Champions League Final 2021 Preview

This Saturday is the UEFA Champions League final, and the all-English matchup is sure to be exciting.

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photo courtesy of uefa.com

Raheem Sterling and N’golo Kante battled in Manchester City’s 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge earlier this season

Christiaan Titus, Staff Writer

After 124 games between a total of 32 teams that included incredible goals, unexpected drama, and unbelievable saves, only two teams remain. They both have their sights set on the ultimate prize: the UEFA Champions League.

The game will take place on Saturday, May 29 at 3 PM Eastern time and features two English rivals, Manchester City and Chelsea. It will be played in Porto, Portugal, and it should be a pulsating clash and an instant Champions League classic.

An all English Champions League final is something that has only happened three times in the competition’s existence. This year’s final will be the second time two Premier League sides compete in the past three seasons.

With both teams being domestic rivals, it makes it easier to compare the sides and even look at the matches they have played against each other this season. The first league meeting between the two ended in a comfortable 3-1 win for Manchester City at Stamford Bridge. City’s three goals in the first half were scored by Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne, before Chelsea youngster, Callum Hudson-Odoi, grabbed a late consolation.

But much has changed since then. Chelsea was struggling at the time, going into that match with one win in their last six games. They have since made a managerial change, bringing in former PSG manager and Champions League finalist Thomas Tuchel to replace club legend, Frank Lampard. Lampard has really turned things around for West londoners, losing just twice in his 25 games in charge and guiding the Blues to third place in the league.

For Manchester City, things are going just as smoothly, despite a few notable slip ups in recent months. They are top of the league, ten points clear of their city rivals, Manchester United, and are just one win away from winning the Premier League title. They also won the League Cup for the fourth time in a row this season, beating Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 at Wembley.

However, they have lost twice to Chelsea in less than a month, including a 1-0 loss in the FA Cup semi finals and most recently suffered a late 2-1 defeat at the Etihad when all time top scorer Sergio Aguero missed a penalty in first half stoppage time and let back Marcos Alonso grab a stoppage time winner for Chelsea.

With these two recent results, Tuchel’s men will certainly believe that they can defeat the Mancunians in the most important game of the season. On the other hand, their FA cup finals versus Leicester two weeks before the final, and their focus on qualifying for next seasons edition of the Champions League by finishing in the top four, may serve as a distraction. This might give Manchester City a slight advantage.

It has been an incredible journey for both of these teams this season, and it’s worth taking a look at how they each reached the final of Europe’s elite club competition.

Manchester City easily topped some somewhat weak competition, winning five of their six games and drawing the other. They also only conceded one goal. Their team consisted of the Greek giants Olympiacos, the exciting FC Porto, and the severely disappointing Marseille, making things relatively easy for the Citizens in the group stage.

They continued this play into the knockout rounds, comfortably beating German side Borussia Monchengladbach 4-0 on aggregate before facing a much tougher test against another German side, Borussia Dortmund. However, after a hard fought tie that saw City narrowly win 2-1 at home, courtesy of a last minute Foden game winner, City found themselves in the Champions League semi finals, where they faced fellow mega rich club Paris Saint-Germain.

On the surface, this should have been there toughest test of the competition, but all things considered, the Parisians made things relatively painless for their English counterparts, due to their poor discipline and a lack of attacking threat after the first half. Riyad Mahrez curled in a delightful freekick to give City a 2-1 win before an incredible performance by centerbacks Ruben Dias and John Stones at the Etihad restricted PSG to zero shots on target. This gave City a comfortable 4-1 win on aggregate, with Mahrez scoring a brace in the second leg.

Their top scorers in the UCL have been Riyad Mahrez and summer signing Ferran Torres, who each have four goals. Kevin De Bruyne has provided a team-high four assists in the competition. 20 year old Foden has also impressed, scoring three goals himself and providing three assists. City has gone through the entire competition this year unbeaten, only failing to win on one occasion. and they look almost insurmountable.

As for Chelsea, their path to the Champions League final has not come quite as easily, although it has still been incredibly impressive. The Blues also topped a weak group, finishing above the likes of Sevilla, Krasnodar, and Rennes. They too went undefeated in their group, winning four games and drawing two. This included an unforgettable 4-0 win in Seville that saw bit part striker Olivier Giroud score four goals.

Despite Giroud’s early heroics in the competition, he has featured little since and Tuchel has preferred to start summer signing Kai Havertz in the centre forward role with Timo Werner in behind.

The Blues then travelled to Seville again to face FC Porto at a neutral venue in the quarter finals due to COVID 19 restrictions. Things looked comfortable, after academy product Mason Mount and summer signing Ben Chilwell handed Chelsea a 2-0 win in the first leg. However, the Blues suffered an inconsequential 1-o loss in the second leg, making for a nervy finish.

Next up for Chelsea were the Spanish giants Real Madrid, in the semifinals, and the first leg at Alfredo di Stefano Stefano ended in a promising 1-1 draw, with American Christian Pulisic opening the scoring before Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema tied the game later in the first half. The second leg, however, is where Chelsea really shined. Timo Werner opened the scoring before Mason Mount sealed the result in the final ten minutes to send Chelsea through, 3-1 winners on aggregate. Madrid never seemed to trouble Chelsea at the bridge, and it ended up being a famous European night for Chelsea.

Chelsea’s top scorer in the competition was Giroud with six goals, although he likely won’t start in the final over Havertz or Werner. Edouard Mendy has also impressed, keeping a competition-high eight clean sheets this year. Despite the Blues single loss in the competition, they are just as deserving of their spot in the Champions League final and have a great chance of defeating Manchester City.

Whatever the score is, this will be an incredibly exciting affair that will be remembered by all those who watch.