Manchester City face Chelsea in the Champions League final tonight in Porto, in what is going to be an All-English affair.
Man. City & Chelsea go head-to-head for the ultimate prize in club football 🏆🤩
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) May 29, 2021
The Pep Guardiola led side is on the verge of completing a treble this season, after wrapping up the Premier League for the 3rd time in four seasons while lifting the Carabao Cup for the 4th year in a row.
Chelsea, however, would want to finish the season high and having lost the FA Cup to Leicester City two weeks ago, Thomas Tuchel and his men will step into the final wanting to at least win the Champions League to salvage what has been a very inconsistent season.
Now, for City, this might be their biggest match in five years, as they finally get a chance to have a crack at Europe’s biggest club trophy, having failed the previous four times under Guardiola.
Pep Guardiola gets his first shot at the Champions League final as the manager of Manchester City. (Image Courtesy: Premier League / Website)
But it seems like there is a midfield conundrum at City at present as Guardiola isn’t yet sure on whom to start in the final.
We, at FootTheBall, try to decode this conundrum by looking at all the options at the Spaniard’s disposal.
HOW WILL CITY SET UP AGAINST CHELSEA?
For the majority of the season Guardiola has opted for a striker-less formation and it has worked wonders for City. Sergio Aguero’s fitness issues coupled with Gabriel Jesus’ inconsistencies had forced the Spaniard to try and create something new in terms of the tactics and it has been a revelation.
On paper, Guardiola sets the team up in a standard 4-3-3 with Kevin De Bruyne as the false 9 and Joao Cancelo, who is a right-back by trade, at left-back. But as the game progresses, it turns into a 3-4-3 diamond, similar to Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona, but each of the players having different responsibilities.
How Guardiola set up his Manchester City on paper early in the season.
It is here where Cancelo comes into the picture as he tucks in alongside Rodri in the pivot while Ilkay Gundogan used to occupy the number 10 position when De Bruyne was not available due to injuries.
But with the return of their talisman into the line-up and the consistent performances of Oleksandr Zinchenko, Guardiola in the recent games leading to final has switched up his 3-4-3, where in Rodri drops into the defence to form a three with Ruben Dias and John Stones with Zinchenko getting enough freedom in the left half of the midfield for City.
How Guardiola set up his Manchester City when in possession during the game in the recent games.
This might be trick for Guardiola to break open the stubborn Chelsea defence under Tuchel, which has been one of the best in the world since the German arrival. Although Tuchel sets up his Chelsea team with a back three, it is quite rigid and not as flexible as Guardiola’s City.
WHO WILL START IN THE MIDFIELD FOR CITY?
It is certain that Guardiola will not change from a formation and system that has worked wonders for him, that too in a final and he has faced the criticisms of overthinking before in games in the past.
Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden are set to start as the wide attackers, but the midfield selection is going to be problem for City. De Bruyne is a shoo-in at the number 9 role, where he has the freedom to do his thing. Also, it depends upon who Guardiola chooses to start at the left back position.
Phil Foden is certain to start for Manchester City in the final. (Image Courtesy: UEFA Champions League/ Twitter)
Cancelo and Zinchenko bring different qualities to this City side, and it has been visible in the season that the team plays in a different style when one of them start, compared to the other. We think that Zinchenko is set to start in the final, owing to his recent performances.
In the midfield, Gundogan’s fitness issues are over and is available for selection. But he might not begin the game if Guardiola wants to start Fernandinho and Rodri in the pivot so as to beef up his midfield to screen the defence.
Gundogan’s featuring from the start might still be in the hanging. (Image Courtesy: Premier League / Website)
Or else Gundogan might play ahead of Bernardo Silva in the midfield, which then would mean that De Bruyne will solely have to play as the false nine rather than roaming around the pitch and finding space. This might in turn disturb the system once again.
Guardiola will have this dilemma on whom to start until the deadline of submitting the team sheet to the authorities today, but his selection is guaranteed to have an impact on how certain individuals are going to play in the final against a determined Chelsea side managed by Thomas Tuchel.
Predicted Starting Line-Up: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Dias, Zinchenko, Rodri, Gundogan, Bernardo, Mahrez, De Bruyne, Foden