City's fight to win CL comes to a head in Porto showdown - Manchester City vs Chelsea Preview
Watch Manchester City take on Chelsea in the Champions League final live on BT Sport 1HD and on their YouTube channel on Saturday, May 29th. The kick-off in Porto is 20:00 BST.
'I'm staying until we win the Champions League' - those were the words splattered in bold on the back pages of the papers in 2014 when Sergio Aguero said that he'll stay at the club until they win the greatest club prize of all. City becoming champions of Europe has been a suggestion that has been laughed of every season as the Blues continuously fell at the quarter-final stage under Pep Guardiola. There has never been a greater chance of winning it than now, especially when the opposition is considerably weaker than the Blues. Can City complete a historic season with the greatest one of them all, or can Thomas Tuchel give City the most heartbreaking of defeats?
Referee: Antonio Mateu Lahoz (ESP)
Assistant referees: Pau Cebrián Devís (ESP), Roberto del Palomar (ESP)
Video Assistant Referee: Alejandro Hernández (ESP)
Fourth official: Carlos del Cerro Grande (ESP)
Mateu Lahoz, notorious for poor officiating during City's Champions League games, will be the man in charge in Porto. The referee famously booked Sergio Aguero for diving against Monaco and sent off Pep Guardiola at half-time during a spat in City's game with Liverpool the year after.
The chance to end years of heartache
Manchester City has had it extremely tough in Europe, to say the least. Outplayed by a vibrant Monaco side in 2016/17, the Blues had no complaints about their exit that year. A rebuild was needed that summer and Pep overhauled his squad ready to go again in 17/18.
A season later and City had advanced past the round of sixteen for the first time, although a trip to Anfield marred by fans attacking the City bus proved to be Guardiola's undoing. Klopp's men stormed into a 3-0 half-time lead before Gabriel Jesus' perfectly onside second-half goal was ruled out for offside which could have proved to be of vital importance. The second-leg was also marred in controversy, as Leroy Sane's goal just before half-time was ruled out for a nonsensical offside and Pep Guardiola was sent to the stands at half-time. City went on to lose 2-1 and exited the competition at the quarter-final stage, with a 5-1 aggregate loss a bitter taste in the mouth.
Mohamed Salah and Liverpool proved to be Guardiola's undoing in 2017/18. Poor officiating over the two games was no help for the Blues.
After consecutive seasons where the Blues may have felt aggrieved with officiating decisions, 2018/19 saw the introduction of VAR, which would be able to clear up any wrongdoings. Instead, for Manchester City, VAR proved to be their downfall in that year's competition. After seeing off Schalke 10-2 on aggregate in the round of sixteen and chasing a remarkable quadruple, City was forced to rotate for the first-leg assignment at the brand new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
The game saw VAR intervene for the very first time in the quarter-finals, awarding City for a controversial handball by Danny Rose. Sergio Aguero went on to miss the penalty before Tottenham snatched a 1-0 victory through Heung-Min Son. The Blues went into the clash at the Etihad knowing that a victory by two goals would send them through and in one of the most entertaining games of the season, Raheem Sterling thought he'd snatched it in the dying seconds, only for VAR to rule it as offside. Another heartbreaking moment, another tough exit to take.
After a tough season where they finished runners-up in the Premier League, City beat Real Madrid in the round of sixteen and for the first time, it felt as though the Blues had conquered their demons in Europe. Drew with Lyon in the quarter-final, it felt like a gimme of a result. Pep rotation threw that under the bus though, with an unconventional 3-5-2 led to a 3-1 defeat, where City was totally outclassed from the first whistle and could have no complaints.
That leads us into this season, 20/21. What a remarkable season it's been, from beating Borussia Dortmund and conquering the quarter-finals to beating PSG and really, other than the opening twenty minutes of the first-leg. totally outclassing the French side. Phil Foden has dazzled in this season's knockout stage, as has Riyad Mahrez, who scored three goals over the course of the tie with PSG to lead City to their first-ever Champions League final.
Riyad Mahrez has starred in Manchester City's dominant run to the Champions League final. Will he be the difference-maker in Porto on Saturday night?
There is nothing major to report for either side regarding fitness, with both Tuchel and Guardiola boasting fully fit squads ahead of the game. Eduoard Mendy was questionable after being substituted vs Aston Villa but he's recovered from a blow to the ribs. Ilkay Gundogan was a slight doubt for City after a rough tackle left him hobbling out of an away game at Brighton but the midfielder has since confirmed himself that he'll be fine to play.
Chelsea (Expected XI): Mendy, Azpilicueta, Silva, Rudiger, Christensen, Chilwell, Kante, Jorginho, Mount, Werner, Pulisic (5-2-1-2)
Manchester City (Expected XI): Ederson, Walker, Stones, Dias, Zinchenko, Fernandinho (C), Bernardo Silva, Gundogan, Mahrez, De Bruyne, Foden (4-3-3)
3 additional subs: James Trafford, Nathan Ake, and Eric Garcia
"The only things that can stop us are ourselves"
"The only things that can stop us are ourselves if I'm honest. It is a game where I expect a difficult test but at the same time I expect us to pull through." - Raheem Sterling.
Raheem Sterling's quotes are a great summary of this final. After winning the Premier League and the Carabao Cup already this season, City knows that they're a level above Chelsea's quality. Oh, your argument is that Chelsea has won both games with Tuchel in charge? Congratulations to them on those results. The simple facts are that City played a weaker team in both of those games and really didn't take them that seriously. Tuchel's side also hasn't felt the wrath of Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez, or the false nine that has been so destructive throughout this year's campaign. Not a single Chelsea player makes it into the City team and this game is completely and utterly in City's control from the first whistle. As Raheem said, it's in our hands now. COME ON CITY.
Manchester City's destiny is in their own hands in Saturday's final.