Blue is the colour for this year’s Champions League final, as Manchester City and Chelsea board their flights to Porto seeking to end the strangest of seasons with the biggest prize of them all.
Pep Guardiola’s men advanced to the showpiece event after dumping Paris Saint-Germain out in the semi-finals, while all-time greats Real Madrid were no match for Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea.
Chelsea have beaten City twice in the past six weeks – in the FA Cup semifinal and Premier League, but this is a Champions League final.
It is the third final of Europe’s elite club competition to be played between two Premier League sides, and the second in just three seasons, and so this is a match-up that underlines the strength of the cash-rich English game.
Guardiola’s name is already etched into managerial folklore, but having led Barcelona to Champions League triumphs in 2009 and 2011, he could join the elite crowd of Bob Paisley, Carlo Ancelotti and Zinedine Zidane with a third winners’ medal, and the 50-year-old needs no added incentive to get the job done in Portugal.
Like his adversary, Thomas Tuchel is a man who knows all about European heartache, having come so close yet so far with PSG last year.
Three defeats from four before a continental final is not exactly a recipe for success, but thankfully for Tuchel and the ever-demanding Chelsea board, Leicester’s late defeat to Tottenham Hotspur means that the Blues secured fourth spot and a route into Europe’s premier competition should their efforts in Portugal prove futile.
Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea manager: “As a child, you dream of these matches and it’s like watching the moon – it’s so, so far away. Once you’re in it, you’re just in it. I don’t hesitate to say that Man. City and Bayern have been the benchmark in Europe this season and last season. We are trying to close the gap and the good thing is, in football, you can close gaps in 90 minutes.”
Josep Guardiola, Man. City manager: “We fought together and we’re in the final of the Champions League, and those are nice words. People believe it’s easy to get to the final of the Champions League. Getting to the final now makes sense of what we have done in the past four or five years. Every day these guys have been consistent and this is remarkable.”
Manchester City: Ederson; Walker, Stones, Rúben Dias, Zinchenko; Bernardo Silva, Fernandinho, Gündoğan; Mahrez, De Bruyne, Foden
Chelsea: Mendy; Christensen, Thiago Silva, Rüdiger; Azpilicueta, Jorginho, Kanté, Chilwell; Pulišić, Werner, Mount