Football

May 2021 UEFA Champions League final preview

Manchester City v Chelsea   Porto  29th May 2021.

Two leading Premier League meet in Porto to decide who wins the Champions League.

With Pep Guardiola's City side strongly favoured to deliver a first-ever UCL title for the Emirati-funded Etihad team.

If so it would be a triumph for what some have called the 'best team in the world'.

And for the many millions watching on TV and the limited number of fans in the stadium it would be the stage on which to realise their apparent destiny.

 

 

Two top Premier League teams will meet in the UCL final for the third such time following the contests of 2008 and 2019. 

Chelsea are aiming for a second such title while Manchester City are challenging for their first.

But the Etihad side does have a coach, in Pep Guardiola, who can count two wins on his CV from his time at Barcelona.

 

City are certainly heavily favoured to win although the very recent fixtures between the sides have gone the way of Chelsea including a 1-0 victory in the FA Cup final.

But having already won this season’s League and the League Cup destiny would point to City fulfilling the Emirati owners’ ‘project’ by ticking off the remaining major task.

At their best Manchester City have been described as the best team in the world and if they perform at that level, by definition, they will win.

Class permeates their starting eleven and quality also resides among the substitutes.

They have one of the best goalkeepers in the world in Ederson, who can distribute the ball as well as many outfield players.

That tactic often begins the process for Pep Guardiola’s team from either short or long passes.

 

Then he can call on a defence featuring the talent of John Stones and player-of-the-season Ruben Dias flanked by outstanding attacking full-backs in Walker and Zinchenko (or Cancelo)

That back-line feeds into a midfield and forward players of epic quality including Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden, Ilkay Gundogan, Bernado Silva, and Riyad Mahrez.

Add in alternative options like Sterling, Fernandinho, Rodri, Jesus, and the prolific Sergio Aguero there are many ‘cards’ for Pep to play.

 

With City likely to setup, at least initially, with a ‘false no.9’ it will be up to the mesmeric interchanges between those midfielders to create the chances.

And for their opponents to disrupt and frustrate that process.

 

Thomas Tuchel has proved an upgrade on what went before but he will need all his nous and an optimum performance to deliver the victory for Chelsea.

What he does have is a mix of experience and young talent.

The experience comes from defenders Tiago Silva, Cesar Azpilicueta, and Antonio Rudiger.

The latter two also bring a level of rugged determination possibly lacking in their opponents. 

 

Of course, they will be tested and under pressure for large parts of the contest.

However, they will probably be partly shielded by the dynamo that is Ngolo Kante.

When they are able to get forward there is undoubted talent in attack with Mason Mount, Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech, and Kai Havertz among the options.

And then we have the enigma that is Timo Werner.

Perhaps this could be the time when he stays onside, when the VAR decisions all go his way, and he decides the outcome.

Mind you past performances do suggest otherwise.

But Chelsea do have a striking alternative in World Cup winner Olivier Giroud, a very useful man to have on the bench.

Tuchel will be hoping goalie Edouard Mendy can take his place in the starting eleven in what is likely to be a predominantly rearguard action for the Blues. 

 

Unless something unusual happens a lot will depend on how Chelsea resist the waves of City attacks and if they can break free to grab a breakaway goal.

Perhaps the longer it stays level to more the outcome could favour the Londoners.

 

But even then Pep can call on more ‘plan-B’’s and better substitutes to still get the job done.

So on balance expect celebrations in certain parts of Manchester on Saturday night as another part of the Etihad ‘project’ is ticked off.

 

Analysis - John Bethell

 


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