The Champions League last 16 fixtures are finally upon us after a two month break since the group stages.
In a very exciting match up the Portuguese champions Sporting CP play host to the tournament favourites and current Premier League champions Man City.
Lets take a look at the tie in more detail and make our predictions to see who will progress into the last eight of Europe’s most prestigious cup competition.
Route to the last 16
In their first appearance in the Champions League for several years, Sporting made their presence felt by finishing as runners-up in the group of hipster teams.
Ruben Amorim’s side started poorly with defeats to Ajax and Dortmund in the opening two games, but back-to-back wins over Besiktas and then a huge home win against Dortmund saw them edge towards qualification.
In the end, it was Dortmund’s poor results against Ajax that cost them as they were eliminated on goal difference.
Man City on the other hand cruised to victory in their group of death, winning five of six games against Paris Saint-Germain, RB Leipzig and Club Brugge.
Their only defeat came to PSG in Paris, when they played brilliantly but were caught out twice by Pochettino’s side.
They scored 18 goals in the group stages, more than everyone else bar Ajax and Bayern Munich, and come into the game in excellent form.
Sporting are likely to be without excellent midfielder Pote this season, who has been one of the best performing players in their team.
Joao Palhinha, Pablo Sarabia and Paulinho are the key men in midfield and attack and should all be available to start the game, while Sebastian Coates will lead the defence as captain.
Amorim’s 3-5-2 formation is likely to be set up to contain City rather than attack them too much, so expect Nuno Santos to play a little bit deeper than usual.
City will be without £100m man Jack Grealish and Gabriel Jesus, while Kyle Walker is set to start a three-game suspension for his red card on the final match day of the group stages.
Raheem Sterling has been in fine form in recent weeks, bagging a hat-trick at the weekend while Kevin De Bruyne has had his minutes managed and is in peak physical condition for the business end of the season.
Ederson, Ruben Dias, Bernardo Silva and Joao Cancelo will know the opposition well having previously played for Benfica and will all likely start the game.
Breakdown and Prediction
This is a game that is due to be really exciting and full of excellent tactical battles across the pitch.
Sporting play a high-intensity system with a big emphasis on scoring goals and controlling the ball, much like Pep Guardiola at City.
The difference here of course is that the quality of player that Guardiola has available to him is far greater than that of the Portuguese outfit.
Because of that, plus the experience at the top level, it’s fair to expect City to be able to dominate the game and implement their game plan on Sporting rather than the other way around.
With that being said, it’s hard to look past a relatively comfortable City win over the course of two legs.
Sporting will cause them problems over the course of the 180 minutes, but ultimately the added quality on the pitch and the touchline will pay dividends and City will progress to the next round.
Sporting CP 0-2 Man City Man City 3-1 Sporting CP (Man City qualify 5-1 on aggregate)
It was the most expensive transfer of the summer across the world, as Jack Grealish became the Premier League’s first ever £100m player.
Joining Manchester City from Aston Villa, it was expected that the 25-year-old would see an upturn in his reputation and also his performances on the pitch after helping Villa to a great season and then helping England reach the Euro 2020 final.
But while Grealish has played well, he’s hardly ripped up any trees at City so far. So is the deal doing what it was supposed to do?
It was expected by many that Grealish would go into the City team and instantly go up a level, surrounded by better players and with one of the best managers in the world coaching him.
But what we’ve seen from Grealish is arguably just more of the same of what we saw at Villa, but with better players and a better manager around him.
With Man City’s style of play being ball domination heavy, Grealish doesn’t have nearly as much space to drive into as he did at Villa.
It also hasn’t helped him that teams turn up to play City with two blocks of defensive lines and camp outside the penalty area to prevent them being carved open, whereas teams would attack Villa and give him a chance to work his magic.
With that said, Grealish hasn’t been bad by any stretch of the imagination. Grealish has contributed two goals and three assists in 13 games in the Premier League and Champions League so far, with City sitting second domestically and top of their Champions League group too.
He’s made the left-wing role his own, ousting Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden from the wide positions and formed a good partnership with Joao Cancelo from left-back.
But that X-factor that he had at Villa where he would take games by the scruff of the neck and create something out of nothing seems to have left his game.
City still automatically look to Kevin De Bruyne when they need saving and Grealish has seemingly just become a cog in the machine, rather than the guy who has the codes.
Guardiola wants his team to pass teams to death rather than carry the ball too much, something that Grealish has always excelled in. In the current system, it’s arguable whether or not Grealish is better or more effective than other wide options like Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez.
The magic in his game has been lost, but faith in him coming good is not lost.
Grealish, like any other player, needs to be given time to adapt to new surroundings, new teammates, new tactics and new expectations.
He has the talent to excel and improve, is young enough to have the time to do that and Guardiola has a track record of doing it. There’s no rush right now.
As it stands, he’s probably underwhelmed City fans and football fans since the move. But anyone ruling Grealish out of being a success already is simply delusional.
When you think about the best teams of the modern era, there are two that stick out like a sore thumb.
During a period where Spanish football was the home of the best players and managers in the world, it was obviously Barcelona and Real Madrid that had periods of dominance across Europe and domestically.
But what would have happened if you put those two teams, at their best, head-to-head with each other? We’re here to break it down and try and figure it out.
Barcelona between 2008 and 2011 were and are considered one of the greatest club sides in the history of football.
Under the guidance of Pep Guardiola, they revolutionised the way attacking football was played up until this day. They dominated possession, scored countless goals, passed opponents to death and were the home to arguably the greatest player of all-time in Lionel Messi.
Their 4-3-3 system with attacking full-backs and technically secure players all over the pitch set the benchmark as they won two Champions League trophies, three La Liga titles, three Spanish Super Cups, a Copa Del Rey, two UEFA Super Cups and two Club World Cups across three-and-a-half seasons.
Real Madrid couldn’t compete with them during that period, but they made their own mark half a decade later when they not only became the first team to retain their Champions League trophy but they also made it three-in-a-row.
Add to that a La Liga title, a Spanish Super Cup, two UEFA Super Cups and two World Club Cups under Zinedine Zidane (plus an extra World Club Cup under Santi Solari after Zidane’s resignation), this is a team synonymous with success and winning.
The brilliant goalscoring of Cristiano Ronaldo, the majestic midfield play of Luka Modric and Tony Kroos, the playmaking from full-back by Marcelo and the leadership of Sergio Ramos at the back, this was a complete squad.
The difference between these two powerhouse teams is that Real Madrid were able to adapt their style of play depending on the opponent.
Against weaker opposition they had the ability to dominate the ball and carve open defences to score goals, while pushing high up the pitch to sustain pressure.
When they came up against quality outfits though, Zidane would ensure they sat a bit deeper defensively, were compact in midfield and explosive on the counter attack with the pace of Ronaldo, Benzema and even Gareth Bale leading the way.
Barcelona on the other hand were the same no matter what. Much like today’s Guardiola, it was all about controlling the ball and dominating possession. Short passes, lots of sharp movements and rotation across positions and technical security meant they were unshakeable on the ball.
But the Catalan legend also instilled a hunger in the team to win the ball back as soon as possible when they did lose it, famously starting a seven-second press that if the opponent was able to surpass would usually result on them being in on goal.
It’s fair to say that Zidane’s Madrid side would ultimately allow Barcelona to have the ball in midfield and be compact, while using their own technical abilities and brilliant quality to try and pick them off on the counter as they did to so many top sides during their Champions League wins during that period.
The difference however, is that this Madrid side never came up against this Lionel Messi.
The little Argentine was a totally different animal under Guardiola, which is terrifying considering all he has achieved since they parted ways in 2012.
I have no doubts that Ronaldo would likely have a say on the game himself, because during this period of time he was at his goalscoring best and most clutch. But Messi could effect the game without just putting the ball into the net.
David Villa and Pedro were also huge goalscoring threats from the wing, while Dani Alves in his peak was arguably the best right-back of all-time. It’s hard to imagine this Real Madrid side keeping this peak Barcelona side goalless for 90 minutes and while I wouldn’t bet against them scoring themselves, ultimately the greatest player of all-time would separate the two best club sides we’ve seen in this era of football.
Prediction: Real Madrid (15-18) 1-2 Barcelona (08-11) / Messi masterclass.
With Newcastle United set to complete their task of appointing a new manager this week, the Premier League’s managerial hotseats have just become even more full.
It seems as though Eddie Howe will be the man to fill the void at St James’ Park, after Unai Emery sensationally rejected their offer after being interested in a move earlier in the week. But with 19 other managers in a job currently, where do they all rank?
I’ve ranked each manager and explained (briefly) my reasoning for their position based on preference of style, achievements and coaching of players.
19. Daniel Farke – Norwich
Twice Farke has come up to the Premier League with his Norwich side, and twice he’s been absolutely battered every time.
The German has a style but it seems to be more accustomed to the Championship, where his side is one of the big dogs and he can’t turn that into anything substantial at the top level, so he must go at the bottom.
18.Sean Dyche – Burnley
Maybe controversial for him to be so low, but the style of football grinds me and he’s got nothing other than scraping survival year on year to show for it.
The one season he tried to expand a little saw Burnley dumped out of the Europa League before the group stages even started. The football is too old school for me, but he gets results so it keeps him off the bottom.
17. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – Manchester United
Another potentially controversial selection, the Manchester United boss is in the relegation spots here.
No obvious style of play, no defensive awareness about his sides and results only tend to come because of the quality of player he has at his disposal. If he got another Premier League job it would be in this region of the table.
16.Ralph Hassenhuttl – Southampton
This is a weird one for the Austrian, because he’s clearly got something about him.
Hassenhuttl likes to play expansive, attacking football but while his ideas are the right ones he seems to struggle with the actual execution of them. 9-0 defeats in consecutive seasons tells me he’s too stubborn to adapt too, so he slots in towards the bottom.
15. Claudio Ranieri – Watford
It seems harsh to have a Premier League winner this far down the rankings, but times have moved and Ranieri isn’t what he once was.
The ‘tinkerman’ tends to play counter-attacking football but it all seems very freestyled when watching his sides and defensively they’ve never been the best. His achievements earn him this height though.
14.Mikel Arteta – Arsenal
Hear me out. Arteta’s Arsenal are showing improvements in recent months now that he doesn’t have many injuries, but I’m still not convinced.
They seem organised enough for now, but the discipline issues remain and whenever they concede a goal they look frail mentally. He’s young in his career and could certainly move up the list in years to come but for now, he’s low down in my ranking of bosses.
13. Bruno Lage – Wolves
Not a lot of experience for the Portuguese manager here, but what he did at Benfica really stands out to me.
Plenty of focus on attacking football, using different player profiles to get what he needs from his teams. They play exciting football and score goals and the fact he has switched Wolves around as quickly as he has is testament to his coaching skills. Like Arteta, he could move up the ranks over the years.
12. Dean Smith – Aston Villa
Smith may have hit his ceiling with Aston Villa now, but the job he has done to this point is nothing short of excellent.
He took over in the Championship, got them to play front-foot, attacking football while also setting up a good defensive base and was rewarded with a cup final and a top half finish. He’s probably at his peak as a coach now, which means mid-table is where he sits.
11. Patrick Vieira – Crystal Palace
There may be a bit of recency bias in this pick, but the job Vieira is doing at Selhurst Park is incredibly good right now.
He struggled at Nice after moving from the MLS but the way in which he has transformed the squad’s way of playing in such a short space of time is delightful. Possession football with young and flairy players, Vieira’s stock is only going to rise.
10.Thomas Frank – Brentford
Honestly, I can’t praise this man enough. The job he has done since taking over at Brentford has been tremendous, but the transition they have made into Premier League football is even better.
They play attacking football, with a mix of possession and going direct, while they’re brave with playing out from the back and strong defensively. I fully expect them to stay up and think Frank will be on a lot of club’s radars higher up the league should the managerial merry-go-round start later this season.
9. Graham Potter – Brighton & Hove Albion
Not a big name in the slightest but the job he has done since coming to English football has not gone unnoticed.
Potter’s sides play excellent possession football with a major focus on control and scoring goals, just like a Pep Guardiola side. He’s still young in his career to rank him much higher than this, but you have to assume that with better players he gets better results, so he’s one to keep an eye on.
8.Marcelo Bielsa – Leeds United
Possibly the most gung-ho manager in all of football, Bielsa’s methods and philosophy are legendary across Europe and now he does it for Leeds.
The one vs one battles he creates all over the pitch rely on intense discipline from each player and unbelievable fitness levels, something he drills into every player. He improves individuals on a regular basis and entertains, but really should’ve won more in his career considering the reputation he has.
7. Rafa Benitez – Everton
A Champions League winner, a La Liga winner, an FA Cup winner, Rafa Benitez is one of the best coaches of his generation.
The issue for him unfortunately, is that generation was about 15 years ago. Rafa was at his best in the mid 2000’s to mid 2010’s during his time with Valencia and Liverpool but since then his football has become very rigid and uninspiring. He can still get results, but I don’t expect him to pull up any trees between now and the end of his career.
6.David Moyes – West Ham
Moyes’ career seemed dead and buried after his Man United spell almost a decade ago, but the way he has built his reputation back up has been nothing short of excellent.
He’s build a West Ham side that now competes with the best teams in the country when they face off against each other and is one of the toughest to beat, while also scoring plenty of goals going forward. The only thing he’s missing now is a trophy or two.
5.Brendan Rodgers – Leicester City
Rodgers showed what a great coach he was during his time with Watford and Swansea, then the Liverpool job when he made them genuine title contenders with brilliant, attacking football.
That job came a little early for him in the end, but he went to Celtic and was dominant and has made Leicester a truly competitive side. He even added the FA Cup to his trophy cabinet, so he is comfortably the best of the rest for me.
4.Antonio Conte – Tottenham
The new Tottenham manager has a proven CV in the managerial world and is without a doubt one of the best in the world.
His 3-4-3 formation has seen him win Serie A titles, a Premier League title and an FA Cup and his management style makes all his sides incredibly difficult to beat. Sometimes though, that pragmatism takes over and not losing gets prioritised over winning, so he just misses out on the top three.
3. Thomas Tuchel – Chelsea
A brilliant thinker with positive attacking football his forté, Tuchel has come to Chelsea and flipped a switch to become a brilliant defensive coach now.
Chelsea barely ever concede goals and yet they still find a way to score goals and win trophies. He’s shown he can do all sides of the game to a high level and has the trophies to boot with a Champions League winners medal so he goes in at third.
2.Pep Guardiola – Manchester City
When it’s all said and done and Guardiola hangs up his coaching hat, he could go down as one of the absolute best ever.
He’s won everything there is to win twice over, playing brilliant attacking football and revolutionising the way teams all over the world approach the game. He improves players individually, improves teams endlessly and wins games with style. The only flaw for me is he’s always had to spend a lot of money to do it, but that’s why teams bring him in and he always delivers.
1. Jurgen Klopp – Liverpool
For me, the best coach in world football not just the Premier League.
Klopp came into a Liverpool side and implemented a brand new style immediately, and slowly but surely built his squad to become one of the best sides in modern history that won it all. They play fast-paced football with the first though always to score goals, have pace and are brave in their positions.
If I was starting a football club and could make anyone the manager, I’d pick Klopp.
The buzzword coming out of the last weekend of Premier League fixtures seemed to be balance, after Manchester United’s 4-2 defeat to Leicester at the King Power Stadium.
After Ole Gunnar Solskjaer named all of Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho, Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood and Paul Pogba in the starting line-up, pundits ripped his selection apart because the team “lacked balance”.
But Pep Guardiola put that entire argument to bed nice and quickly in Tuesday’s Champions League fixture against Club Brugge as Man City waltzed to a 5-1 win with five attacking players in their lineup.
Guardiola named a strong lineup which included all of Bernardo Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez and City were able to dominate the game from start to finish and play some brilliant football in the process.
Foden created the first goal with a brilliant pass from deep for Joao Cancelo, before Mahrez stroked home a penalty that he won just before half-time.
In the second half it was more of the same, with Kyle Walker finishing off a brilliant passing move before Cole Palmer scored with his first touch and Mahrez capped off the night with another goal.
It was a masterclass in coaching from Guardiola, who’s side never looked in any danger throughout the game until a raft of changes meant the intensity in their game had gone.
For City, it was nothing new. They almost always play with five attacking players in some variation of a 4-3-3 formation, with two attacking full-backs in their arsenal too.
It puts to bed those ridiculous claims and arguments that United played too many attacking players in the defeat to Leicester, they just simply aren’t coached well enough to keep the balance when they do it.
Guardiola has always been able to keep his superstars in check by demanding they work hard off the ball, which in turn allows them to have the ball as much as they do.
It shows when they chase back and win the ball back quickly, then maintain possession for 65% of the game regularly while controlling the game and creating chance after chance.
City have been excellent for the most part this season and even without a centre forward they look a threat going forward regularly and are scoring goals freely.
With one of the best coaches in the world in the dugout and some of the best players in the world on the pitch, anything is possible – even playing five attacking players at one time.
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.
We’re entering the final weeks of the Premier League season and everything is all but settled already for the first time in a while.
Manchester City are set to be crowned champions for a third time in four seasons, while it’s already confirmed that Sheffield United, West Bromwich Albion and Fulham will be playing their football in the Championship next season.
Top four is the only thing left to play for at this point, although Leicester and Chelsea currently have a decent sized cushion above their rivals with only a few games left to play.
That means it’s time for the awards to come out for players and managers, including who the manager of the season actually is. There are a few contenders, but one who really takes the shine when it comes to evaluating the performance of their team but also in comparison with expectations and budgets.
One obvious candidate is the man who has led his team to the title, Pep Guardiola. Manchester City have racked up a fantastic season to earn a third Premier League crown in four years, wrestling the title back from Liverpool after the Reds struggled with several injuries.
It wasn’t all easy street for City though, as they struggled early on in the season with just five wins in their opening twelve games and sitting as low as ninth in December. The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss rallied the troops though and put together a phenomenal run of 15 wins in a row.
Guardiola used his experience and incredibly high quality of squad options to rotate freely throughout the tough schedule, but he tightened the defence up to have the best in the league while still maintaining an attack that has scored more goals than anyone else in the league.
You could also look at the other end of the table, where Leeds United earned promotion last season and this season have been excellent to claim a mid-table finish and win the hearts of plenty of neutrals.
Marcelo Bielsa’s attacking brand of man-to-man football all over the pitch has seen 106 goals scored in Leeds United’s games this season, more than any other team in the league. He has used his trademark system to put Leeds in a position where they can challenge with the mid-table sides after just one season and with limited options this season he has done a remarkable job.
He hasn’t quite done the job of a certain David Moyes at West Ham United however.
After taking over the team mid-way through last season, Moyes steered the Hammers to safety with just two games to spare but this season he has done the unthinkable by pushing them to the brink of Champions League football.
A solid defensive system, successful in part to some excellent signings he made with a lower budget than most, Moyes has seen West Ham perform at a level far beyond even the most hardcore fan’s wildest expectations this season.
Only the current top four have been able to win more games in the season so far and only Liverpool below them have lost less games this season. Moyes has also been able to reinvigorate the career of Jesse Lingard after he joined in January, while he has been able to employ a system that has got the best out of new signings Vladimir Coufal and Tomas Soucek and kept Declan Rice and Michail Antonio as important and influential as ever too.
Bringing the east London outfit all the way up the table in such a short space of time has shown everyone that he is still a great manager despite his struggles with Manchester United and Real Sociedad.
West Ham have been fantastic this season and in no small part thanks to the excellent performance of David Moyes, so he deserves to be the Premier League manager of the year.
This time the stakes were a little different, with City knowing that victory would officially see them crowned as Premier League champions for a third time in four seasons.
Despite that, City couldn’t make the external motivation work in their favour as they suffered a 2-1 defeat to Thomas Tuchel’s side once again at the Etihad Stadium.
Pep Guardiola’s side took the lead through Raheem Sterling in the first half, before Sergio Aguero missed a penalty when he attempted a panenka and failed to fool Edouard Mendy. In the second half Chelsea battled back and turned in a much better performance, equalising via a fine strike from Ziyech again before an injury time winner from Marcos Alonso sealed all three points.
Many people seem to think that Tuchel may have Guardiola’s number tactically, with the three-at-the-back system that the German has implemented at Stamford Bridge proving to be incredibly difficult to penetrate for even the best attacks in the world.
But it must be remembered that he is yet to come up against a full-strength City side. In the FA Cup game Pep started without Ederson, Kyle Walker, Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva or Riyad Mahrez while Kevin De Bruyne was forced off the pitch with an injury early in the second half.
Then in the league game, Guardiola had them line up in a peculiar 3-3-3-1 formation, with Rodri the only recognised midfielder in the team.
While you mustn’t take away from the quality of performance in the Chelsea team, it’s also worth remembering City have plenty of quality to come into the team to affect their own performance. We’ve seen them drop points when they’ve rotated their team recently and some of their fans have bemoaned the level of performance of some of the players that are coming in on a less frequent basis.
But when they’ve fielded their strongest team, they have looked near unbeatable – especially in Europe. They hold the record for most wins in a single European season for an English team with 11 this season and it’s always worth noting that Guardiola has only ever lost one cup final in his career – in extra time against Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid way back in 2011.
Tuchel lost in the Champions League final just last season and his overall record against Guardiola from their time together in Germany and also now stands four defeats, one draw and these two most recent wins with an aggregate score of 12-5 in the Catalan bosses favour.
It is worth pointing out though that Guardiola’s teams have scored just once in their last four fixtures against Tuchel teams, with Sterling’s goal at the weekend the sole strike.
The Champions League final will almost certainly be a tight, tactical affair once more but with the added quality that will be in the City lineup from the start it could and probably should be the difference on the night.
Personally, I wouldn’t be saying Tuchel or Chelsea have got Guardiola or City’s number just yet. Maybe the result on May 29th will sway me differently though.
Manchester City cruised into their first ever Champions League final with a dominant display as they swept PSG aside 2-0 on the night and 4-1 on aggregate at the Etihad.
PSG started the night fast, but Ederson’s long pass in behind the defence found Oleksandr Zinchenko who cut the ball back for Kevin De Bruyne. The Belgian’s shot was deflected int the path of Riyad Mahrez, who slotted through the legs of both Presnel Kimpembe and Keylor Navas to give the hosts the lead.
City were absolutely monstrous in defence throughout the game and with just under half an hour to go, they countered the Ligue 1 champions and Foden squared the ball to Mahrez who smashed into the roof of the empty net and secured their route to Istanbul.
It was an outrageous display of composure, skill, quality and game management from Pep Guardiola’s side as they showed a maturity beyond their experience at this level.
They set up with a more defensive outlook to protect their first leg lead, using no natural striker once again but with a rotating front line to leave PSG nobody to mark.
Ruben Dias was at his absolute best, channeling his inner John Terry with some tremendous blocks with his head and chest and winning all his individual battles whenever he needed too. Alongside him, John Stones was imperious once again while Kyle Walker completely shut down PSG’s counter-attacking threat with his phenomenal pace.
It was a performance that they should be incredibly proud of, but it was a result that cements their status as the best team in Europe this season.
Defensively they were impenetrable for the most part but as usual when they were going forward they looked threatening no matter how they decided to attack.
Out wide they were able to isolate the full backs and win their one on one battles, while in midfield they kept possession but were also aggressive in the tackles and brilliant when pressing. It was a truly complete performance.
They will go into the final as favourites regardless of whether they face off against Chelsea or Real Madrid and deservedly so.
A record breaking eight wins in a row and 11 wins in the competition show that they have been the best team in the tournament throughout, and conceding just four goals in 12 games shows that it’s not just been about blowing teams out of the water going forward too.
Their excellent squad depth has obviously helped immensely with the crazy schedule, but Guardiola’s management has been exceptional and he has got the team playing at arguably their highest level since his arrival at the club.
It will be Guardiola’s first Champions League final since 2011 when his Barcelona side beat Manchester United for the second time in three years, and will be a chance for him to put to bed the myth that he can’t win the tournament without Lionel Messi.
Europe’s best, England’s best and arguably the world’s best, Manchester City are here to stay at the top of the mountain. This could be the start of a sky blue era on the continent.
The business end of the season is upon us as the final four of the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League is upon us.
Two mouth-watering clashes make up the semi-finals, as Chelsea take on Real Madrid for the first time ever while Paris Saint-Germain will take on Manchester City in the other game.
We’ve done predictions for every knockout tie in the competition so far, so we continue here with the two most exciting attacking sides left in the competition as the Cityzens take on the Parisians.
PSG come into the game having eliminated two of the pre-tournament favourites for the competition, beating both Barcelona and Bayern Munich away from home to be able to progress despite not winning the second leg of both games.
Kylian Mbappe was the star of the show, scoring five times in those ties as Mauricio Pochettino’s team showed a brilliant counter-attacking style over the four games while also mixing in their ball retaining abilities where needed.
PSG will thankfully be able to count on Marco Verratti and Marquinhos once again too, who missed out through injury and COVID-19 last time out while Mauro Icardi is also fit and in goalscoring form once again. It will be interesting to see which front line Pochettino chooses to go with and whether he opts to try and keep the ball in midfield with City or just soak up pressure and defend.
City on the other hand made it through to this stage of the tournament with a comfortable 4-0 aggregate win over Borussia Moenchengladbach, before surviving a scare against Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-finals thanks to a late Phil Foden goal in both legs.
Defensively they have been one of the best sides in Europe this season, and they will need all of that during this tie against one of the better attacking outfits on the continent. Going forward they have been excellent too, with the lack of a natural centre forward leading the line often leaving defences with nobody to mark and causing issues.
Kevin De Bruyne and Verratti in the middle of the park will be a terrific battle, while Pochettino will almost certainly look to his thrilling win back when he was the Spurs manager as inspiration on how to get the Paris club to consecutive finals.
This is truly set up to be one of the most mouth-watering semi-finals in recent memory and over two legs either team could come away with a win and nobody would be surprised.
In goal both number ones are excellent, while the defences are evenly matched. You can argue that PSG have the better centre-back options, while City without a doubt have the better full-backs. In midfield the options are pretty even, while in attack it’s probably fair to give the nod to PSG.
The way that City play with the vast majority of possession and stretching the pitch will definitely suit them, but we have seen how they can struggle against teams who are potent on the counter attack. Their record against Manchester United shows you that, and PSG are best described as Man United on steroids with their style of play.
It’s an incredibly tough game to call. PSG’s style is tailor made for playing away against a side like City, while at home they have shown an ability to mix it up and be solid defensively but also take the game to their opponent when needed.
Overall, I won’t be surprised whoever goes through but I give the edge to Paris Saint-Germain’s frightening attack.
Paris SG 1-1 Man City Man City 1-2 Paris SG (Paris Saint-Germain to progress 3-2 on aggregate)