TNT Sports Reload - Episode 11Sep 26
It all comes down to this!
Can City secure their first ever Champions League trophy - or will the Blues poop Pep's party in Porto?
Tim Williams - Man City 2-1 Chelsea
Nearly 13 years after Sheikh Mansour acquired Man City with the express purpose of transforming them from also-rans to all-conquerors, they will finally complete their owner’s ambitious project in Porto.
The peerless Pep Guardiola - victorious in 14 of his 15 major finals as a manager - has crafted an irrepressible squad ready to claim the holy grail against a Chelsea side who limped into the Premier League’s top four despite final day defeat to Aston Villa.
After years of European heartache, City have cleared several psychological barriers en route to the picturesque Portuguese city in a mature fashion which will stand them in good stead for Saturday’s all-English affair.
After a ferocious start, Chelsea’s momentum has stalled under Thomas Tuchel and goals have been at a premium in recent weeks.
In Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez and Kevin De Bruyne, City will have enough to edge a tight contest.
Rob Cottingham - Man City 2-1 Chelsea
Guardiola will finally bring home Manchester City’s first-ever European Cup in Porto and make Sheikh Mansour’s dreams a reality.
City are simply a stronger team than Chelsea, even if the Blues have been revived under Tuchel. Guardiola’s men finished 19 points better off than Saturday’s opponents in the Premier League and should have too much firepower in Portugal.
Granted, Chelsea have beaten City twice this season. The FA Cup semi-final was perhaps City’s worst performance of the campaign and last month’s 2-1 loss was with Guardiola’s side already meandering towards the Premier League title.
Chelsea will create chances but their wastefulness in front of goal – as demonstrated once again at Aston Villa – will ultimately cost them.
On the flip side City’s striker-less system is the most dangerous line-up in Europe right now and should pull apart an otherwise stubborn Chelsea defence.
George Mills - Man City 3-1 Chelsea
A couple of weeks ago I may have felt a little more uncertain in my prediction, but after Chelsea’s recent poor run of form I can’t see any other result than a Man City win.
Tuchel’s men don’t score half as many goals as they should – perfectly surmised by Timo Werner’s ongoing struggles – and the German coach will be sweating on the fitness of key men Eduoard Mendy and N’Golo Kante for the trip to Porto too.
City, meanwhile, teed themselves up perfectly for the final with a 5-0 battering of Everton on the last day of the season that saw Sergio Aguero wave goodbye to the Etihad with a brace in less than half an hour of play.
It speaks to the astonishing depth and quality of Guardiola’s squad that his inclusion in the starting line-up is far from a sure thing.
Ruben Dias is probably the only certainty on the team sheet, aside from Ederson, and the 24-year-old deserves a Champions League winner’s medal to reward his transformative impact on a once-shaky City back line.
Much has been made of Pep’s failure to win the tournament outside of his Barcelona tenure but at the helm of arguably his most complete side since, I expect the 50-year-old to break the hex in comfortable fashion.
Callum Davis - Man City 1-1 (p) Chelsea
Manchester City are so close they can almost taste it.
A grand project 13 years and over £1 billion in the making is one game away from fruition.
As the club prepares for the biggest game in its history, the weight of expectation is growing day by day. Indeed, how Guardiola and his side handle the pressure of ending the club's European wait will go a long way to deciding the outcome of the final.
In a season in which City have swept all before them in European and domestic competition, Chelsea have been the lone thorn in their side.
This weekend sees the two Premier League rivals lock horns for the fourth time this season with Chelsea winning two of the last three encounters.
While City beat Frank Lampard's Chelsea 3-1 back in January, with a victory that kicked off a record-breaking winning streak, Blues boss Tuchel has outfoxed Guardiola twice since taking over at Stamford Bridge.
Guardiola's head-to-head record against his opposite number provides scant comfort in what is set to be the Catalan's first appearance in the competition's showpiece for a decade.
After losing his first three managerial meetings with Guardiola in all competitions, Tuchel is currently unbeaten in his last four encounters with the ex-Barca boss.
Don't bet against party-pooper Tuchel becoming the latest man to break City hearts as the newly-crowned champions of England look to conquer Europe for the first time.
Martin Robbins - Man City 1-0 Chelsea
It must be worrying for Chelsea fans to know they have lost three of the last four games. Better preparation would be to smash five past your most recent opponent.
City seem so hungry to win and look dangerous, scoring an average of 2.18 goals per game this season including 11 in their last three.
There’s a a glimmer of hope for Chelsea, as City have let both Brighton and Newcastle put three past them in the last couple of weeks.
However, I imagine the usual solid defence will be back for this huge game and I can’t see Chelsea pinching it - they’re too wasteful upfront and won’t be given many opportunities.
Ross Kelsall - Man City 2-0 Chelsea
Guardiola is famed for ‘over-thinking’ team selections for key games and City fans will hope he’s already got that out of the way in the two recent defeats to Tuchel’s Chelsea.
Having outclassed Frank Lampard’s side in early January, the Premier League champions altered the winning formula – both in terms of formation and personnel – in both the FA Cup semi-final and the league defeat just three weeks prior to the final.
City’s ‘first team’ have yet to face off against Tuchel’s rejuvenated west Londoners and that’s why I don’t believe you can read into the recent encounters too significantly.
The treble-chasers played at least one recognised striker in both of those defeats for example, something they’re unlikely to do in Porto – although never say never with Pep!
Allied with Guardiola’s finals record and their new-found defensive steel this season I predict a maiden Champions League crown for Manchester City.
Alex Bowmer - Man City 2-0 Chelsea
A few weeks ago I had a sneaking suspicion that Chelsea would end the season with two trophies, matching Manchester City’s total.
Tuchel’s men were riding high after beating Real Madrid and then backing up that win with a statement victory at the Etihad to delay City’s Premier League title celebrations.
However, following the Blues’ disappointing display against Leicester in the FA Cup final and defeat to Aston Villa on Sunday, it feels like the momentum has shifted once more.
The pressure is obviously on Guardiola to deliver the club’s first Champions League trophy, but the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss has won all five domestic finals he has overseen since arriving in England and I can’t see things being any different in Porto.
Despite Tuchel’s start at Stamford Bridge, defeat might spell the end of his time in SW6.
Stranger things have happened.