Manchester City and Chelsea go head-to-head in Porto on Saturday at 8pm in an all-English UEFA Champions League final clash.
The Citizens have already sealed Premier League and EFL Cup titles this season but are competing in their first-ever Champions League final. For Chelsea, they go in search of their second win in this competition, having made their third final since 2008.
Here are five predictions for Saturday’s hotly-anticipated match-up.
1. Man City predicted XI
Pep Guardiola shuffled his pack extensively against Everton on the final day of the Premier League, so expect a number of key names to return to his starting XI.
Ederson will obviously line up in goal behind this season’s ultimate centre-back duo of Ruben Dias and John Stones. They’ll be flanked by Kyle Walker, who will use his speed to offer City plenty of thrust down the right, and Joao Cancelo, who will be given licence to drift inside to offer his side numerical superiority through the middle.
Midfield is a slight problem for City, however, as Ilkay Gundogan is a doubt after limping out of their training session on Friday following a collision with Fernandinho. If he does not make the starting XI, Bernardo Silva could be the one to replace him in the midfield trio alongside Rodri and creative genius Kevin De Bruyne, who was on top form against Everton at the weekend.
Up front, Gabriel Jesus can give Chelsea’s centre-backs something to think about both through his runs behind the defence and his love for pressing out of possession. He’ll be helped by Riyad Mahrez on the right and Phil Foden on the left. While the former will look to cut inside onto his left foot to take shots on goal, the latter will be tasked with more of a creative role, supplying Jesus with chances, as well as Gundogan running from midfield.
2. Chelsea predicted XI
Chelsea have been booted by the returns of Edouard Mendy and N’Golo Kante to fitness, with both players overcoming injury concerns from last weekend.
So Mendy will start in goal on Saturday barring any Tuchel swerves. In front of him, in a game which needs huge characters and leaders, Thiago Silva should be the man to anchor Tuchel’s defence, with the Brazilian likely hell-bent on putting the misery of last season’s Champions League final defeat with PSG behind him. Expect Antonio Rudiger to continue to the left of Silva while to his right, we could see Tuchel continuing to experiment with Reece James, who is Chelsea’s best hope of keeping up with the speedy Jesus.
Chelsea’s midfield will have its work cut out against Man City’s middlemen, but N’Golo Kante will have no problems being asked to shut down both Gundogan and De Bruyne, while also stepping up to restrict Rodri’s space where he can. Next to him, Jorginho will look to dictate play, making sure Chelsea see their fair share of the ball against a possession-dominant City side.
It’s in the final third where Tuchel’s selections have been the hardest to predict this season, but Christian Pulisic played a huge hand in getting the Blues to this stage with a goal and an assist across their two-legged semi-final against Real Madrid. Meanwhile, Mason Mount is simply undroppable and, for all of his struggles, no Chelsea player has scored more goals across all competitions than Timo Werner (12) this season.
3. De Bruyne the ‘codemaster’
Whichever way you look at it, Kevin De Bruyne is the heartbeat of this Manchester City side. No player in Guardiola’s squad has created more chances (3.24) or big chances (0.79) per 90 minutes in combined Premier League and Champions League play this season. Those chances created have been good for a whopping 16 assists, while Belgium international also tops out for completed through balls (6) and is second only to Gundogan (870) for completed passes ending in the final third (861).
Think of De Bruyne as the ‘codemaster’ tasked with bringing down Tuchel’s defensive firewall. No easy task, but he certainly has what it takes and will be especially motivated by the fact he’s facing his former club.
From there, it’ll all be about the ability of Jesus, Mahrez and co. to finish the chances De Bruyne creates. But regardless. Expect everything to go through him in an attacking sense for City.
Relevant odds with William Hill:
- Kevin De Bruyne to assist a goal: 13/10
- Kevin De Bruyne to assist 2+ goals: 5/1
4. Thiago Silva to stop sky blue onslaught?
During Chelsea’s 1-0 FA Cup semi-final win over Man City last month, one man stood above the rest to lead a defensive monumental effort for Tuchel: Thiago Silva.
The 36-year-old called upon his vast well of experience to make sure he was in the right place at the right time to shut down Guardiola’s attack. Silva ended the game with a massive seven clearances and two interceptions (both match-highs) while no Chelsea player won more aerial duels (three).
Whether it’s De Bruyne’s piercing through-balls, Gundogan’s late runs from midfield or Jesus racing behind the Chelsea backline, Silva is going to be very busy on Saturday night. It’ll be up to him to marshal Tuchel’s defence, keeping things compact and disciplined in the face of a sky blue onslaught.
In last season’s final, Silva and his PSG teammates allowed Bayern Munich just two shots on target throughout the entire match but even that wasn’t good enough as Kinglsey Coman found a winner in the 59th minute. Given City’s firepower, Chelsea will likely have to do even better here.
Relevant odds with William Hill…
- Chelsea to keep a clean sheet: 29/10
- Under 2.5 goals in match: 6/10
18+ only, BeGambleAware.org
5. Scoreline predictions:
Chris Smith (@CJSmith91)
Chelsea have been in relatively poor form recently while Man City enter this game off the back of thrashing Everton 5-0. But, of course, the Blues have beaten City in both the league and FA Cup semi-final recently so nothing can be taken for granted and in what should prove to be a tense final, perhaps Tuchel’s defensive masterplan will be the deciding factor. Man City 0-1 Chelsea
Muhammad Butt (@MuhammadButt)
Chelsea are a defensive monster but only when they score first; Pep Guardiola’s men will dominate the ball and create more chances. If they take those chances (and they should) then they will have too much for the Blues. Man City 2-0 Chelsea
Harry Edwards (@harryedwards16)
Tuchel’s Chelsea beat Man City in the FA Cup semi-final and Premier League because they took their chances against a weakened opponent. But this is set to be a full-strength Man City side that will be buoyed by their chance for revenge (and history for the club) while Chelsea have looked poor in front of goal in recent weeks. Man City 2-0 Chelsea
This is Pep Guardiola’s final frontier at the Etihad, the entire reason he was cherry-picked by Manchester City, and in truth, it is hard to look beyond a win for the North West club. Tuchel has worked wonders at Chelsea and has already defeated Guardiola twice in his short tenure, but a hat-trick of scalps in just two months seems incredibly unlikely. Man City 1-0 Chelsea
Jahin Mohammed (@jahin14)
Having been unbeaten throughout the entire competition, I can only see Man City winning this. Chelsea have looked poor the last few weeks and unfortunately, I just can’t see them outmuscling Guardiola’s side. Man City 2-0 Chelsea
Jake Entwistle (@JakeEntwistle)
Whether through lack of a killer instinct or how Tuchel wants his side to play, Chelsea games have been low-scoring during his reign, West Brom aside. Guardiola will still be petrified of their speed on the break, so I think it will be an uninspiring, cautious final. That said, any team with Phil Foden and De Bruyne has the edge in my eyes. Man City 1-0 Chelsea