The club soccer jackpot will be awarded on Saturday. And then after the so-called most expensive football match in the world, the championship playoff final and Brentford or Swansea City win promotion to the Premier League, there will be the little matter of crowning a UEFA Champions League winner Chelsea and Manchester City have been perhaps the two best teams in Europe since the start of 2021, especially since the former changed managers, and their encounters so far this season have been nothing more than tactical absorption contests.
Date: Saturday, May 29
Time: 3 p.m. ET
Where: Estadio do Dragao — Porto, Portugal
TV channel: CBS
It is natural that the preparation for the final on Saturday is dominated by the talks about the last two meetings between these teams. Twice in the last six weeks, Thomas Tuchel and Pep Guardiola have met skillfully, and both strategically and on the final scoreboard, the Chelsea manager who beat Manchester City.
That will undoubtedly give Chelsea’s dressing room a boost at the Estadio do Dragao before kick-off, but neither team seems to be overly excited about what happened in previous encounters. When asked by CBS Sports what he had learned from his previous encounters with opponents on Saturday, Guardiola’s response was brief: how good they are. Congratulations on the two victories. See you Saturday. He did not betray any fear, quite the contrary. Guardiola is not the only one who feels that way. There has been an ease in the city camp in preparation that suggests those other two games count very little in his mind.
The more you win, the happier team morale is and I think the guys have been brilliant this year, he said. We have another chance in the final against Chelsea to re-create something special.
That ease may come from a simple truth. Guardiola and his players know that Chelsea has beaten a City but perhaps not this City, which will take the field on Saturday with all its strength and in its best system. In the other two recent games between these two, it could be felt that the English champions were just hiding something, without revealing their full plan. That was particularly evident in the Premier League match that came after both teams’ victories in their Champions League semi-finals.
That day, Guardiola effectively matched the systems with Chelsea, using a backup from Ruben Dias, Aymeric Laporte and John Stones. In possession, the appearance was not much different than the way City attacked from its more standard forms: a three-man defense, the duo of Rodri and Joao Cancelo later on, and five players free to do what they do best in the game. last third. . However, in terms of personnel, it is difficult to imagine that the quintet will include Benjamin Mendy, Gabriel Jesus and Ferran Torres from the beginning, even if their coach has a habit of giving surprises in the most important games.
Even in an FA Cup semi-final, with a chance to win an unprecedented English quad down the line, Guardiola managed without players like Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden and Ederson while playing with a two-man midfield shield from Rodri and Fernandinho. That limited City’s ability to corner Chelsea with their press, something they did very effectively against Paris Saint-Germain in the second half of the first leg of the semi-finals. That was this team operating at maximum efficiency with all its key gears in position. Tuchel’s side has yet to see it. No wonder City is in such a laid-back mood.
Just one more game, Chelsea must be thinking, then we won’t have to see him again. Sergio Agüero, the man who always improves his game against the Blues, will ride into the sunset, with Barcelona calling out Manchester City’s best striker.
He may not be the force he was, but he suspects that won’t stop everyone associated with Chelsea from getting nervous if the Argentine enters the field. Indeed, when Aguero was mulling over his options on where to go next and experts suggested that Tuchel’s side was an option, the most compelling argument in favor of such a deal seemed to be that they would not have to face the striker he has scored 15 goals in 22 games against them.