Battle of the Blues
The Champions League is arguably the most fabulous prize in club football. This year, it will be contested between two English teams, trying to etch their names into the history books.
The tournament first began in 1955 under the title of the European Cup. Twenty-two different teams have won the competition over the years. The most successful side is Spanish giants Real Madrid, who have won the tournament 13 times. England has produced 13 winners in total, making them the second most successful country behind Spain. The current Champions are Bayern Munich, who beat Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 in last year’s final. This will be the third time that the final has been contested between two English sides.
Chelsea will be hoping for better fortunes against English opponents this time around. They lost the first all-English final on penalties against Manchester United back in 2008. The second final was played out between Liverpool and Tottenham, with Liverpool prevailing 2-0 in 2019. However, recent odds suggest they are the underdogs to win their third final.
This is Chelsea’s third Champions League final. Both of their previous visits have ended in drama, with both games going to penalties. In the first final, they lost to Manchester United, and in the second one, they beat Bayern Munich.
They have been like a new team since Thomas Tuchel took over the helm. However, their preparation for the final will be more intense than Manchester City’s. They are still not assured of Champions League football next season so they must get a result in their final Premier League fixture on Sunday against Aston Villa.
Although they have lost two of their previous three matches, their form has been impressive as those two defeats are the only ones in ten games if you look at the bigger picture. They have picked up six wins during that period, which include two narrow victories over their Champions League final opponents.
Their route to the final has been tricky, although they only lost one leg in the knockout phase. They began by dispatching La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid, winning both legs to nil, showing what a stubborn defence they have.
Their quarter-final was not as straightforward against Portuguese Powerhouse Porto. They won the first leg 2-0 but lost the second one 1-0. In the semi-finals, they faced the most experienced and successful team in the competition in the form of Real Madrid. After a tense 1-1 draw in the first leg, many believed Madrid’s experience would take them through to the final, but Chelsea had other ideas and won the second leg 2-0 thanks to goals from Werner and Mount.
Looking at their squad for the final, they go into it in relatively good health. However, they will hope that influential midfielder Kante can shake off a recent injury to be available for the final.
Manchester City Preview
Manchester City enters their first Champions League final in great confidence as they have the English Premier League wrapped up and have the luxury of being able to rest key players this weekend in preparation for the final.
Although they have also lost two of their previous three matches, you have to take that form with a pinch of salt as they pretty much had the league wrapped up then and, as such, have tinkered with their line-up in recent weeks. Before those three games, they had won five on the bounce, which is a better indication of their form right now.
Their route to the final has been a breeze as they won all six fixtures in the knockout stages. They began with back-to-back 2-0 wins over German minnows Monchengladbach. Then in the quarter-finals, they once again faced German opposition, but this time it was in the form of Dortmund. Both legs were absolute classics, and it was City that prevailed 2-1 in both games.
In the semi-finals, they came up against last year’s beaten finalists Paris Saint-Germain. PSG took an early lead in the first leg, and it seemed that their experience would see them through to the final. However, City fought back in the second half, and two goals in seven minutes gave them the upper hand heading into the second leg. Manchester City took an early lead in that game and never looked back on their way to a comfortable 2-0 win.
City also has a clean bill of health with legendary striker Sergio Aguero the only doubt.
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