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Preview: Manchester City vs. Chelsea - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Saturday's Champions League final between Manchester City and Chelsea, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Blue is the colour for this year's Champions League final, as Manchester City and Chelsea board their flights to Porto seeking to end the strangest of seasons with the biggest prize of them all.

Pep Guardiola's men advanced to the showpiece event after dumping Paris Saint-Germain out in the semi-finals, while all-time greats Real Madrid were no match for Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea.

A raucous 16,500-strong crowd will take their seats at the Estadio do Dragao for Saturday's showpiece event, as City endeavour to win the tournament for the first time while their opponents aim to channel the spirits of the 2012 luminaries.


Match preview

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola reacts on May 8, 2021© Reuters

Barcelona, Bavaria, Manchester - Pep Guardiola has conquered them all. On the European stage, however, the Catalan coach has flattered to deceive since taking control of the reins at the Etihad Stadium.

City's dominance of the EFL Cup scene is unparalleled, their fifth Premier League title win was all but wrapped up a couple of months ago, and having tried and failed four times previously to break the quarter-final curse, Guardiola will finally lead his Sky Blues out for the Champions League final.

Despite taking their foot off the gas in the Premier League since the start of the month - which hardly mattered at all in the grand scheme of things - Guardiola's men have been almost unplayable in Europe, with Borussia Monchengladbach, Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain all falling victim to the Citizens' superiority in the knockout rounds.

After Riyad Mahrez's intelligent free kick gave City a 2-1 first-leg advantage in their semi-final with PSG, the admirable Algerian was up to his old tricks once again in the second leg, netting in either half to secure a 4-1 aggregate triumph for Guardiola's side en route to Portugal.

Manchester City's Riyad Mahrez celebrates scoring against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on April 28, 2021© Reuters

A goalless stalemate with Porto - whose stadium is hosting this year's showpiece event amid never-ending coronavirus controversy - represents the only minor blip during City's inspiring continental run, as they have secured victories in 11 of their 12 games in the tournament this year, including each of their last seven.

The astute acquisition of Ruben Dias and marked improvement of John Stones at the back has also led to City shipping a mere four goals in the 2020-21 Champions League - although three of those have come in their last four outings - and the Premier League champions signed off in style on the final day of the Premier League season at the weekend.

Indeed, Everton's defence was breached at will by Guardiola's merciless crop, who eased to a 5-0 success over the Toffees courtesy of strikes from Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden, Gabriel Jesus and record-breaker Sergio Aguero (two) in front of the returning Etihad faithful.

Guardiola's name is already etched into managerial folklore, but having led Barcelona to Champions League triumphs in 2009 and 2011, he could join the elite crowd of Bob Paisley, Carlo Ancelotti and Zinedine Zidane with a third winners' medal, and the 50-year-old needs no added incentive to get the job done in Portugal.

The City manager was born nearly nine months after the Sky Blues last added a European trophy to their glistening cabinet - the 1970 Cup Winners' Cup - and with the prospect of a domestic and European treble still on the line, their familiar opponents must produce 90 minutes of near-perfection if they are to prolong City's continental misery.

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel pictured on April 10, 2021© Reuters

Like his adversary, Thomas Tuchel is a man who knows all about European heartache, having come so close yet so far with PSG last year, and one can only begin to imagine the stakes if the German was to come up against his former employers in the showpiece event.

However, while the club that relieved him of his duties was being nullified by Man City's impenetrable defence, Tuchel focused on the task at hand against perennial champions Real Madrid, whose talisman Karim Benzema rescued a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their semi-final following Christian Pulisic's opener.

Even in the absence of the impassioned Stamford Bridge crowd, Chelsea did all of their talking on the pitch in the second leg as they secured a richly-deserved 2-0 success over Los Blancos, who first conceded to Timo Werner's close-range effort before Chelsea's Player of the Year Mason Mount made sure of the win on the 85-minute mark.

It can be argued that Tuchel is still finding his feet in English football after just six months in the role - which makes Chelsea's run to the Champions League final all the more impressive - but unlike City, the capital side do not have the wind in their sails ahead of Saturday's showdown.

Chelsea's Ben Chilwell looks dejected after Aston Villa's Bertrand Traore scores on May 23, 2021© Reuters

Indeed, a 1-0 derby defeat to Arsenal on May 12 preceded an FA Cup final loss to Leicester City just a few days later, and despite gaining revenge on the Foxes in front of a roaring Stamford Bridge crowd, Chelsea's season ended in disappointment with a lowly 2-1 defeat to Aston Villa on the final day of the Premier League campaign.

Three defeats from four before a continental final is not exactly a recipe for success, but thankfully for Tuchel and the ever-demanding Chelsea board, Leicester's late defeat to Tottenham Hotspur means that the Blues secured fourth spot and a route into Europe's premier competition should their efforts in Portugal prove futile.

Furthermore, Tuchel's commitment to solid defensive foundations has seen the Blues also ship just four goals in their 12 Champions League games so far - although Frank Lampard can take some credit for that - and Porto's inconsequential 1-0 win in the quarter-final second leg is their only defeat in the tournament this season.

With the demons of four consecutive last-16 finishes firmly banished, Chelsea's trigger-happy hierarchy can surely look ahead to a bright future under Tuchel after his overwhelmingly successful time in the dugout, although the story could have panned out a lot differently had the Blues slipped out of the top four.

Nevertheless, having become the first manager in history to reach the Champions League final two years in a row with two different clubs, Tuchel will undoubtedly be desperate to go one better this time around.

However, whatever transpires over the course of 90 or 120 minutes - or even a 22-strike penalty shootout - at the Estadio do Dragao, one thing is for certain; the Champions League trophy will return home to English soil.

Manchester City Champions League form:
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W

Manchester City form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • L
  • W

Chelsea Champions League form:
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • L
  • D
  • W

Chelsea form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • L
  • L
  • W
  • L



Team News

Sergio Aguero pictured during his final Premier League game for Manchester City on May 23, 2021© Reuters

Man City boss Guardiola once again has the unenviable task of selecting from a fully-fit squad for Saturday's final, as Ilkay Gundogan is expected to brush off a recent injury scare sustained in training.

Gundogan should therefore man the midfield alongside Bernardo Silva - who is aiming to extend his unbeaten Champions League streak to 27 games - while Fernandinho's exemplary showing against PSG could see him rewarded with a start over Rodri.

Joao Cancelo was nowhere to be seen against Everton and is facing an uphill battle to displace Oleksandr Zinchenko on the left-hand side, with Kyle Walker all but guaranteed to start on the right.

Guardiola's policy of leaving out a recognised number nine in the Champions League continues to work wonders, and the City boss has affirmed that there can be no room for sentiment, so Sergio Aguero may be forced to cope with a substitute outing in his final game for the club.

Aguero on the bench would allow Kevin De Bruyne to function as a false nine with Foden and Mahrez alongside him, with the former set to become the third-youngest English player to feature from the first whistle in the Champions League final.

Chelsea boss Tuchel does have a couple of concerns to manage for the showpiece event, though, as first-choice goalkeeper Edouard Mendy had to be replaced at half time against Villa after colliding with the post.

Tuchel is optimistic that Mendy will be able to pull on the gloves this weekend, though, and N'Golo Kante is also expected to be fit despite missing the final day of the Premier League season with a thigh issue.

Cesar Azpilicueta has had his red card at Villa Park rescinded, although that would not have affected his participation in the final, and the Spaniard should take his rightful place in the back three alongside Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger.

A fit-again Mateo Kovacic will aim to demote Jorginho to the bench after playing a minor role in Real Madrid's previous Champions League successes, and Kante ought to be well enough to man the engine room.

Mount is untouchable in the front three, and Tuchel has two huge calls to make in the final third, but compatriots Timo Werner and Kai Havertz could be trusted in Porto.

Manchester City possible starting lineup:
Ederson; Walker, Dias, Stones, Zinchenko; Fernandinho, Gundogan, Silva; Mahrez, De Bruyne, Foden

Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Mendy; Azpilicueta, Silva, Rudiger; James, Kovacic, Kante, Chilwell; Mount, Werner; Havertz


Head To Head

Saturday's Champions League final will mark the 169th meeting between Man City and Chelsea in all competitions, with the Blues boasting 70 wins compared to the Citizens' 59.

Tuchel got the better of Guardiola in the FA Cup semi-finals before overseeing a 2-1 success at the Etihad earlier this month, although Aguero's comical Panenka miss contributed to City's downfall on the day.

Despite his fluffed penalty, soon-to-be Barcelona attacker Aguero has struck 15 times in 22 games against Chelsea for City, and the two clubs have not met in Europe since the 1970-71 Cup Winners' Cup, where the capital side overcame their English rivals in the semi-finals before ultimately winning the tournament.


SM words green background

We say: Manchester City 2-0 Chelsea

Guardiola and Tuchel will know better than anyone else that form goes out the window when it comes to the Champions League final, which ought to give the Stamford Bridge faithful hope that they could be celebrating a continental crown at the end of night.

City have had a history of failing to deliver on the European stage when it matters most, but the pressure of such an occasion should not get to them this time around.

Tuchel's side will not go down waving the white flag, but we are backing Guardiola to end his agonising wait for European success with the Manchester giants.



Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting a double chance bet on a home win or an away win in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Home/Away:data


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How you voted: Man City vs Chelsea

Manchester City
54.7%
Draw
7.7%
Chelsea
37.6%
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