City to win first CL trophy after tight encounter

The Estádio do Dragão in Porto was a late replacement for the original intended venue for this season's UEFA Champions League final, and a total of 16,500 very fortunate supporters will fill the ground in Portugal to one third of its capacity to witness an all-English showdown. Manchester City were crowned Premier League champions on Sunday, winning it at a canter, 12 points ahead of rivals United. Chelsea also grabbed a spot in next term's elite competition, albeit by having to rely on a late Leicester City collapse in their clash with Tottenham Hotspur to allow them to cling onto fourth spot. With so much riding on the game in terms of prestige, especially for Man City, it will likely be a very cagey affair, and could be decided by a single goal in Pep Guardiola's favour for their maiden trophy. Read our preview here:

The skills to pay the clean bills

For perhaps the first time in the entire campaign, Guardiola will be have available every single member of his squad after goalscoring midfielder İlkay Gündoğan was declared fit over the early part of the week leading into the denouement of 2020/2021 from a club perspective. His return to the matchday roster is just one of many selection dilemmas facing the head coach; only the spine of the team appear to be a lock-in, with the possible exception of Kyle Walker at right-back. The hugely experienced Fernandinho could be in line for a shock start in the heart of the midfield, and his inclusion from the outset would certainly have a big tactical bearing on the Eastlands outfit. What doesn't seem probable is having a recognised striker in the attacking trio, as has been the theme for much of the second half of the season. Sergio Agüero, despite his heroics from the bench on his Etihad farewell, won't start, but could make a cameo appearance whilst fulfilling his promise of not leaving the club until a Champions League had been won. Elsewhere, Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez will be working in tandem with Kevin De Bruyne to unseat the Chelsea rearguard from their rigid line.

Kanté their chickens

Thomas Tuchel's men have been under-par since deservedly besting Real Madrid in the semis, excepting using their greater strength in depth to exact the eventual ultimate revenge on Leicester for the Foxes' hard-earned FA Cup final win over the Blues. There are two doubts for the showdown - custodian Edouard Mendy and fellow countryman N'Golo Kanté. Both would represent grievous blows were they not to start, but expect Tuchel to demonstrate he's not risk-averse, and deploy them both from the outset. Kanté in particular will be desperately needed to avoid City hogging even more possession than they're expected to do. César Azpilicueta could well remain as the right-sided centre back, being asked to join in counters with Reece James to penetrate beyond the high lines City always take up. Despite notching just twice (chiefly thanks to many disallowed strikes) in the last 10 matches, Timo Werner looks set to lead the line, and will require all the help he can get his hands (and feet) on to disturb the centre backs in light blue.

History makers

Arguably along with David Moyes at West Ham United, Guardiola and Tuchel have been the most impressive managers in the English top flight in 2020/2021. Granted, they both have an embarrassment of riches at their disposal, but the former has cut out needless changes in tactics and personnel for the biggest occasions, and the latter took over at Stamford Bridge partway through a campaign that looked set for total failure, and has turned it into one of relative success, no matter what the result on Saturday. There will be no excuses next term not to mount a serious challenge to City's supremacy domestically, but this final might have come a little too soon for him to succeed where he failed at Paris Saint-Germain. 888sport have odds of 6.00 for a very tight 1-0 win for Manchester City, and with it, glory at last on Europe's elite stage.


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