Premier League rivals Chelsea and Manchester City will go head-to-head in the Champions League final at the Estádio do Dragão tomorrow night, and whilst Premier League champions Man City are the heavy favourites in the Champions League winner odds, many are beginning to question whether Chelsea’s two recent victories over Pep Guardiola’s side will give the west Londoners the upper hand.
With Man City tipped for an historic quadruple, not many people gave Chelsea a chance when the sides met in the FA Cup semi-final last month. Yet, Hakim Ziyech’s second-half strike secured a dogged 1-0 victory and Chelsea’s place in the final.
Less than a month later, Thomas Tuchel’s men rained on City’s parade again — extending their wait to regain the Premier League title from Liverpool’s trophy cabinet. Raheem Sterling fired the hosts into the lead late in the first half before Sergio Agüero’s Panenka penalty was easily saved by Edouard Mendy on the brink of half-time.
City were made to pay for the Argentine’s mistake in the second half as Ziyech fired his low effort from the edge of the box past Ederson and into the bottom corner before Timo Werner set up Marcos Alonso for an injury-time winner.
Those victories have led to speculation that Tuchel has gotten under Guardiola’s skin and that the Blues will head into the Champions League final with a psychological advantage over the heavy market favourites.
The victory meant little in the title race as it was just a matter of time before City wrapped up the league. However, there’s no doubt that with the Champions League final just around the corner, both sides would have wanted to win to stamp their authority before the big game.
The odds may be against Chelsea, but they will go into the final knowing that they have what it takes to beat Guardiola’s side, and they will surely be confident of doing so having got the better of the Premier League champions twice in quick succession.
In fact, Tuchel is becoming somewhat of a thorn in the Catalan manager’s side. In their four meetings, Guardiola has won just once, defeating Tuchel’s Borussia Dortmund in the German Cup final on penalties whilst at Bayern Munich.
With the German seemingly knowing how to keep Guardiola shtum, the worry for Man City fans now is that the 50-year-old overthinks his tactics ahead of the final. Guardiola has become infamous for overthinking throughout his career and given how he tinkered in the side’s Premier League meeting earlier this month, it looks likely that he will change things up again for the Champions League final.
Following his side’s victory at the Etihad Stadium, Tuchel was quick to rule out the successive victories having an impact on the Champions League final. However, he did admit that his men now know how to beat City and that will help in the showpiece match.
“As I have said before, this result will not change the final,” the German gaffer said. “We will arrive with the knowledge we are capable of beating City. This is what we have now, and this will not change until [the final].”
Chelsea will undoubtedly have an edge heading into the game, but if Manchester City are at their best, they will be a tough nut to crack. Despite the two defeats, Guardiola’s men will still be the favourites, and it would be no surprise to see them lifting the Champions League trophy for the first time on Saturday night.