The final game of the club season takes place this weekend as Manchester City look to make history in their first ever Champions League final against 2012 winners Chelsea, in an all-Premier League affair.
Man City are the champions of England and current Carabao Cup holders, after a stellar campaign saw Pep Guardiola’s side clinch a third title in four years while also ensuring a run of four consecutive years with a trophy.
Chelsea on the other hand came fourth in the league and lost in the FA Cup final earlier this month to Leicester City, but have proven increasingly tough to beat since manager Thomas Tuchel took charge in January.
It’s been a tough road to the final for both sides too, earning their place in the final with big wins over European heavyweights.
City won five out of six games in their group to finish top, with a draw against Porto the only game that the club haven’t won in this years competition. They dispatched of Borussia Moenchengladbach in the round of 16, before edging past Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-finals and then Paris Saint-Germain in the semi-finals, winning home and away in all six games.
Chelsea’s run has been similarly difficult but also successful. They navigated the group stages with Frank Lampard as the manager, finishing top with four wins from six. They then beat newly crowned La Liga champions Atletico Madrid both home and away before a tight game against FC Porto saw them win 2-0 in the away leg but losing 1-0 in the home leg. They then took on Real Madrid and drew at the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium before a 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge to set up the final.
Over the last few months both sides have met domestically in tight, tactical encounters. In the FA Cup semi-finals Chelsea were able to stay tight and compact, using the counter-attack impressively to come away with a victory thanks to Hakim Ziyech’s goal.
Guardiola used a weakened team in the clash but they still went toe-to-toe and just lacked the killer edge in the final third. The Premier League game earlier this month was just as close, with the Catalan gaffer deciding to go for a peculiar tactical setup.
This time City took the lead and then were awarded a penalty, only for Sergio Aguero to attempt a panenka penalty that went horribly wrong. From then on, Chelsea were able to take over the game and after Ziyech scored an equaliser they stole all three points in injury time thanks to Marcos Alonso.
The psychological edge is certainly with the west London side with two wins from two games, however their setup is quite predictable at this stage. Personnel is likely to change, but the three-at-the-back system with wing-backs high up the pitch and defensive midfielders supporting the technical attack is something Guardiola will for sure have been working on over the last few weeks.
City took Chelsea to the edge in both games and never really got out of second gear in either game, without using their strongest team too. Guardiola’s pure strength in depth make his tactical setup and team selection much tougher for Tuchel to try and figure out.
Add to that the fact that Pep Guardiola has won 14 of 15 cup finals he’s been in and that they ended the season strongly while Chelsea limped over the line in the Premier League tells me that this trophy will have a new name on it at the end of the night.
Defensively they have been one of the best teams in Europe this season and going forward they have so much quality and intensity to their play that Chelsea will struggle to keep them at bay if forced to defend for long spells.
Mason Mount and Phil Foden will be the keys to success for each team, but the difference is that if Foden has a tough game then Guardiola can call upon Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan or Aguero to lead the charge. Chelsea have shown in large spells that if Mount doesn’t turn up, the rest of the team struggle to step up in his absence.
Guardiola will have his team heavily motivated to make history and while Chelsea will put up a good fight, City will just have too much for them and will be crowned champions of Europe for the first time ever.
Man City 2-0 Chelsea