Two Premier League giants are set to clash in Porto for the most coveted trophy in club football, the second time in three years that an all-English Champions League Final will occur. Though both sides started their seasons on the wrong foot, they managed to pick things up as soon as the new year started. City finished the season as both Premier League and Carabao Cup champions, while the Blues finished in a top four spot after starting the season poorly in a mid-table position.
A long search for Champions League glory
For a club that has been so successful domestically over the last decade, year in and year out City has come up short in their ultimate goal and the only trophy they have yet to win—the Champions League. This has been an emotional season for the Cityzens, as club legend and the club’s highest-scoring player of all time, Sergio Agüero, is slated to leave Manchester after a decade of individual and collective success. Agüero looks to leave the club that he helped build into a powerhouse after winning both the Premier League and Carabao Cup, looking to lead City to one last title before his send-off.
City’s road to the final has not come easy. They faced a Dortmund side in the quarterfinals which was led by the best young striker in the world in Erling Haaland. Then in the semis, they faced last year’s finalists and French juggernauts PSG, which boasted an in-form Neymar. Competing in two different competitions is tough, let alone winning two. The fact that City has won the Premier League and are finalists in this one is a testament to the squad depth they have and offers a nod to the managerial masterclass of manager Pep Guardiola. After shaking off a rocky start to their season which saw them place as low as 13th place, it was the prolific scoring of İlkay Gündoğan and their defense—namely John Stones and Rúben Dias, who have stepped up—that led them to success.
Since then, Dias has developed into one of the best centre-halves in the world and has been rightfully named as the FWA Footballer of the Year, the first defender since Steve Nicol back in 1989 to win the prestigious award. With other world-class players such as Kevin De Bruyne, Ederson, Raheem Sterling, and a rising young English star in Phil Foden, City’s squad has probably never been so well-rounded and red-hot. Now, they are looking to get over the line and finally capture that elusive Champions League trophy they have been so desperately trying to attain.
The brave Blues
Chelsea looked utterly lost during the early part of the Premier League season, sitting at ninth place on the table. Despite spending over $292 million in transfer fees for world-class players such as Kai Havertz and Timo Werner, the club’s performance did not live up to the abundance of cash spent last summer. Unfortunately, all fingers pointed to former manager and Blues legend Frank Lampard, as he could only watch as his acquisitions disappointed during the first half of the season. The Blues suffered terrible defeats against smaller clubs that they were capable of beating. Based on observations during the early part of the season, nobody would have expected Chelsea to make a deep Champions League run, let alone reach the final of the coveted tournament.
After a horrific start to the season, the Blues managed to finish fourth in the table—securing their spot for the Champions League. The major turnaround for Chelsea was Thomas Tuchel’s arrival, as the team managed to garner 18 clean sheets in 23 matches since Tuchel took charge back in January. In addition, the squad’s talented young core, with players like Mason Mount and Eduoard Mendy, mixed with veterans such as N’golo Kante and Thiago Silva, have all significantly contributed to the squad’s recent success.
Against all odds, Chelsea showed heart by defeating recent La Liga Champions Atletico Madrid in the Round of 16 and a formidable Porto squad in the quarterfinals. But the toughest test came in the semis when the team faced a Real Madrid squad full of talent and experience in the Champions League tournament. The Blues managed to end Real Madrid’s bid for the title, dominating the second leg by scoring twice at Stamford Bridge. Backed by Kante’s remarkable performance, Chelsea cemented their hold as one of Europe’s top teams this year by showing courageousness against the competition’s most formidable opponents.
What to expect
Looking at the club’s journey this season, fans have reason to be hopeful that the Blues may have a chance to take down Pep Guardiola’s mighty squad, but it would take everything in Chelsea’s power to achieve this feat—including a little bit of luck.
Judging from Manchester City’s past few games, many expect the squad to be in top form for the final match. On the other hand, Chelsea dropped their last few matches in the Premier League, which some fans might find concerning, especially since Kante and Mendy have recently returned to training after sustaining injuries.
With such high stakes for both teams, the awaited English Football clash for European glory will occur on May 30, 2021 at 3 am Philippine time.