Champions League Final – Manchester City vs Chelsea
Sat 29 May 2021, Porto | 20:00
This year’s Champions League final is an all-English affair, as first-time finalists Manchester City take on one-time winners Chelsea. Two historic clubs with modern, super-wealthy owners who continue to invest in their incessant pursuit of the coveted continental trophy.
Both teams have chalked up remarkably similar stats en route to the final, with Man City remaining unbeaten, but both sides scoring more than 20 goals and conceding just 4 times each so far. Not to mention, both clubs achieving eye-catching results along the way.
It promises to be a truly exciting tie, and here’s what we know so far…
With Man City’s recent wealth and growth this past few years, a Champions League final has always felt a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’, but their slips over the past few years have shown it’s no easy task to take home the famous European trophy.
However, in a season where they have won the league cup for the fourth successive year, won the domestic title with ease, and have won 11 out 12 unbeaten Champions League games so far, this year seems to hold more promise than past seasons. Their narrow loss in the FA Cup semi-final seems to be the only blemish on an amazing season. And who caused that blemish? Oh, it’s the team standing in their way of this year’s Champions League trophy.
Yes indeed, since Thomas Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard as manager at the end of January, Chelsea have gained an edge in two games against City; beating them 1-0 in the FA Cup semi-final, as well as a hard-fought 2-1 victory in the Premier League.
Much like City now, back in the noughties, Chelsea were the newfound wealth forerunners; a club with new rich and hungry owners with huge ambitions to become a force in Europe. And although they got there eventually in 2012 with their one and only Champions League win, it only came after several years of near-misses and heartache. They will be hoping to inflict another year of heartache on Pep Guardiola and his men.
Moment of the Campaign: Manchester City
Like every Pep Guardiola team, City have been dazzling throughout the tournament so far. Yet the standout moment has to be their semi-final against last year’s finalists, PSG. A competitive and combustible two-legger that had dazzling brilliance to match the tempestuous nature of the tie.
City edged the Paris first-leg 1-2, with a star turn from young Phil Foden and goals from Riyad Mahrez and Captain, Kevin de Bruyne.
The home leg showcased an even brighter City display, an even better Phil Foden, and an inspired Riyad Mahrez who scored both goals in a 2-0 win to become his team’s joint-top scorer in this year’s competition and send them through to their maiden Champions League final.
Moment of the Campaign: Chelsea
For Chelsea, it has to be their own semi-final against serial Champions League winners, Real Madrid. With the first leg finely poised with a tense 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu, Chelsea had to stand tall for the return leg at Stamford Bridge against a team and manager who had reached 3 of the last 5 finals… They more than stood up to the occasion.
The Blues outplayed, outthought, and outfought Zinedine Zidane’s men in a hugely respectable 2-0 victory. With a huge save from Edouard Mendy to thwart Karim Benzema, a typically energetic man of the match performance from N’Golo Kante, and a game-finishing goal from the season’s star man, Mason Mount, it was an iconic team performance and victory to put them within reach of their second Champions League win.
For the Citizens, we know they have a squad that’s the envy of everyone and near impossible to choose from, but with star performances from certain players during this campaign, some individuals will be pushing for starts more than others.
Mahrez scored 3 goals across both legs against PSG, whilst De Bruyne, Gundogan and Foden have been imperious throughout the tournament. We might also expect the same backline for City, who have given little change to their attacking counterparts across all competitions this season.
Yet, with their final league game of the season being an emphatic 5-0 victory over Everton, some players are clearly hoping to put themselves into Guardiola’s first-eleven thinking.
For Chelsea, there are some injury worries to key players. Kante was missing and goalkeeper Mendy went off injured in their final game of the season defeat to Aston Villa. Tuchel will be hoping to get both of those fit for Saturday’s final.
That aside, they too have a wealth of great squad options to pick from. Although Olivier Giroud is Chelsea’s leading scorer in the tournament this year with 4 goals, the likes of Mount, Pulisic, Havertz and Werner have been the preferred mainstays for Tuchel since he took over as manager in January.
Much like both teams’ recent history in the competition, this year’s Champions League final promises to be dazzlingly unpredictable! What shade of blue ribbon will be on this year’s trophy?