season for Liverpool as they won 2-0, this promises to be low scoring as well.
On paper, it is more than even, The Citizens are the best team in England as the league table confirmed last week but where does that leave them when people ask about recent head to head? Chelsea beat City to advance to the final of the FA Cup where they lost to Leicester, that’s some hope for the Blues.
Chelsea have played 29 games under Thomas Tuchel and 23 of those have witnessed two or fewer goals, this includes all their Champions League games and FA Cup as well, the cliché as people know it is that teams are literally cautious in finals knowing there’s a chance of extra time.
Interestingly, both have relied on defensive capabilities to conquer of late, although City have outscored Chelsea since Tuchel took over, most stats between the two are identical with Ruben Dias and a resurgent John Stones coming neck to neck with the three man option at Stamford Bridge.
The final will be played in Portugal, home ground of FC Porto to be precise and ironically, Porto is the only team to have dented the records of the two finalists this campaign, beating Chelsea 1-0 in the second leg of the round of 16 and holding City to a goalless draw in the group stage.
Who are the players to watch out for? Mason Mount for Chelsea and Phil Foden for City, this match up is everything for the two lads who have taken the league by storm this year, both having a fine shout to be player of the season for their respective clubs.
Elsewhere, the attacking options at the disposal of Manchester City is amazing, it’s crazy to see sometimes how they struggle to break certain teams down, while many will point to Chelsea’s 1-0 win in the FA Cup, team selection was weak as City chased champions league glory.
Whichever way you look at it, Chelsea’s recent struggles will reduce the confidence their staunch supporters have in the team, they lost at home to Arsenal, lost the FA Cup final to Leicester and needed Harry Kane and Co to bail them out after yet another home loss to Villa on the final day of the league.
Manchester City finished with a flourish, hammering five past Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton, it’s also Sergio Aguero’s final game for the Citizens, if called upon he certainly won’t try the cheeky Panenka that failed woefully against same opponents recently.
Who will win this? The team that can take their chances, Chelsea will use the width, City will use the middle, Chelsea will try aerial balls to Timo Werner, this is one game where he’s not allowed to fluff chances, if he gets them, he must take them.
There’s so much respect between the two managers, they
know what to expect from each other, will Pep Guardiola overanalyze this? Will
Thomas Tuchel make weird selection as he’s done recently? It’s the final of the
champions league, no margin for errors.
Verdict: City to win