By Nikhil Pradeep
The UEFA Champions League Final kicks off this Saturday at the Estádio do Dragão in Porto, Portugal, in which two Premier League heavyweights face off for Europe’s most desired trophy. Manchester City and Chelsea have had stellar seasons, although both have come from far different beginnings and gone through wildly different circumstances. In this brief overview of Saturday’s matchup, we discuss how these two football clubs got to this point and our predictions for the Final.
Manchester City came into this season with huge expectations, but that seems to be the norm surrounding the club nowadays. As seems usual, the team went into this season having signed big names in the transfer window over the summer. These include players such as Nathan Ake, Ferran Torres, and most notably, Ruben Dias for a combined sum of nearly 150 million Euros. Their season did not start the best, having lost a couple of games within the Premier League and FA Cup, causing supporters and teams to think that maybe the club had finally lost its form. City then ripped off a 15-game winning streak which saw them skyrocket to the top of the Premier League table and win the league trophy and carried this momentum through the qualifying and pre-final stages of the UCL as well. Since this streak, they’ve dropped points here and there, but all-around look unstoppable in all senses of the word. The club has relied on the ingenious tactics of Pep Guardiola, who once again shows that his rather unconventional style of play from his midfielders and full-backs gets results and gets them in dominating fashion. A prime example of this was their semi-final matchup against PSG, where Joao Cancelo, Kevin De Buyne, and Ruben Dias easily shut down the strikeforce of Neymar, Mbappe, and Di Maria, making them look completely out of sorts and nowhere near the quality they possess. This City team has been one of the standouts in their club history, worrying for any opponent.
On the opposite side of this spectrum, Chelsea Football Club has seen more highs and lows in this one season than Manchester City has in the last 10 years as a club. The campaign started with the high-profile hiring of club legend Frank Lampard as manager and big-name summer transfers like Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner, and Kai Havertz. There was tons of promise for this team, and many pegged them to be challenging for the Premier League title and European tournaments. As the year went on, these signings never lived up to their expectations, and Lampard’s inexperience as a manager started to show signs of causing issues within the club. Chelsea saw themselves slip as low as 8th place in the Premier League and after more and more lackluster results, Lampard was sacked. To replace him as manager was Thomas Tuchel, former manager of Dortmund and PSG. Since Tuchel’s arrival, Chelsea has looked a completely new and improved side, with absolutely immense performances from Christian Pulisic, Eduard Mendy and improved performances from most of their summer transfers as well, namely Timo Werner. The club currently sits at 18 wins, 6 draws, and 5 losses since his arrival, a major improvement compared to their form earlier in the year. Chelsea carries a good amount of momentum into this Champions League final.
Given City’s dominant form as of late, as well as their talent as compared to Chelsea’s, I do not see them getting beat, especially during a game of this magnitude. The key to this game lies in City’s defense and Chelsea’s attack. Manchester City has spent a great deal to bolster their defense this season, and the partnership of Ruben Dias and John Stones has proven to be the toughest to break in all of Europe all season long. Chelsea’s attack consisting of Werner, Havertz, and Pulisic, along with whoever Tuchel decides to employ, need to make commanding runs into the box and convert on counter-attack opportunities to have a decent chance of winning this tournament and breaking the Manchester City hold on the match. If Chelsea prioritizes defense, they will not have enough firepower in attack to create any separation from City to get the result they need and spend the entire game on the backfoot, which again plays right into Guardiola’s hand. Thus, I predict Manchester City to win the UCL Final by a score of 3-1 and complete the season double of the Premier League and UCL Title.