The ultimate game in club football once again dawns, it is truly the game which captures the imagination, the wonder of the wise, the joy of the good and the amazement of the gods! It's time for the Champions League final!
Manchester City have finally given themselves a chance to satisfy the pursuit of their owners, it is the first time in the modern era that the Citizens have a seat at the proverbial king’s table. Chelsea have been here before, in 2008 they saw glory slip before them until finally, in 2012, they upset the odds and beat Bayern Munich in Germany.
We will once again experience an all-English final – if ever we needed another reminder that the Premier League is the greatest in the world – so here’s to an absolute spectacle come Saturday evening!
Champions League Final | Saturday 29 May | Estadio do Dragao
Manchester City and Pep Guardiola are finally on the precipice of achieving the primary objective Guardiola assumed when he was hired.
Interestingly, City fielded a fairly strong side against Everton on Sunday, I mean the game was a dead rubber encounter from their perspective and you would expect fringe players to get a run…
But then again, that isn’t exactly the City way. Nevertheless, the party mood eminent at the Etihad will need to be managed, given the fact that the powers that be will have their focus firmly fixed on the Champions League result. In fact, I would go as far as to say that should City lose to Chelsea in the final, their Premier League dominance will quickly be forgotten, and questions and concerns will start to circle Manchester’s Blue Moon.
City have become incredibly patient when attacking, whilst maintaining their defensive compactness. Ruben Dias has single-handedly mended City’s most glaring issues. They have never been a side who shipped an awful lot of goals but in critical moments – before Dias arrived – they would be exposed and undone.
Player for player I think City have a touch more quality, possibly too much for their own good. Sergio Aguero is a phenomenal player who hasn’t had too many opportunities to start this season but I’m very intrigued to see what role the Argentinian ace plays in Porto.
Chelsea have enjoyed playing City since Thomas Tuchel took over, and their fearless approach to this game could be what separates them in the end. When you look at Chelsea today, compared to the Chelsea before the German’s immense impact, the Chelsea today doesn’t do too many favours for Frank Lampard’s CV. But what is an over-reaching feather in Lampard’s cap is the proud display of young academy graduates still playing important roles in the team’s success – Mason Mount even winning the club’s Player of the Year award.
While, N’Golo Kante is, again, invaluable, Timo Werner has still left a lot to be desired (but the patience and unwavering belief in his ability shown by his manager and teammates is admirable).
It’s largely Groundhog Day for Tuchel though, once again he is in the final of the Champions League, again the venue is Portugal, again his side are the underdogs but, unlike his experience with PSG, he is now on the side of European pedigree.
I know it doesn’t seem like it, but irrespective of Chelsea’s domestic performances of late in the league and the FA Cup final, they are one of the most in-form sides in Europe and certainly deserve a place in this final.
It almost seems as though Chelsea have become distracted by the Champions League final and will be disappointed by the ‘preparation’ they have had going into the game, but the quality and depth of their squad are undeniable.
I say preparation only because I’m not convinced Chelsea have gone into any game, since their Champions League semi-final victory, with the focus or intensity that has become synonymous with their German boss.
The Blues will come into this game off the back of a long, drawn-out, brutal encounter in the pouring rain at Villa Park. Going down 2-1 to Villa and only having Champion’s league security through a Spurs victory at Leicester, surely demands a massive performance, and what better opportunity than on Europe’s grandest stage.
That game against Villa also potentially cost Chelsea their keeper. Edouard Mendy was replaced through injury and is now a doubt ahead of the final. I know one player doesn’t make or break a game, but I certainly wouldn’t want to face City in such a big game with Kepa between the sticks – although he does apparently enjoy a penalty shootout or two.
Route to the final:
2-0 & 2-0 Vs. Monchengladbach in the Round of 16
2-1 & 2-1 Vs. Dortmund in the Quarter-Final
2-0 & 2-1 Vs. PSG in the Semi-Final
2-1 & 1-0 Vs. Atletico Madrid in the Round of 16
0-1 & 2-0 Vs. Porto in the Quarter-Final
2-0 & 1-1 Vs. Real Madrid in the Semi-Final
Prediction: Chelsea to Lift the Cup (16/10)
Manchester City are a complete side. I’ve said enough about how important this game is to the club, but I don’t think it’s a ‘gimme’ for the Champions of England. Thomas Tuchel would have obviously preferred his side come into this game with a bit more confidence, but he has consistently reiterated that it is under immense pressure and doubt that brings the best out of himself and his side.
Tuchel is a tactical genius with a talented squad, but he meets the most complete and balanced side in the world. I think this ends in a draw – which would be a brilliant effort from the Blues – until something special separates these sides. For impatient punter: get on the draw at 47/20.
It truly is a coin flip sort of final but those usually are the most intriguing. If the script was to be adapted for the Big Screen, Timo Werner would bring the curtain down on a rather frustrating campaign in heroic fashion scoring the winner and securing his side’s second title – I certainly have my money on the upset!