The Champions League last 16 fixtures are finally upon us after a two month break since the group stages.
In an intriguing tie we’ll see the current holders Chelsea take on French league champions Lille in a tie that would be expected to go one way but could well go the other.
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
Last season’s winner and the current World champions Chelsea had a pretty good group stage, but defeat on the final day to Juventus cost them the top spot.
Tuchel’s side claimed four wins and a draw from their first five games, including a memorable 4-0 win against the Serie A giants with an excellent record of just four goals conceded.
Lille on the other hand claimed top spot in arguably the weakest group of the first round, pipping RB Salzburg, Sevilla and Wolfsburg to the berth.
Jocelyn Gourvennec led his side to three wins and two draws including wins away to Sevilla and Wolfsburg to claim their path into the last 16, also conceding just four goals throughout the group stage.
In comparison though, Lille only managed seven goals across their six games while Chelsea scored more than double that with 13.
Chelsea are still struggling with some injury problems, with wing-backs Reece James and Ben Chilwell not yet fit. Mason Mount won’t be fit for the first leg but Cesar Azpilicueta could return to the team after missing the weekend win over Crystal Palace.
Romelu Lukaku’s form is in the gutter, but Tuchel is likely to stick with the Belgian in the hope that he can play through it and find a goalscoring streak ahead of the weekend’s Carabao Cup final.
Lille are at almost full strength for the tie, with the only absentee expected to be former Manchester United attacking midfielder Angel Gomes.
The youngster was forced off injury in their latest Ligue 1 game and is now expected to miss the game, while Orestis Karnezis will miss the game.
All of Andre, Renato Sanches and Xeka are competing to start in midfield, with the former two likely to get the nod.
Breakdown and Prediction
Chelsea have moved away from their 343 formation since their wing-backs suffered with injuries, and Tuchel has since gone with a 433 formation to get back to winning ways.
They still look to keep the ball for the vast majority of the game and attack down the wings but without Mount they’ve lacked that attacking mind in midfield recently.
I expect Tuchel to move back to his 343 for this game if Azpilicueta and/or Callum Hudson-Odoi are fit again, playing as the right wing-back with Marcos Alonso reinstalled at left wing-back after his assist at the weekend.
Lille will try to soak up the pressure with their usual 442 system and try to counter with the pace of Jonathan David in attack.
Realistically they will struggle to make that effective, because it’s exactly what Chelsea are set up to play against. Lille have been okay defensively this season, but they’ve struggled to find the back of the net and have a negative goal difference in their domestic league.
Ultimately, this is Chelsea’s tie to lose. They have the better coach, better squad and if they’re on song then they should be able to win this tie relatively comfortably.
Chelsea 2-0 Lille Lillle 0-1 Chelsea (Chelsea to qualify 3-0 on aggregate)
Chelsea have one foot in the Carabao Cup final after their 2-0 win over Tottenham at Stamford Bridge last night.
Thomas Tuchel’s side took a 2-0 lead into half-time thanks to goals from Kai Havertz and a Japhet Tanganga own goal, as they lined up with a back-four for the first time under the German coach.
Immediately the differences could be seen in their play, and Chelsea fans were delighted with the differences in their performance.
Tuchel opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation early on, with Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso installed as traditional full-backs rather than wing-backs. In a midfield two was Jorginho and Saul Niguez, with Mason Mount just ahead of them. Havertz and Hakim Ziyech took up the winger positions with Romelu Lukaku up front.
It didn’t take long for Chelsea to implement themselves on the game, pressing high and keeping possession well in the early minutes.
They quickly established a press too that didn’t allow Spurs out of their own half. A box between the two central midfielders and the two centre-backs meant that whenever the ball reached that zone, they would all squeeze and force possession to be given up immediately.
There was also their man-to-man press, which caught Spurs out early as Alonso pinched the ball from Emerson Royal for the opening goal to assist Havertz.
After that goal though, is when we saw the difference in performance between the back three and the back four really come to life.
Chelsea played with a much higher tempo with one, two and three touch passes in midfield to keep the ball ticking over and force Spurs to chase them.
They were patient in their play, but also had far more intensity in their game and far more intent in their attacks than we’ve seen any time recently.
Lukaku just missed with a header after excellent wing play by Ziyech, while Saul and Jorginho completely dominated the midfield areas. By the time the half-time whistle blew, Spurs hadn’t had a single attempt on goal, had just four touches in the Chelsea box and had just 31% possession.
The second half was much less eventful, with the Blues happy to manage the lead with Spurs not carrying a threat but the performance as a whole was a sign of Chelsea’s potential under Tuchel.
The 3-4-3 has gone stale recently and their attacking potential was limited in that shape anyway. They now have proven that they have the capability to play in a more expansive way with a different system if needs be, and that should strike fear into the rest of the Premier League and Europe.
It seems like drama just follows Chelsea and Romelu Lukaku around wherever he goes, but he certainly doesn’t help himself sometimes.
The £97.5m signing from Inter Milan in the summer has scored seven goals so far for his new club this season, after going on a run of ten appearances without a goal before and after injury.
Now he has come out and publicly criticised his manager and new club for their setup, while revealing that he is hopeful of returning to Inter Milan one day to win more trophies with them.
In an interview with Sky Italia, Lukaku was quoted as saying he ‘wasn’t happy’ with Tuchel’s system but said he would ‘continue to be professional’ and give everything for the team.
The comments come at a time where Chelsea are struggling for form in the Premier League, dropping eight points behind Manchester City in the title race and question marks have been raised over the system Tuchel has employed.
The 3-4-3 system has brought great success already, with the Blues winning the Champions League and leading the way for much of this Premier League campaign so far.
But Lukaku has found himself in a target man role for a lot of his time at Stamford Bridge, something that has been made abundantly clear in the past is not his best or favoured role.
So it’s no surprise that Lukaku is unhappy about it, especially cosidering where he’s come from and what he was doing to earn the record breaking move in the first place.
The Belgian is quite clearly at his best when he is facing the goal and running at defenders into space, not with his back to goal,
While it’s more than fair that Lukaku should be able to voice his concerns, he shouldn’t be doing it in a public forum.
It has now been revealed however that this was an interview conducted about three weeks ago, which makes the comments less worrying.
Lukaku revealed after the game against Aston Villa that he and Tuchel had some talks to iron some issues out and that they were sorted now.
Even still though, the timing of the remarks and the way he has gone about it is really poor on his part.
Some Chelsea fans have reacted with anger, but Lukaku has every right to complain if he feels he isn’t being used correctly and can be doing better.
He has always been a player that has adored Chelsea and has always been outspoken. It’s not that deep for him to want to better himself, and therefore the team, but maybe he should think twice about the way he does it in future.
Premier League leaders Chelsea play host to Manchester United on Sunday afternoon in the big game of the weekend, with more than just three points on the line.
Both sides picked up wins in midweek in the Champions League, with United earning a 2-0 win over Villarreal thanks to goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho, while Chelsea smashed Juventus 4-0 at Stamford Bridge with Trevoh Chalobah, Reece James, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Timo Werner on the scoresheet.
But it’s the managerial position at both clubs that is currently in the headline most, and for very different reasons.
Tuchel celebrated his 50th game in charge against Juventus and it brought to light an incredible statistic showing just how good he has made his side in a short space of time.
It was his 32nd win as manager, but amazingly it was also the 31st clean sheet he has overseen as boss. In the other 19 games, Chelsea have conceded just 24 goals with five of those coming in that shock defeat to West Brom last season.
He has absolutely maximised the talent in his team and by tweaking his system throughout his time at the club, he has made them look formidable in all aspects of play.
For Manchester United, they need something very similar to happen for them. After sacking Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Sunday, they find themselves in a position where the season could still be saved if the right man could be brought in.
There were countless names linked to the job, but Rangnick can be seen as the man with a plan so to speak.
He will have the right ideas, right mentality and right character to try and save the season for the club while also laying the foundations for whoever it is the club are planning to bring in on a full-time basis. He just needs to execute now.
The results of what could happen if they get the next decision right will be staring them right in the face on Sunday at Stamford Bridge.
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 Blues are on the verge of signing young French centre-back Jules Kounde from Sevilla in a move worth around £60million to slot straight into their back-three, after Thomas Tuchel made him a priority signing for the summer.
But when you look at other deals that the west London side have made this summer, you start to question the fore-planning going on at Stamford Bridge when it comes to the academy once again.
Chelsea’s summer as European champions began with them losing their academy defensive crown jewel in Fikayo Tomori to AC Milan.
In January, Tomori was allowed to leave for Serie A on loan just before Frank Lampard was sacked and replaced by Tuchel. But interestingly, and weirdly, the loan deal included a very affordable clause to turn the deal permanent.
Unsurprisingly Tomori shone with Milan as they secured Champions League football for the first time since the 2013/14 season, and thus the Rossoneri decided to splash the cash and take him to Italy full-time.
Chelsea secured £25million for the 23-year-old and while fans were over the moon about the deal, the returning Marc Guehi from Swansea City on loan was seen to be an immediate replacement in the squad.
Instead, Chelsea couldn’t agree a new contract with the England youth international and Guehi was allowed to leave to sign for Premier League side Crystal Palace in a £21.5million deal. So that makes the Champions League holders two academy defenders down, hence the supposed move for Kounde.
But with a reported fee of £60m for Kounde, it begs the question about the pathway for academy players getting into the first-team once again.
One thing that Lampard did properly during his 18 months in charge at Stamford Bridge was open up a pathway for young players to believe they could make it to the first team from Cobham.
The likes of Reece James, Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham all became regulars in the first-team squad under Lampard, while the likes of Tariq Lamptey and Tomori made their debuts too.
But now it seems as though that gateway to men’s football is being closed off once again as Chelsea prioritise success via money than a long-term plan.
There is nothing wrong with that, there is a clear method that works as they win trophies on a regular basis using this plan. But lots of fans and young players will see the lack of a pathway and could become more detached from the club.
Kounde is a top defender and without a doubt one of the best young centre-backs in world football right now. Is he better than Guehi, Tomori and any other academy defender at the club right now? Absolutely.
But is he £65million better? Probably not. Tuchel’s back three last season was mightily impressive when he was selecting from Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen, Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger. There is no reason that they wouldn’t be as successful this season, with even more time to work on his methods and style.
He also has options of Trevor Chalobah and even Reece James for the centre-back role beyond them, so he’s not short on numbers.
Bringing in Kounde seems more like a statement signing than one they actually are in need of and makes sense. Keeping Guehi and putting more trust into that academy pathway would’ve been a big positive to everyone in the club as well as for fans that support them.
Chelsea are improving with Kounde and that is the most important thing, but don’t be surprised to see the young talent at the club grow more and more impatient as these signings become the norm once again.
Back in January 2021, Chelsea were sat in ninth place in the Premier League table four points off the top four and even further away from the top while managed by club legend Frank Lampard.
In the top position were Manchester United, managed by former striker and club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after overcoming a tough run in the middle of the winter and coming through spades of criticism.
Fast forward to the end of the season, only one of those men is still in their job while the other has been crowned as champion of Europe by winning the UEFA Champions League.
Interestingly though, it’s the London club that have gone on to prove their potential after changing managers at the turn of the year.
On the other hand Manchester United finished second in the league, finishing 12 points behind Manchester City, crashed out of the FA Cup at the quarter-final stage and were beaten on penalties in the Europa League final by Villarreal.
Chelsea’s hierarchy saw that Lampard was struggling to get past a certain point with his squad, despite the heavy investment and short period of time. He was falling out with members of the squad such as Antonio Rudiger and Cesar Azpilicueta, while also failing to get the best out of new signings.
A dip in form that saw the situation deteriorate saw Roman Abramovich pull the trigger and bring in a coach with more experience and a tactical mindset, used to challenging for top honours and getting the best out of a top squad.
That change had been criticised at the time for not giving Lampard any time to turn it around, but he like many fans had seen enough. Lampard wasn’t the man to take them where they wanted to go, even going as far as to say that the team “wasn’t ready to compete yet.” Just five months later they’re kings of Europe without anything more than coaching being the difference.
It leaves Manchester United and their fans with a bit of ‘what if’ syndrome. What if they had sacked Solskjaer when they were struggling and brought in Tuchel or another top coach? What if they didn’t accept second place and no trophies as progress?
Solskjaer has done a pretty good job since coming in. He’s steadied a very rocky ship, laid foundations for a side that can compete and identified problem areas that need to be improved upon. But on the pitch as a coach, he has struggled to really make a huge impact.
United don’t really have a set way of playing under him and they don’t have a goal that typifies their approach play. You can watch a Guardiola team score a tap in from the penalty spot onwards after their full-back has cut the ball back probably around 20 times a season. You know when you watch Tuchel’s Chelsea what to expect, but with Ole’s reds it just isn’t clear. The only goals they score repeatedly are counter-attacks or penalties.
The biggest thing they are missing is a style of play and a footprint from a coach. Everyone and their grandmother can tell you that United need a defensive midfielder, but because we don’t know the style in which Solskjaer wants to play it’s hard to say who the best option is for the role.
A coach with a real identity to their play would be ideal to take this Manchester United side to the next level. There’s no shame in the club noticing that Solskjaer may have hit his ceiling and amicably going separate ways.
Southampton did it in the past to bring in Mauricio Pochettino, Wolves have just done it with Nuno Espirito Santo. There’s real potential for growth with United and a proper coach, it’s just whether they are content just challenging or if they’re willing to take a risk to push to the next level.
Chelsea were crowned champions of Europe for the second time ever as Kai Havertz scored his first goal in the Champions League for the Blues in a 1-0 win over Manchester City.
In a highly entertaining tactical affair, Thomas Tuchel once again was able to get one over Pep Guardiola to make it three wins from three games between the two team in just six weeks.
Chelsea opted for a defensive set up as usual but the inclusion of Havertz over Ziyech, who had scored in both of the previous wins raised a few eyebrows before kick off. Not as much as Guardiola’s selection however, as he opted to play with no defensive midfielder or natural striker to flood the midfield areas.
That backfired though as Chelsea were able to press well and nullify them to just one shot on target over the entire game, while they themselves created several openings.
Timo Werner completely mishit the ball from seven yards out with a clear opening, before his touch let him down in the box and he could only roll a second effort into the hands of Ederson. Chelsea continued to threaten though and that’s when Mason Mount found a beautiful pass into Haverts in behind, who rounded Ederson before slotting into an empty net in the first half.
It was the first goal he had scored in the Champions League for Chelsea and just the ninth goal of his campaign in all competitions following a club record £72m move last summer.
It’s been a really tough season for the 21-year-old, who was the second youngest player only older than Phil Foden during the final. He’s clearly got the quality to become a top player, but he really struggled to make an impact in a more physical league where space and time on the ball was harder to come by.
Tuchel had started using him in a false nine position to get him that extra half a yard and his performances improved but they still weren’t glistening as they were with Leverkusen.
But in the one moment that he ran clear of Oleksandr Zinchenko and received Mount’s pass, then rounded Ederson and scored he has written himself into Chelsea folklore and immediately paid back his fee.
No matter what happens between now and whenever he eventually leaves Stamford Bridge, whether that’s next summer or in 10 years, he will go down as a Chelsea legend for winning them a second Champions League title.
It’s those moments that you spend big money on special talents for, because they can provide when it matters most. It’s why when a team fails the spending to build the team is brought to light, because you have to spend to bring quality and quality is expected to bring titles.
Werner still has some proving to do but he has been far more useful to Chelsea since Tuchel arrived, being used in a role that has seen him affect games even without scoring at the rate expected before his arrival.
But if he has another poor season, there will be question marks around him. That pressure has been lifted from Havertz, who will forever have the backing of fans and local media now.
As silly as that sounds it’s the truth. Bad performances won’t go unnoticed by fans, but if they eventually lead to him being displaced from the team or sold by the club he’ll go with applause and fantastic memories.
As for Tuchel, he is in the same boat. He’s now a Chelsea legend after less than six months at the club and will be rewarded with a new contract this summer to continue the good work he has done.
If you thought last summer was spectacular for Chelsea, wait till you see what they do this summer.
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.
In a Premier League season that seemed like everything was sewn up nice and early, the football Gods made sure there was still some kind of action to pay attention to on the final day.
Manchester City are champions, Manchester United are runners-up and Fulham, West Brom and Sheffield United are going down to the Championship. Everything else however, including the final two top four places, Europa League places and Europa Conference League places are still up for grabs.
With the middle of the table so tight and congested, lets simplify all the possibilities of the final day of the season for you.
Champions League places
Aston Villa vs Chelsea Leicester vs Tottenham Liverpool vs Crystal Palace
Three teams will battle it out for the final two spots to compete in Europe’s elite competition next season, with Chelsea, Leicester and Liverpool all still in the race.
As it stands, if all three teams were to win their games then Chelsea would finish in third place while Liverpool would pip the Foxes on goal difference, unless Leicester won by five goals more than what Jurgen Klopp’s Reds could muster up.
With the points difference so tight, if any of the teams were to slip up on the day and the other two were to win, then the team that messed up would miss out on Champions League football.
There is of course a wildcard option, that if Chelsea were to finish fifth in the league but then win the Champions League final against Manchester City on May 29th, they would then qualify for the competition as holders and England would have five representatives in next year’s tournament.
EUROPA LEAGUE & EUROPA CONFERENCE LEAGUE PLACES
West Ham vs Southampton Leicester vs Tottenham Manchester City vs Everton Arsenal vs Brighton
This is where it gets a bit complicated, so bear with us.
That means one of West Ham, Everton or Tottenham will join one of Chelsea, Liverpool or Leicester in UEFA’s secondary competition. David Moyes’ Hammers are the favourites to finish in sixth place, with a three point head-start over their rivals before the games kick off. They’ve also got the most favourable fixture, with a home tie in front of their fans against a Southampton side with nothing to play for.
Should they fall to a defeat though, Everton and Spurs can match their points tally with a win. That means it would come down to goal difference, which would earn the north London side the position in the table. However if Spurs were unable to beat Leicester and Everton could get a win over the champions Man City, they would take the spot.
There is also a new competition for UEFA though, the Europa Conference League which the team who finishes in seventh place will qualify for. That allows Arsenal to sneak into the conversation for a European place on the final day with a win over Brighton at The Emirates Stadium.
Should the Gunners win and both Spurs and Everton fail to, Mikel Arteta’s side would leapfrog both teams in the table and claim European football for next year – extending their run to 26 consecutive years in UEFA competition.
It’s sure to be an exciting final day of the season after originally looking like it would be a bit of a dead rubber weekend in England. But now it matches up with the rest of Europe with plenty of happenings on to settle at the top end of the division.