Manchester City will play Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League final this season.
This season, England’s champions have the bit between their teeth in Europe. Their offensive prowess is well-known, but they’ve also improved their defensive performance, conceding only four goals in their first 12 games. If breaking their quarter-final hoodoo boosted their confidence, how they defeated Paris in the semi-finals has removed any questions about City’s capacity to go all the way.
The most revealing aspect of City’s group stage performance was that it finished with the greatest defensive record in the tournament, with only one goal conceded after Ruben Dias joined a rejuvenated John Stones in central defense. They won both home and away against Gladbach and Dortmund after topping Group C, and then sealed their position in the final with two great victories over 2020 finalists Paris.
Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, and even Ilkay Gündoan have all taken turns as the spearhead of City’s attack this season, thanks to Josep Guardiola’s usage of a false-nine formation.
Citizens are unlikely to adjust their tactics in Porto after suffocating opponents with their continuous pressing and clockwork passing thus far. Guardiola put it like way: “We’ve gotten into the habit of playing a certain manner. We can’t do it any other way.”
Although City has an abundance of resources, De Bruyne remains the team’s creator-in-chief. His grace, vision, and exquisite passing range, not to mention his driving runs and fantastic finishing, make him one of the most entertaining players in the world to watch.
Guardiola has won nine league titles in his 12 years as a first-team manager, although the last of his two management UEFA Champions League winners’ medals came in 2011. Now he wants to become only the sixth coach in history to win the European Cup with two separate clubs.
The club has only been defeated five times since Thomas Tuchel came over as manager, and the team is starting to gel under the German coach. Chelsea has nothing to fear – and no one to fear – if the front players can maintain their recent improvements. When they won this title in 2012, they changed managers in the middle of the season, so who’s to say it wouldn’t happen again? Their recent victories against City have given them even more reason to be optimistic.
Chelsea was put on their path by an almost faultless group stage, which was built on a sturdy defense and the record-breaking Edouard Mendy in goal. In the round of 16, they were a little troubled by Atlético Madrid, then dispatched fighting Porto before defeating 13-time winners Real Madrid in the final four.
Chelsea will approach the final in the same way they have approached every previous game under Tuchel. By being difficult to break down at the back and waiting for opportunities at the other end. City will be favorites, but Tuchel has already defeated them twice in recent weeks — in the FA Cup semi-final in a Premier League match in Manchester – and he intends to do it again.
Certainly, how they defeated Madrid demonstrates their tenacity.
N’Golo Kanté is already 30 years old, yet his impact shows no signs of waning. Simply put, he wins trophies, and his engine is outstanding. It’s no surprise that his trophy case is overflowing.
Tuchel has been a revelation since his January hiring. He is the first coach to lead two separate clubs to consecutive UEFA Champions League finals. He won back-to-back titles with Paris and reached the final last season, after previous success with Dortmund in Germany.
Manchester United: 3
European Cup best: final (2021)
Last season: quarter-finals (L vs Lyon)
Record: W11 D1 L0 F25 A4
Top scorer: Riyad Mahrez, Ferran Torres (4)
Semi-finals: 4-1 vs Paris
Quarter-finals: 4-2 vs Dortmund
Round of 16: 4-0 vs Mönchengladbach
Group C: winners
European Cup best: winners (2012)
Last season: round of 16 (L vs Bayern)
Record: W8 D3 L1 F22 A4
Top scorer: Olivier Giroud (6)
Semi-finals: 3-1 vs Real Madrid
Quarter-finals: 2-1 vs Porto
Round of 16: 3-0 vs Atlético
Group E: winners