UCL final: Man City closing on final destination, Chelsea look to bump-start new era

May 28 – In the age of super clubs, Chelsea and Manchester City will decide who reigns supreme over Europe on Saturday in an all-English Champions League final that will be played in front of 16,500 fans in Porto, Portugal. 

At the eleventh hour, the Portuguese city replaced Istanbul as the host city for the biggest club game in world football which for the second time in three years will unite two English clubs following Liverpool’s 2-0 triumph over Tottenham in 2019. Last season, the showpiece event was also shifted from the Turkish capital because of the Covid-19 pandemic and Lisbon stepped in to host a final eight behind closed doors.

In the final, Bayern Munich triumphed 1-0 over Thomas Tuchel’s Paris Saint-Germain with no fans in the stands. On Saturday, 16,500 supporters will return to attend the fixture with each club having been allocated 6,000 tickets. Fans will have to proof they tested negative for Covid-19 to enter the venue where Thomas Tuchel will seek to ban his demons from last season and his Spanish counterpart Pep Guardiola will aim to win City their first-ever Champions League title.

In winter, Tuchel departed PSG for Chelsea and the German rejuvenated Frank Lampard’s fledgling Chelsea to mastermind a superb European campaign and secure a top-four finish in the Premier League as well. Chelsea have been defensively reliable in Europe, having conceded just four goals en route to Porto. They will need all that solidity to rebut City’s attacking waves, carried and driven by an ensemble of frightening front players like Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva, Gabriel Jesus and the departing Sergio Aguero.

This season, City also conceded only four goals in Europe, but despite the new-found defensive strength, all eyes will be on the their attacking players to deliver the holy grail for a club that specifically attracted Guardiola with a mission to conquer Europe.

In past seasons, the Spaniard overcomplicated his tactics at crucial stages of the competition, but in a campaign that saw City go back to basics he applied that blueprint with much success – the semi-finals against PSG an example – in Europe to reach the final, a remarkable turnaround for a club which languished in Division Two at the end of the 90’s but took flight in the past decade fuelled by Gulf riches.

Will Chelsea spoil City’s first final? Tuchel’s side may have the psychological advantage of winning their last two domestic encounters with City, but in those games Guardiola didn’t play a full-strength team. That will be different on Saturday when a new European champion will be crowned.

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