How Manchester City deal with the burden of their Champions League final defeat will be the ultimate psychological test
The morning after the night before, the images retained a haunting quality for Manchester City supporters. Never mind the sight of many of their players slumped over or stretched out along the turf at the Estádio do Dragão following the death of the Champions League dream, it was Pep Guardiola, inevitably, who best caught the frustration and despair.
The City manager had wanted to make one thing clear after the 1-0 loss to Chelsea in the final in Porto. “I’d like to say it was an exceptional, exceptional season for us,” Guardiola said, and nobody disagreed. A third Premier League title in four attempts, won by a 12-point margin, is Exhibit A for the defence, and then there has been the quality of the football: fast, incisive, technically brilliant.
Manchester City midfielder hurt in Champions League final loss
De Bruyne faces fitness race for Belgium’s first game on 12 June
Kevin De Bruyne suffered an acute fracture of the nose and an orbital fracture to his left eye socket in Manchester City’s 1-0 Champions League final defeat to Chelsea on Saturday.
The Belgian midfielder has left hospital but faces a wait regarding how the injuries heal before his availability for Euro 2020 can be determined. De Bruyne was injured in a challenge with Chelsea’s Antonio Rüdiger just before the hour mark in Porto.
Tuchel continued his remarkable transformation of Chelsea, aided by the Manchester City manager’s unexpected changes
If you gaze long into England, England gazes also into you. In his five years at Manchester City, Pep Guardiola has grappled with assumptions and sacred cows, expanded perceptions of how football may be maintained, and forced a reconsideration of the role of the goalkeeper and the centre-forward. He has changed the English game, but the English game has also changed him.
How else to explain the fact that by the end of Saturday’s Champions League final the team of the high priest of juego de posición, the most influential coach of this century , should have become reliant in its search for an equaliser on long throws from a full-back? The sight of Kyle Walker drying the ball on his shirt, preparing to launch another ball into the mixer, may have become emblematic of those final minutes, but it was only one part of a tactical story that had two distinct themes.
Congratulations then to Chelsea, who can now say they are two-time winners of the European Cup. Commiserations to Manchester City, who will surely be back here again for another tilt at old big ears. One look over at Thomas Tuchel illustrates what a difference one single season can make. A reminder that David Hytner’s report has landed. Thanks for reading this MBM. Nighty night, and sweet dreams whoever you support, wherever you are.
Pep Guardiola, deflated but gracious, speaks to BT Sport. “It was an exceptional season for us. It was an honour to be here. We are sad but it was a tight game. In the second half we were brilliant and brave but could not convert our goals because they are so fast and strong. Our players were exceptional, and maybe we will come back again one day. I did what is the best for the team. Kevin De Bruyne was injured but it happens. The ambition now is rest, but we will prepare for next season. It is the first time we were in this stage. It’s an honour to be here, and hopefully we will learn for the future.”
Another trophy for Chelsea: N’Golo Kante has been named Uefa Player of the Match. No huge surprise; he was everywhere.
David Hytner was at the Estádio do Dragão. His report is in. You know what to do!
Chelsea’s second European Cup whisks them up the roll of honour. They’re still a ways behind 13-time winners Real Madrid, of course, but they’re now alongside some legendary names: Benfica, Nottingham Forest, Juventus, Porto. Manchester City meanwhile gain unwanted membership of the club featuring as-yet-winless finalists. Some big names in there too: among others, Fiorentina, Leeds, Borussia Monchengladbach, Roma, Arsenal, Spurs and PSG.
Thomas Tuchel, blissfully spent, speaks to BT Sport. “This is unbelievable. To share it with everybody is unbelievable. I don’t know what to feel. I was so grateful to arrive a second time, but I had a feeling this was different. Somehow you could feel it, every day coming closer. The players were determined to win this, we wanted to be the stone in City’s shoe.” After three wins against City in six weeks, that quote’s a keeper, you suspect.
Here’s Barney Ronay on Pep’s team selection: “A case of a man very publicly mugging himself.”
Having waited patiently to see Chelsea lift the European Cup, Pep makes off down the tunnel with a wry smile etched across his face. Yet another year goes by without a third Champions League for the biggest managerial star in world football. Manchester City’s long wait to break their European Cup duck goes on too. Their fans have, pretty much to the last woman and man, left the stadium, perhaps with a view of drowning their sorrows. Sergio Aguero is still there, though, head bowed in despair as Chelsea and their fans bounce around to Blue is the Colour. Not the exit he’d dreamed of.
Chelsea come up one by one, gold medals hung around their neck. Now they can touch and kiss the trophy ... then Cesar Azpilicueta gets to lift it! A small skip and a dainty jump, and then up goes the cup! Royal blue glitter, followed by blue and white fireworks, and the entire squad bounces around in wonder, preparing to take turns to lift the European Cup.
The captain Cesar Azpilicueta adds: “I came after 2012 after the Champions League win and I wanted to repeat that. Tonight it is just amazing.” Then he pops off to hug his team-mates awhile. Eventually they detangle and form a guard of honour for the 2021 Champions League runners-up Manchester City. They receive their silver medals, disappointment the top note, Oleksandr Zinchenko in particular in bits. They’ve made it one step closer than ever before this year, but are still so far away. Next year, maybe. They’ll be one of the hot favourites as they go again.
Chelsea are deserved winners of the 2021 Champions League. They were the better team for the vast majority of the match. N’Golo Kante ran the show. People will talk about Pep’s tinkering. Others will point to Antonio Rudiger’s block that took the unfortunate Kevin de Bruyne out of the game. Plenty to pick apart. But on the whole and in the round, Chelsea thoroughly deserve to be champions of Europe. “It’s an incredible feeling, we deserve it,” says the hero of the hour, Kai Havertz. BT Sport’s Des Kelly then points out that he’s pretty much paid back his big transfer fee. “To be honest right now, I don’t give a fuck about that, we won the fucking Champions League!” A magnificent two-swear combo with a broadcaster-baiting tariff of 5.8.
As the Chelsea bench rushes en masse onto the field to celebrate, Pep warmly congratulates Tuchel. The German has done a number on him for the third time in the space of six weeks. Sergio Aguero is in tears. The fairytale wasn’t to be. Instead it’s a fairytale for Kai Havertz, who looks stunned - in a nice, mellow, stoned kind of way - as he considers his new status as Chelsea hero. An instant legend!
That’s the last chance! Chelsea hold out, and have won their second European Cup!
90 min +6: Jesus battles hard down the inside-right channel. It’s a determined run. Christensen just about holds firm. The ball’s hacked out for another throw on the right. It’s flung back into the mixer. Chelsea allow it to bounce twice and can’t clear very far. Mahrez meets the dropping ball and, with Mendy on his knees, unable to respond, sends a screamer inches wide of the top right. So close to forcing extra time!
90 min +5: Another throw into the Chelsea box from the right. Stones and Dias sandwich Rudiger, who stays down for a bit. The referee may add on a bit of extra time for that over-reaction.
90 min +4: Fernandinho brings down Kante, allowing Chelsea to eat up a few more precious seconds. On the touchline, Tuchel, his temples red hot, veins at bursting point, asks the Chelsea crowd to make some more noise again. A brief, anxious roar.
90 min +3: City fling a long throw into the Chelsea box from the right. Some pinball. Chilwell hacks clear. Both teams are playing desperation football right now.
90 min +2: Jorginho goes down as though shot. He’s not been shot. He gets up as play goes on.
90 min +1: There’s also plenty of time for Chelsea to score a clincher, and with that in mind they launch a counter. It goes nowhere, but the clock ticks on.
90 min: Dias, in space on the left, fires a ball across the face of the goal. Foden tries so hard to trap and shoot on the right-hand corner of the six-yard box, but Christensen slides in to block. Then the board goes up: there will be seven added minutes. Plenty of time for City to save themselves!
89 min: Chelsea string together a series of passes deep in City territory. City can’t get hold of the ball, just when they need some precious possession.
88 min: Jesus is booked for coming through the back of Haverrtz, who takes his sweet time to bounce back up, in the classic clock-management style.
87 min: On the touchline, Thomas Tuchel turns to the Chelsea fans and energetically encourages them to make some more noise. Some arm waving, a couple of screams of COME ON, and the supporters oblige.
86 min: Walker, out on the right, sends a lovely inswinger towards Foden and Aguero, queuing on the edge of the six-yard box. Neither can meet it, and the ball flies out, wide left, for a goal kick.
85 min: James misjudges a diagonal ball, allowing Aguero to pick up possession to the left of the six-yard box. He’s got options in the middle, but floats a weak chip into Mendy’s hands.
84 min: Chelsea look comfortable again ... but there’s always one last chance in matches like this, isn’t there?
82 min: The free kick’s half cleared. Jorginho has a speculative boot from distance. Always heading wide left, but Chelsea are now 60 seconds closer to glory. “Aguero coming on sets up the potential for him to show that he can do a Panenka right,” suggests Peter Oh, as if our nerves aren’t already shredded enough.
81 min: Havertz has the chance to release Chilwell into space down the middle, but overcooks the pass in from the right. Chiwell races off after the ball, and is clipped by Walker out on the left. Free kick in a very dangerous position.
79 min: De Bruyne, towel draped over his shoulders, is taken down the steps, slowly and gingerly, towards the changing room. Such a sad sight. Meanwhile on comes Kovacic, finally getting some minutes in a Champions League final, after watching two for Real Madrid from the bench, for Mount.
78 min: Walker crosses from the right. Deflection. Corner. Mahrez takes ... and fails to beat the first man. Havertz, at the near post, heads clear. City have another new captain, by the way: the departing Sterling, having received the armband from De Bruyne, passes it on to Fernandinho.
76 min: Mount has a dig from distance. Wide left. Before Ederson can restart the game, on comes Sergio Aguero, taking Sterling’s place. A quarter of an hour to write one of the great fairytales, then.
74 min: Now City go up the other end and nearly create something, Sterling reaching the byline on the left and pulling back for Jesus ... but Chilwell gets in the road to clear. This game really is teetering in the balance.
73 min: Chelsea should be two up. They intercept and break, Havertz barging his way down the centre. He slips a pass to Pulisic, overlapping on his right. Pulisic strides into the box, draws Ederson and ... chips over the keeper but wide of the left-hand post. What a chance!
72 min: City continue to huff and puff. “Would anyone have dreamt that Fernandinho would be replacing Silva in the second half of a game that City are chasing?” asks Cameron Dunbar. “Not even saying it’s the wrong move, just a strange situation to be in. Shows you how badly Guardiola has gotten this in my opinion.”
70 min: Nothing comes from the resulting corner, then Azpilicueta is in shot again, having hurt his knee when challenging Jesus. For a second, it looks very serious, the referee responding to his screams by instantly waving the Chelsea physio on, but happily in turns out to be nothing more than some stinging post-impact pain. He’s back up soon enough.
68 min: City nearly open Chelsea up, Mount and Foden combining down the right channel, Mahrez whipping infield low and hard for Gundogan, waiting to tap in from six yards. Azpilicueta slides back and whips over the bar, a stunning intervention.
67 min: In the stand, De Bruyne presses a very large bag of ice on his left eye, which is surrounded by a Whizzer-and-Chips shiner. He’ll need a comic-book-size steak on that later.
66 min: Fernandinho’s first act is to fly into Jorginho. It’s late, but he does try to pull out at the last minute. Just a talking-to from the referee, nothing more. Then Chelsea make their second switch, replacing the erratic Werner with Pulisic.
65 min: City stroke it about, but it’s extremely sterile possession.
64 min: A second change for City, with Fernandinho coming on for Bernardo Silva.
62 min: You’ll hear more about Rudiger stepping in the way of De Bruyne, I’ll be bound. Here’s Alex Whitney: “That’s impressive: take an opposing player out of the game, but your team suffers nothing. Glorious example of how the rules of the game favour cynicism.”
60 min: Immediately from the restart, City’s new captain Sterling has a shot from the left-hand edge of the D. His effort is chested down by James. Huge appeals for a penalty, and VAR has a good, long look, but it’s nearly all chest, little or no arm. We play on.
59 min: This is awful to watch. De Bruyne has been given a proper old-fashioned shiner, and he’s extremely groggy. He can’t continue. He leaves the scene in tears, discombobulated and stunned, consumed by sorrow. Jesus comes on in his wake.
58 min: ... but De Bruyne has taken an even bigger whack, and he’s still down receiving treatment. A very worrying moment for City. “It seems like Pep has painted himself into a corner,” argues Luke Jones. “His starting lineup was heavy on attacking. But now looking at his bench, he doesn’t have a lot of great options that would be a clear improvement to their offense, unless you believe in a sentimental Aguero moment.”
56 min: Rudiger cynically checks De Bruyne, who was trying to make ground down the right. A double punishment, as he takes quite a whack as the pair collide at speed, and it’s a yellow when the defender gets back up.
55 min: Gundogan gives away a free kick out on the right, clipping Havertz’s heel. Nothing comes of the resulting set piece, but Gundogan has to be careful seeing he’s on a yellow.
53 min: Now it’s Dias’s turn to execute a world-class slide, as he pokes the ball away from Werner, who was threatening to break free down the right, chasing after James’ long pass.
52 min: De Bruyne lengthens his stride and begins to look very dangerous as he sashays down the inside-left channel. But just as he shapes to shoot, Kante comes sliding in from behind and hooks away sensationally. As good a tackle as you’ll see.
51 min: Chelsea look fairly comfortable at the moment. City haven’t created anything of note since the restart. Guardiola may be considering a change.
49 min: City knock it around but Chelsea hold their shape and there’s no way through. Eventually Walker swings in from the right but it’s an easy claim for Mendy, with nobody in sky blue sniffing around. Penny for the thoughts of Sergio Aguero.
48 min: In fact De Bruyne dummies it and leaves Foden to take instead. Foden can’t beat first man Kante, and what a waste that is.
47 min: Sterling busies himself down the left and is gently tugged by James. All’s fair in love and war, so down he goes. Free kick. De Bruyne to take.
Chelsea get the second half underway. A reminder that if the teams are level after 90 minutes, it’s 30 minutes of extra time and possibly penalties. There have been no half-time changes, but there could be plenty to come: each team are allowed to make five subs, with a sixth permissible if we go to extra time.
Half-time entertainment. As things stand, it’s one heck of a day for west London. Paul Doyle was at Wembley to see Brentford finally make it to the promised land of the Premier League. Here’s his take on an excellent performance from the Bees.
City look a little stunned as they make their way down the tunnel, Pep having very quickly disappeared down it beforehand. Chelsea stroll off, ten feet tall. A gorgeous Kai Havertz finish is the difference; Chelsea are 45 minutes away from their second European Cup! City have some thinking to do.
45 min +1: Kante chips in cutely from the right. Werner chests down, just by the edge of the six-yard box. He turns, and shanks a dismal effort wide right. He’s been involved constantly since the get-go, impressing in every aspect other than his shooting. A big caveat admittedly, but he’s an undoubted presence up front.
45 min: Chelsea won’t want to hear the half-time whistle, but it’ll be coming in three minutes time. On the touchline, Pep looks extremely concerned.
44 min: That’s a lovely goal. Ederson had come racing out of his box, and the ball hit his arm, although he was trying to withdraw it. Havertz could also have gone over, in a cynical attempt to get the keeper sent off. So it could have been worse for City. But here we are. Silva screams at his team-mates to pick up their heads, while the Dragao erupts!
Chelsea ping it around patiently ... then spring forward! Mendy passes wide left to Chilwell, who finds Mount infield. Mount spins and plays a first-time ball down the inside-left channel. Havertz races after it, though a huge gap in the City defence caused by Werner’s decoy run to the left. Ederson comes to the edge of the box, but Havertz rounds him on the left and rolls into an empty net!
40 min: Chilwell crosses deep from the left. Werner tries to cushion the ball into the path of Havertz, but the two Chelsea forwards are too close to each other, and a baroque mess ensues. Chelsea have attacked well; they’ve just been unable to find that final ball.
39 min: Poor old Silva can’t continue. He’s close to tears as he motions to the bench, then trudges off, but it doesn’t stop him making a special beeline towards his replacement Christensen, wishing him all the best.
37 min: City have enjoyed 58 percent of possession so far. No huge surprises here. Chelsea are quite happy to wait for a chance to counter, and here they come, snaffling the ball, Kante gliding upfield with options either side. He looks for Havertz down the inside-right, Zinchenko recovering and blocking. That’s a fine last-ditch tackle, though Kante should perhaps have used one of his options to the left instead.
36 min: Silva isn’t happy. It’s not his shoulder; it’s a pull in the groin. He’s feeling his Special Area gingerly, and wincing quite a lot. He’s going to continue for now, though Chelsea have sent Andreas Christensen and Kurt Zouma out to warm up, just in case.
34 min: Gundogan high-kicks Mount to the floor as Chelsea build an attack from deep. VAR has a look at a possible red-card offence, but it’s just a yellow for a kick on the knee.
32 min: Now it’s Chelsea’s turn to take a little sting out of the game with some sterile stuff at the back. After that flurry of City action, they need the breather.
31 min: Walker turns on the jets and speeds past Chilwell down the right. He almost literally sends Chilwell spinning like a top in his slipstream. What determination ... and what a cross he fizzes along the face of the six-yard box. Mahrez is inches away from sliding to connect with his toe. If he hadn’t cut his toenails last night, it was 1-0.
29 min: After a slow start, it’s safe to say City have woken up. They’re beginning to get a lot of joy down their left flank.
27 min: Sterling turns on the burners and tries to make his way past James on the outside. He nearly manages it, but James battles well to fend him off. City come again, immediately, De Bruyne slipping a pass down the left channel for Foden, who is suddenly free in the box! But only for a split second. Foden looks to pass across Mendy and into the bottom right, but his shot is blocked by an absurdly good last-ditch challenge by Rudiger, whose telescopic leg balloons the ball into the arms of his keeper.
26 min: James curls in. City clear, then swarm upfield. In a matter of milliseconds, the ball’s been shuttled back to the feet of Mendy. For all the open, fun play, neither keeper has had a serious save to make yet.
25 min: Chelsea buzz around, and eventually a frustrated Dias comes out to bowl Kante to the ground. A free kick in a dangerous position out on the right. They load the box. “I can’t but root for Thiago Silva,” begins Kári Tulinius. “While I’ve probably watched him play hundreds of matches during his long career, the image of him that always comes to mind is of him in the stands at the 2014 World Cup semi-final against Germany, helplessly watching as his Brazilian team mates gave a masterclass in inept defending. I don’t think I’ve stopped feeling sorry for him since. I hope he gets a gold medal tonight.”
23 min: Havertz finds a little space up the other end and rolls wide to the lively Chilwell, whose cross isn’t up to much. But Chelsea quickly come again, James crossing from the right, Havertz winding his neck back in the hope of heading home. Stones eyebrows clear, just in time.
21 min: So having said that, here’s some space for De Bruyne down the left, sent away by Sterling. De Bruyne reaches the byline and forces a corner, but turns out he went a little early and the flag goes up for offside. “Nearly 20 minutes gone, and I don’t think Werner’s been caught offside yet? No one saw that coming.” Matt Dony, ladies and gentlemen. He’s here all week. Try the Francesinha.
19 min: De Bruyne and Sterling combine crisply down the left, but there’s little space in which to create, and Azpilicueta is over quickly to blooter clear. A couple of City frowns already, as they struggle to make things happen in the Chelsea final third.
17 min: Both teams are pressing manically. A lot of misplaced passes as a result. A lot of highly decent first-time ones, too, though, and Chilwell finds Mount down the left. Werner is nearly sent clear with a slide down the channel, but he cuts back for Chilwell, who curls long to the far post. Kante, of all people, arrives to head high and wide. Chelsea have been excellent in these opening exchanges.
15 min: Werner could easily have had a couple of goals already, and here he is winning a corner, troubling Stones down the left and flashing towards the bottom left. The ball’s deflected out for a corner, from which ... Ederson claims and City break! De Bruyne tries to dribble into the box from the right but is stopped by Kante. This is wonderfully open, with both teams going for it.
14 min: Chelsea come at City again, Mount nicking the ball off Mahrez, Chilwell bombing down the inside-left channel. He cuts back for Werner, who tries to pass first time into the bottom left. Ederson reads him and saves.
12 min: Stones errs again, struggling to keep his balance while Werner attacks him down the right. The City defender does just about enough to keep Werner from finding the killer pass infield, but this is a shaky start by Stones. Werner, that absurd miss apart, has looked extremely lively.
10 min: Now it’s Chelsea’s turn to launch long. Stones fluffs his clearance, allowing Havertz to slide down the left and pull back for Werner, who should score from six yards, but takes a fresh-air swipe. The act of a confidence-free player. City go up the other end, countering through Sterling, but his ball inside is whipped clear by Rudiger. Good fun, this!
8 min: Ederson plays a long pass down the middle, and releases Sterling. Simple as that! Sterling can’t bring it down cleanly, allowing James, in pursuit, to block out for a corner. Had Sterling taken that in his stride, in the Suarez-versus-Newcastle style, he was in on goal. Easier said than done. Nothing comes from the corner.
7 min: Walker gets the better of Silva down the right, but the play’s pulled back for a foul. A light tug on the Brazilian defender’s shoulder. Silva holds it while grimacing in pain, but is good to continue right now. There didn’t seem too much in that, but there we are.
5 min: The start’s been a bit hectic for City’s liking, so they slow it down with some sterile possession across the back. A few early nerves need settling.
4 min: More space for Werner down the right. He scampers to the byline and pulls back for Havertz, who can’t control properly, and the ball squirts into the hands of Ederson. Chelsea will be enthused by those two early Werner bursts.
3 min: Chelsea gather themselves and launch the first attacking sortie of the evening, Werner grooving his way down the right. Stones shuts the door.
1 min: A slightly nervous start by Chelsea as they play the ball across their back line in not-particularly-convincing fashion, City pressing hard. They get away with it. Both sets of fans giving it plenty.
City kick off ... but only after the knee is taken.There’s no room for racism. Challenge it. Report it. Change it. Kick it out. A smattering of boos, but they’re drowned out by a much louder wave of applause.
Here come the teams! Bedlam at the Dragao, despite the limited capacity. One hell of a reception. City fans are so excited they don’t bother booing the official Uefa Champions League anthem that much. Captains Kevin De Bruyne and Cesar Azpilicueta exchange pennants. Coins are tossed, fists bumped. We’ll be off in a minute. Temos jogo! “Vamos jogar is better,” argues Tim Stappard.
Another dip into the pre-match postbag. “What a day to be a Fulham supporter: Brentford in the play-off final and Chelsea in the Champions League final,” begins Richard Hirst. “Much as I grieve at Brentford being a division above Fulham, they probably deserve it after all their near misses. And my goddaughter and family are Brentford supporters, so love trumps local rivalry. But no such dispensation for Chelsea - come on City!”
Gary Byrne asks the big question: “Is John Terry in the stadium, full kit on?”
The pre-match thoughts of a slightly pensive Pep Guardiola ... “To have a chance to win the game, you have to attack. Of course you have to defend, we need everyone. I am sure the second half will be very different than the beginning. Chelsea play five in the back, we need specific players in that area.”
... and a relaxed, smiling Thomas Tuchel, both men talking to BT Sport. “We had some final words, but everything is said now. We have to do it, they know it, and it’s good that they know it, because it’s their quality, their team effort that can decide this match on our side. We have gone for a little bit of height, Timo and Kai have a good feeling for each other. It is a tough choice to leave Christian Pulisic out, but we need 15 or 16 today to finish this game, hopefully in a positive way. I hope we can start strong, but finish even stronger. It’s a huge opponent, a big game in Europe, and we are up for it.”
A peek inside the Chelsea dressing room. City are the designated home side, but both teams will be able to play in their first-choice colours. As in the Premier League, it’s been decided there’s no clash between the sky blue of City and Chelsea’s royal hue.
Petr Cech, Chelsea’s technical advisor and hero of 2012, talks to BT Sport, and appears up for this. “The last step is usually the hardest one. There is a big chance the game will go to penalties. I hope the team is ready and confident that we will win it. Manchester City are a tough team to beat. It will be an entertaining game, even though you expect it to be a tactical game.”
A dip into the pre-match postbag. We’ll get to tonight’s match in good time, but first thing’s first. “As an English translator, resident in Lisbon for many years, I feel I must help with your translation of ‘It’s on’,” begins John Elliott, who may or may not have twigged that I don’t speak a word of Portuguese and was wholly reliant on Google Translate. “‘Ligado’ is ‘on’ in the sense of ‘electrically’ on or off. For your future reference, I think a much better and more idiomatic translation into Portuguese would be ‘Temos jogo!’ (We’ve got a game!).”
Meanwhile your memories of the 1986 Full Members’ Cup final have been flooding in, in their twos. “I was there!” writes Matthew Holt. “Pat Nevin put in about four unplayable crosses for our goals, then in the last five mins City started scoring and were only stopped by the final whistle. A repeat today please, with the ghost of Wee Pat putting in a few for Werner to finish off!”
Everyone thought Pep had given up tinkering, which hasn’t always been a successful pastime for him in this competition, but there’s a big surprise: a very attacking line-up with no holding player. Neither Fernandinho nor Rodri starts, which suggests Pep is expecting his side to enjoy the lion’s share of possession. That’s a brave call, as he’ll have to field a fair few questions should this go wrong. Ilkay Gundogan is fit after limping out of training yesterday, Raheem Sterling starts, Oleksandr Zinchenko gets the nod at left-back, and if Sergio Aguero is to be the epochal hero again, he’ll need to come on and do it as a sub. Another 94th-minute winner, anyone?
Chelsea’s selection is comparatively understated. N’Golo Kante and Edouard Mendy are fit to play. Ben Chilwell is picked ahead of Marcos Alonso, while Timo Werner and Kai Havertz are the ones stationed up front alongside Mason Mount.
Manchester City and Chelsea have previously met in two other finals. There was the absurdity of the 2019 League Cup final, which City won on penalties but is already only remembered for the preposterous row between Maurizio Sarri and Kepa, who refused to come off. But never mind that. The big one was the 1986 Full Members’ Cup final, a nine-goal thriller that may never be topped in the eyes of a certain generation. Chelsea and City have come a long way since, but some things remain golden, no matter what.
As for the managers themselves ... well, we all remember Thomas Tuchel sitting on the PSG icebox last year, his leg all bound up like the farmer in Withnail & I. He’s zero for one, though by making it back immediately with Chelsea, he becomes the first man to take different clubs to the final in successive seasons. Pep Guardiola meanwhile is making his third appearance as a boss at the final, having won the thing with Barcelona in 2009 and 2011. If he makes it a hat-trick of wins today, he’ll become only the sixth coach in history to win the European Cup with two different clubs, getting his name on an elite list that so far includes Ernst Happel (Feyenoord 1970, Hamburg 1983), Ottmar Hitzfeld (Borussia Dortmund 1997, Bayern Munich 2001), José Mourinho (Porto 2004, Internazionale 2010), Jupp Heynckes (Real Madrid 1998, Bayern 2013) and Carlo Ancelotti (AC Milan 2003 and 2007, Real Madrid 2014). Throw in a couple of appearances as a player, winning in 1992 and losing in 1994 with Barca, and that’s quite the relationship with Europe’s showpiece event.
This is virgin territory for nearly everyone involved (if you ignore the managers, that is). Only one member of each squad has previously played in a Champions League final, and neither has particularly happy memories. İlkay Gündoğan turned out for Borussia Dortmund in 2013, scoring from the penalty spot in their 2-1 defeat by Bayern Munich. Thiago Silva meanwhile was captain of the Paris Saint-Germain team that lost to the very same Bavarian party-poopers last year. Mateo Kovačić was there for Real Madrid in 2017 and 2018, but only looking on as an unused substitute.
Chelsea fans are also enjoying their big day out. Here’s one getting the top of his head coloured in. We’re assuming, given the ITV ident craze sweeping Porto, he asked for the LWT ribbon, only to be told the artist had no orange paint. No matter: Stamford the Lion will offer plenty of protection from those harmful UV rays, because it’s been a lovely warm and gloriously sunny day in Porto. Perfect conditions for the biggest game on the calendar.
Fans of both teams have been out on the Super Bock. Here’s the best-dressed one. Apt, too. Granada were prime movers in the popularisation of the European Cup, their cameras on hand to transmit the exploits of the Busby Babes, Old Trafford being just down the road. The second leg of the 1957 semi between United and Real Madrid was the first to be transmitted live in its entirety on the all-new ITV, though only in the Granada region. The first four minutes were missed; well, there were ads still to show, and the ref wasn’t in the mood to delay kick-off, a decision that would have necessitated standing around in the cold.
Welcome to our live MBM coverage of the 29th Champions League final … or if we’re doing things properly, paying proper heed to history and romance, the 66th European Cup final. Had things gone smoothly, we’d be at the Ataturk in Istanbul for the latest edition of the biggest and most glamorous club match in world football, but coronavirus has put paid to that, and so everyone’s made it to the easier-to-access Estádio do Dragão in Porto instead. A shame in one respect, given the other-worldly Ataturk would have been a fitting venue for the denouement of an unearthly season … but a day on the Douro is one heck of a Plan B. Está ligado!
Manchester City are playing in their first European Cup final. It’s the end of a journey they began in 1968, when Malcolm Allison promised his and Joe Mercer’s English champions would set about Europe “as they have not been attacked since the days of the old Real Madrid … I think a lot of these European people are cowards.” Sure enough, having talked the big talk, they fell at the first hurdle against Fenerbahce. That brilliant Lee-Bell-Summerbee side brought home some European silverware in the end, winning the 1970 Cup Winners’ Cup, but that night everyone was watching the FA Cup final replay live in glorious technicolor on BBC1, City’s 2-1 win over Gornik Zabrze relegated to late-night black-and-white highlights over on 2. Hapless happenstance always used to befall City back in the day.
Residents fear spike of infections as supporters arrive
Around 40 flights landing from England on Saturday
A last-minute decision to relax Covid-19 safety rules for Saturday’s Champions League final has angered locals as hundreds of English fans not wearing masks packed Porto’s riverside bars on Friday night.
European football’s governing body Uefa moved the final between English clubs Manchester City and Chelsea from Istanbul to Porto to allow fans to travel to the match under Covid-19 restrictions. Some Porto residents fear a spike in infections because of the highly contagious coronavirus variant spreading in parts of England after first being identified in India. Others are upset that foreign fans can go into the stadium but locals have been banned from attending matches for months.
The two brilliant talents first faced each other at academy level in 2017 and are now poised for the biggest match of their lives
Even now, knowing what has happened since, there is something fresh and shocking to them. As you watch footage of the FA Youth Cup final between Chelsea and Manchester City, what strikes you above all is just how comfortable these miniature humans look with a ball at their feet, how effortlessly they bend the game to their will. The year is 2017, and Mason Mount and Phil Foden are facing each other on a football pitch for the first time.
Manchester City’s manager has been a substantial influence on Thomas Tuchel and on football far beyond such a gilded match
Welcome, European friends, to the Premier-Champions League final, brought to you this year by Manchester City, Chelsea and our service providers at Uefa. We hope you enjoy this product sample. And be sure to subscribe to the full Premier League package wherever you get your branded football content.
It is almost exactly a decade since the planned date of the first Premier League 39th Game. The idea, floated by then chairman Richard Scudamore, was to stage an additional season-ending fixture in some biddable territory, designed to spread the eyeballs, retail the heritage, pimp the brand and all the rest.
The forward’s first season at the club has been a struggle but could yet end in triumph in the Champions League final
Timo Werner had scored 36 goals in his first year and a half at RB Leipzig but modesty prevailed when he was invited to assess his standard. “To become world class, you have to play in the really big teams,” he said in February 2018. “And then also play in big games like the final or semi-finals of the Champions League.”
The moment of anointment arrives in Porto on Saturday evening, or at least that is the idea. Last week Werner called his first campaign at Chelsea “the unluckiest season I have had and will have”, but the line between ill fortune and a place among the stars is vanishingly thin. All it might take is a 13th strike since his arrival last June: should he decide the biggest match of his career in Chelsea’s favour, most of the question marks that have accompanied him will evaporate.
Manchester City’s high defensive line, Chelsea’s wing-back issues and other factors to look out for in Porto
The problem historically for Pep Guardiola sides in Europe has been the high line that he operates, which means that if the press goes awry, his teams can be vulnerable to balls in behind them – as happened for Bayern against Real Madrid in 2014 and against Barcelona in 2015, and for City against Monaco in 2017, Liverpool in 2018 and Lyon last year. It was a problem for City domestically last season – notably against Norwich, Wolves, Manchester United and in the defeat at Chelsea that handed Liverpool the title – and even early in this campaign, in the 5-2 home defeat to Leicester and the reverse at Tottenham. Guardiola’s great success from December has been adjusting the balance of the press to combat a potential vulnerability that is inevitable with his approach, but United exposed City in that way and so, most pertinently, did Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final in which Timo Werner’s runs from deep were a persistent source of menace. Werner was also a threat in Chelsea’s league victory over City, although the lessons of that game were probably less relevant given it was a much-weakened City selection.
Defender treated every Benfica training session as if it were a Champions League final and returns to Portugal to play in one
There is a quiet ambition at Benfica to build a team of academy graduates capable of winning the Champions League. It is a pipe dream as their best talents are soon sold off for eye-watering fees. The latest to fall into that category is Rúben Dias, who returns to Portugal on Saturday hoping to realise the ambition of a club who earmarked him as future captain as a teenager.
Chelsea stand in the way of Dias ending his first year at City as a European champion and partially fulfilling his former club’s ambition, alongside Benfica graduates Ederson, João Cancelo and Bernardo Silva. Some thought his £63m move to England a gamble but Dias has proved himself to be one of the world’s best centre-backs by winning the Premier League and Carabao Cup, not to mention the personal accolade of football writers’ men’s player of the year.
City ‘understand the magnitude’ of Champions League final
Guardiola warns his players they will suffer against Chelsea
Kevin De Bruyne has admitted Manchester City will be branded effectively as failures if they fail to claim the Champions League for the first time by beating Chelsea on Saturday.
As Premier League champions City finished 19 points ahead of Thomas Tuchel’s team and so are favourites to win at Porto’s Estádio do Dragão. De Bruyne stated the stakes involved mean losing would be dismal.
Manager delighted if players think he is crazy or fear him
Tuchel promises ‘we will have fun’ if he wins Champions League
“I love it when other people are happy,” Thomas Tuchel said, imagining the after-party if Chelsea beat Manchester City in the Champions League final on Saturday night. “It means more to me around Christmas that I have good presents for others. It’s very hard to give me a gift. Maybe I’m not the guy to dance on the table, but I will be so super-happy if we win and I see my team, my staff, the families, and when I feel what it means to my family. This is huge for me.”
Five months after arriving in London, Tuchel sounds as if he is in a good place. The acrimonious manner of his split from Paris Saint-Germain, who sacked him on Christmas Eve, is in the past. Tuchel has barely put a foot wrong since joining Chelsea in January and, in contrast to the snappy persona he often presented at PSG and Borussia Dortmund, is in a compelling and playful mood as he prepares to face City in Porto.
Sergio Agüero is saying goodbye to Manchester City after a decade in the Premier League. Agüero will forever be remembered for scoring the last-minute goal that won Manchester City the title in 2012. Who set up that goal?
Phil Mickelson won the US PGA Championship on Sunday. Which of these statements about Mickelson is true?
He has won all four majors in golf
He has been the world No 1 in his career
He is naturally left-handed
At 50, he has become the oldest major winner in the history of golf
The French Open begins on Sunday. Rafa Nadal is the favourite to win the men’s title. Nadal has played 102 singles matches at Roland Garros in his career. How many of them has he won?
Nadal was 34 when he won the men’s title at the French Open last year. What age was women’s champion Iga Swiatek?
Which of these leagues was won by the same club this year and last year?
For all the Manchester City player’s sustained Premier League brilliance he has not had a crowning wider world moment
You failed. No matter. Fail again, fail better. All very well. But when you’re as good as Kevin De Bruyne – which is, to be clear, very good indeed – and as the bloom of those peak years continues to roll by, you probably want to start nailing a few of those moments too.
“We need to learn, it’s not good enough,” De Bruyne told the TV cameras nine months ago, wreathed in Beckettian despair in the bowels of Estádio José Alvalade. Defeat by Lyon had capped Manchester City’s Champions League run at the quarter-finals for the third successive year, and for the third successive year in disappointing circumstances.
What makes Chelsea’s manager so successful? We find out from people who have known him since his school days
Christian Heidel laughs as he remembers a story that sums up Thomas Tuchel’s obsessive attention to detail. “We were in a training camp in Austria and had a match against Olympiakos,” Mainz’s sporting director says. “Thomas was looking closely at the lawn. He was measuring the height, sniffing the grass. He was so thrilled about this pitch that he wanted me to transfer the groundsman to Mainz. The next day the groundsman called me and said: ‘I heard that we’re going to have some talks about a contract.’ The deal didn’t happen but it shows what a perfectionist he is.”
Heidel, who gave Tuchel his break when he put him in charge of Mainz’s first team in 2009, is not the first person to marvel at the Chelsea manager’s quest for perfection. Hans Komm, who taught PE at the German’s Simpert-Kraemer high school, remembers a gifted sportsman who possessed a surprisingly bright tactical mind for a teenager.