Manchester City take on their famed opponents Chelsea in the final match of the 2020–21 UEFA Champions League competition on 29 May 2021, Saturday at the Estadio do Dragao in Porto, Portugal. The Cityzens from Manchester have been designated as the home team for this occasion and one can safely assume that they will also enter it as favourites. However, it has to be noted that quite recently, in the English Premier League competition as well as the FA Cup, Chelsea had unceremoniously defeated Manchester City. In the former, Chelsea went ahead by a 2–1 scoreline while in the latter, they beat them 1–0. This will remain in the collective memory of Manchester City and their fans and ensure that they do not take this encounter lightly at all. The visiting side Chelsea, who are very good at reading situations and converting them into their favour, can take hope from the fact that Manchester City have never played in a Champions League final before.
However, there is very little to suggest that Pep Guardiola’s Blues from Manchester are going to be daunted by the fact that this is going to be their first time in a major European final. Of course, Manchester City have tasted European glory by winning the 1969–1970 UEFA Cup Winners Cup by beating Gornik Zabrze of Poland in the final, but as of 2021, that remains their only piece of continental silverware. Plus, of course, the Cup Winners Cup was a competition contested by the winners of domestic cup competition winners and did not really matter in the long run. Chelsea, on the other hand, have won the UEFA Champions League once, by beating Bayern Munich via penalties in the final of the 2011–12 season and have contested in the final of the 2007–08 competition, which they lost to Manchester United (ironically by penalties, in Moscow.)
OVERVIEW OF MANCHESTER CITY- STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
There is certainly no doubt that Manchester City are one of the strongest teams in England, and in fact, the whole of Europe. Ever since they were bought by the royals from the Middle East, Manchester City have spent a bucketload of money get players that their managers desire. They have not shied away from improving their training facilities nor have they given any excuses for not getting the best in class things and materials for their players and support staff. It will not be incorrect to state that Manchester City is one of those few clubs who go all the way for their players and who do not hesitate to spend even gargantuan amounts to acquire players who they think can bolster their lineup. While this strategy of theirs has been criticised by other clubs in England, it has brought them results.
It will be difficult to point out in which arena Manchester City are not particular strong. Their attackers consist of some of the best players in their world and their defence is well known for keeping shots away and block even the most innocuous of ones even when they have gone up in a match. Their attackers include the likes of Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez, Gabriel Jesus, Ferran Torresm Sergio Aguero and Phil Foden, who have all contributed whenever their chances have arisen. Their midfield has some of the best players in the world including Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva, Fernandinho, new signing Rodri and the genius Kevin de Bruyne.
Similarly, their defence, which has got a new lease of life after new signing Ruben Dias was introduced, consists of some very tough and solid technical defenders in John Stones, Aymeric Laporte and Joao Cancelo. In particular, the Portuguese defensive duo of Ruben Dias and Joao Cancelo has been brilliant for manager Pep Guardiola and there is no doubt in our minds that even their backup players such as Oleksandr Zinchenko and Kyle Walker can step up whenever their time comes for doing so.
One of the biggest weaknesses and chinks in the Manchester City armour is their strike force. Veteran Sergio Aguero, whose antics won them the Premier League a decade ago against Queens Park Rangers, has not signed a new contract and is bound to sign for Barcelona as a free agent this summer. He has been unavailable most of this season due to injury and his deputy Gabriel Jesus has not really lit the Etihad up with his fireworks in the Argentine’s absence. Although Aguero netted a couple of goals for City after coming off the bench against Everton in Manchester City’s final game of the Premier League season, manager Guardiola will lose sleep over whom he would want to start on Saturday against Chelsea.
A peculiar thing that Guardiola has done all season is going with a false nine when the likes of Phil Foden or Kevin de Bruyne have stepped up to play as the sole striker when both Aguero and Jesus have been unavailable. This tactic has been successful too but it remains to be seen whether the Catalan mastermind will be willing to take such a risk in the final. Manchester City have also been exposed in the flanks on some occasions and Guardiola will have to make sure that he finds an able partner to Joao Cancelo. Kyle Walker has been brilliant in the Premier League this season and he can play on the right hand side while Cancelo patrols the left wing with his speed and accuracy.
OVERVIEW OF CHELSEA- STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
Chelsea are a very interesting side who have got quite a lot going for them. While it can be argued that it was former manager Frank Lampard who built them from scratch and made them the world-beating force that they are today, new coach Thomas Tuchel’s role cannot be underplayed. Although it was Lampard who had to undergo an entire season with a transfer ban and who built up much of the squad that the Blues from London have today, Tuchel has infused a new philosophy of ‘total football’ and a new style of attack which has brought a lot of confidence to the fans of Chelsea.
Chelsea have a very strong midfield and on whichever day the duo of Jorginho and N’golo Kante fire, it is going to be very difficult for their opponents to even get a sniff of the ball. While Jorginho, who plays as the regista in the team and was brought by former manager Mauricio Sarri to Stamford Bridge, likes to dig deep and break up play as well as work on his distribution skills, the self-effacing Kante, signed from the title-winning Leicester City side, is adept at winning the ball from his opponents in case his teammates lose it.
Mateo Kovacic, who was earlier here on loan but has now made that move permanent, only adds to the spice that is created by Jorginho and Kante and one can safely say that this is where the most of Chelsea’s games are built. Attacking midfielder Mason Mount has excellent awareness and skills with the ball that can be matched by very few players across Europe. His abilities off the ball are enviable too. Chelsea have adopted a very rigorous passing policy under new manager Tuchel and it has served them well.
If Chelsea have any major weakness, then it is most definitely in their attacking territory. There have been very few occasions on which they have found the back of the net with as much of ease and grace as they would have hoped to. The likes of Kai Havertz and Timo Werner, in their first seasons at the club, have been utter disappointments as has the less-playing Tammy Abraham. The fact of the matter is that it is central midfielder Jorginho who is the side’s leading goalscorer in the Premier League with 7 strikes (as he is the designated penalty taker for the side.) It has hurt the Blues tremendously that they have not had anyone at the end of the wonderful passes that their midfielders seem to generate.
Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech have shown in patches how exquisite their abilities with the ball at their feet are but it has never reached a level of consistency. This needs to change and if Chelsea wish to contest against Manchester City on an even pegging on Saturday in the final of the Champions League, then they will have to score goals, and lots of them. The likes of Kai Havertz and Timo Werner need to rediscover their form and make sure that they do not end the evening shamefaced.
This game between Manchester City and Chelsea in the final of the UEFA Champions League competition on Saturday will be watched widely across the world.
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This game can be pretty balanced but we feel that Manchester City, with their superior squad strength, are a bit more strong than their counterparts from London. It will be a real surprise to me if Manchester City do not make it as Chelsea have very little chance of standing the tough test which they can be subjected to by Pep Guardiola. However, the reader will also have to remember that only recently Chelsea have had two consecutive wins over Manchester City. While that will give Chelsea some much needed boost before this clash, Manchester City will be smarting and hoping to avenge their loss.