The biggest game in European club football is almost here, the Uefa Champions League final, Manchester City and Chelsea will contest it.
After beating Real Madrid 3-1 on aggregate, Chelsea set up the second all-English final in three years, after Liverpool beat Tottenham 2-0 in 2019. Manchester City ensured they progressed to their first-ever European Cup final after they defeated Paris St-Germain.
Chelsea won this competition for the only time back in 2012, while their head coach Thomas Tuchel was a beaten finalist with PSG last year.
When is the Champions League final?
This years final takes place on Saturday, May 29.
Where is it?
The Champions League final has been switched to Portugal, with Chelsea and Manchester City allocated 6,000 tickets each.
Uefa announced Porto as host after a week of chaotic talks following the UK putting the original location of Istanbul on its Covid-19 travel “red list.”
The governing body’s first choice was to bring the match to Wembley, but “exhaustive” negotiations broke down over the Government’s refusal to grant quarantine exemptions for 2,000 VIPs, staff, and media.
Uefa president Aleksander Čeferin recognized it had been a challenging week as he confirmed the all-English final had been moved from the Ataturk Stadium to Estádio do Dragão.
“We accept that the decision of the British Government to place Turkey on the red list for travel was taken in good faith and in the best interests of protecting its citizens from the spread of the virus, but it also presented us with a major challenge in staging a final featuring two English teams,” he said
Who is in the final?
Manchester City and Chelsea.
MANCHESTER CITY (ENG)
UEFA ranking: 3
European Cup best: final (2021)
Last season: quarter-finals (L vs. Lyon)
Record: W11 D1 L0 F25 A4
Top scorer: Riyad Mahrez, Ferran Torres (4)
Semi-finals: 4-1 vs Paris
Quarter-finals: 4-2 vs Dortmund
Round of 16: 4-0 vs Mönchengladbach
Group C: winners
Why they can win it
England’s champions have the bit between their teeth in Europe this season. Their attacking brilliance is long-established, but they’ve added greater defensive solidity, with only four goals conceded in their 12 games played so far. If overcoming their quarter-final hoodoo was a boost to their self-belief, the manner of their semi-final triumph against Paris has indeed banished any doubts about City’s ability to go all the way.
Campaign so far
The most telling point about City’s group stage campaign was that it ended with the competition’s best defensive record, with just one goal shipped following Rúben Dias’ arrival to join a revitalized John Stones central defense. After winning Group C, they posted home and away wins against Gladbach and Dortmund before sealing their place in the final with two magnificent victories over 2020 finalists Paris.
Josep Guardiola has used a false-nine system to significant effect this season, with Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, and even Ilkay Gündoğan all taking turns as the spearhead of City’s attack. Thus far, having suffocated opponents with their relentless pressing and clockwork passing, the Citizens are unlikely to change their approach in Porto. As Guardiola said: “We are used to playing a certain way. We cannot do it differently.”
The City has an embarrassment of riches, but De Bruyne remains their creator-in-chief. His elegance, vision, and excellent passing range – not to mention his driving runs and spectacular finishing – make him one of the most enjoyable players to watch in world football.
Who’s in charge?
In 12 seasons as a first-team boss, Guardiola has lifted nine league titles, but the last of his two managerial UEFA Champions League winners’ medals came in 2011. Now he has his sights set on becoming just the sixth coach to win the European Cup with two different clubs.
UEFA ranking: 12
European Cup best: winners (2012)
Last season: round of 16 (L vs. Bayern)
Record: W8 D3 L1 F22 A4
Top scorer: Olivier Giroud (6)
Semi-finals: 3-1 vs. Real Madrid
Quarter-finals: 2-1 vs Porto
Round of 16: 3-0 vs. Atlético
Group E: winners
Why they can win it
Beaten only five times since Thomas Tuchel took charge, Chelsea is starting to gel under their German coach. If the front players can continue their progress over the past few months, there is nothing – and no one – for Chelsea to fear. They changed manager mid-season when they won this trophy in 2012, so who’s to say lightning won’t strike twice? Their recent wins against City give them further reason to believe.
Campaign so far
An almost flawless group stage, founded on a solid defense and the record-breaking Edouard Mendy in goal, set Chelsea on their way. The much-vaunted Atlético seldom threatened them in the round of 16, then saw off battling Porto before overcoming 13-time champions Real Madrid in the last four.
Chelsea will approach the final as they have done every other game under Tuchel: hard to break down at the back and waiting for chances to come at the other end. Naturally, the City will be favorites, but Tuchel has already beaten them twice in recent weeks – the FA Cup semi and the Premier League encounter in Manchester – and he will treat this the same way. The manner of their victory against Madrid shows their mettle, that’s for sure.
N’Golo Kanté maybe 30 now, but his influence is showing no sign of diminishing. He wins trophies, pure and simple, and his engine is just incredible. The midfielder covers every blade of grass, disrupts the opposition – just ask Luka Modrić and Toni Kroos – and seldom wastes the ball. So it’s no wonder his trophy cabinet is bulging.
Who’s in charge?
The first man to lead two different clubs to successive UEFA Champions League finals, Tuchel has been a revelation since his January appointment. He won back-to-back titles in France with Paris and reached the final last season, having had success in Germany with Dortmund before that.
Can Pep Guardiola win his third European Cup – and first since he left Barcelona – and in the process lead City to the trophy, their owners crave above all others? Or will Tuchel enter Chelsea folklore alongside Roberto Di Matteo as the only other manager to lead the club to glory in the biggest cup competition in Europe? Coincidentally, like Tuchel, the Italian Di Matteo was parachuted into the Stamford Bridge hot seat after Roman Abramovich sacked his manager in the middle of the season.
Regardless of who wins, both teams have assured qualification for next season’s Champions League after City finished 1st and Chelsea 4th in the Premier League.
When was the last all-English Champions League final?
Only two years ago, when Liverpool beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in Madrid. The 2008 final was also an all-English affair when Chelsea lost to Manchester United
Will English fans be allowed to attend?
Yes. The Government has lifted its ban on non-essential travel as part of the subsequent easing of lockdown rules. This has seen the introduction of a traffic-light system in which those traveling to countries rated “green” have to pay for Covid-19 tests before they leave the UK and return. Portugal has been designated “green,” meaning fans will be able to attend without the need to quarantine on their return to the UK.