The Champions League final will be played between two English clubs for the second time in three seasons. Manchester City will start the match as favourites, but Chelsea have the historical record in the competition. The Blues lifted the trophy against all odds in 2012 and they will be confident that they can do similar on Saturday night. There are a lot of similarities between the two campaigns, chiefly a managerial change was made in 2012 and again this year. Meanwhile, Manchester City have won three of the last four Premier League titles, but the Champions League has eluded them.
Pep Guardiola will know that the pressure is on him and his players this weekend. The Spaniard is regarded as one of the, if not the, best coach in the world. However, he has failed to lift the Champions League with either Bayern Munich or Manchester City. He won the competition twice with Barcelona. Since joining Manchester City, it is clear that the focus has been on competing in this competition. Their Spanish coach has been accused of overcomplicating matters in knockout ties. This was particularly true last season against Lyon. During this campaign, City have been very impressive in the knockout rounds and there seems to be clarity within the mind of their coach. That said, he won’t be excited to face Chelsea, as the Blues have beaten his side twice since Thomas Tuchel was appointed.
Chelsea finished the season with some poor results after an excellent first few months under Tuchel. They lost three of their last four matches across all competitions, including the FA Cup final. This could have a positive or negative impact on their frame of mind going into the Champions League final. Either, they will be determined to avoid the same outcome and deliver an excellent performance or it could have dented their confidence. The subsequent league performance against Aston Villa won’t give their supporters much confidence.
Prior to taking the Chelsea job, Thomas Tuchel hadn’t beaten Pep Guardiola in five attempts. In England, he has beaten the Spaniard on both of the occasions they have met.
Chelsea have kept eight clean sheets in 12 Champions League matches this season.
Manchester City are unbeaten in the Champions League this season, winning 11 and drawing once.
This is an opportunity for Kevin De Bruyne to make an impact on the biggest stage and to do it against his former club will make it even sweeter. For several years now, it has been accepted that he is one of the best players in the Premier League, but he will want to be regarded as one of the best in the world. Many consider the Belgian midfielder to be a future Ballon d’Or winner and there is a chance to do that this year, if he leads City to a Champions League title. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are not shoo-ins for the award any longer, which increases the possibility of a player like De Bruyne winning it. That won’t be his focus on Saturday though, as he will want to help his team win the trophy. He has been important to their Champions League run to date, as he has scored in each of the three knockout rounds. The 29-year-old has scored three and assisted four in the competition this season. Chelsea have emerged as one of the most difficult teams to break down under Tuchel, supported by their clean sheet record in this competition. It took a world class strike from a Belgian midfielder to beat the Blues in the FA Cup final. Could history repeat itself on Saturday?
It has been an underwhelming season for Timo Werner, as he has struggled with the offside rule and chance conversion. However, he is perfectly suited to cause damage to Manchester City. It is difficult to pinpoint a weakness in Pep Guardiola’s side, but if there is one, it is their ability to deal with quick players on the counter attack. Chelsea’s German forward has the physical attributes to cause the opposition defence problems, as he did in the previous two meetings. In both matches, he got an assist. He will be hoping to get on the scoresheet on Saturday. Despite his struggles, he has scored four and assisted twice in the Champions League this season. This is an opportunity for the 25-year-old to end the season with momentum and play a match-winning role in a major final. Guardiola will be concerned at the threat he poses.
Manchester City don’t have any injury concerns heading into the final. They are likely to play a similar team to the one that started against Real Madrid in the semi-final, which means they will start without a recognised striker. Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva and Kevin de Bruyne should all start.
N’Golo Kante and Edouard Mendy are both major doubts after picking up injuries during the run-in. It is hoped both will be passed fit to start on Saturday.
Manchester City are the overwhelming favourites with the bookmakers, but I think Chelsea cause them a real threat. Guardiola wouldn’t have wanted to meet Thomas Tuchel in the final, due to the German beating him twice already this season. City will dominate the possession, while Chelsea will look to carry a threat on the counter attack. It will be a tight game, that could go into extra time. City should have just enough to nick a goal in the extra time period, but it won’t be an easy evening for them.
Manchester City 2-1 Chelsea (AET)