Champions League final is a meeting between two of the sharpest minds in football; Paul Merson told Sky Sports: "If you have a go at Man City you have got a chance but I don't think Chelsea have got the players to take them chances"
Saturday 29 May 2021 21:06, UK
Pep Guardiola and Thomas Tuchel are old acquaintances.
It was seven years ago that they first sat down together in a Munich restaurant where they talked tactics for hours using salt and pepper shakers as props and were so animated that waiters were too afraid to interrupt.
On Saturday evening, at the Estádio do Dragão in picturesque Porto, the pair will lead out their respective sides in an all-English Champions League final that contains several intriguing match-ups and themes.
When it comes to elite European managers, Tuchel cites Guardiola as the benchmark. In Portugal, he goes in search of the 27th major trophy of his 13-year coaching career, with Manchester City. This is his third Champions League final, but a first in 10 years, winning his first two at Barcelona.
How Phil Foden became a key figure for Manchester City this season and why his influence could prove decisive in the Champions League final.
Tuchel is penning his own impressive narrative at Chelsea, becoming the first coach to reach back-to-back finals with different clubs, having lost last year's showpiece match with Paris Saint-Germain. The pair are so tactically astute that they are prone to overthinking on the biggest stage.
The manager with greater clarity in his thinking is likely to emerge victorious, as Sky Sports' Paul Merson looks ahead to an intriguing climax to the club season...
I'm worried for Chelsea after seeing them at Aston Villa in what was a must-win game for them. They missed another load of chances and that's a big concern.
I know Chelsea have beaten Man City twice already this season, but I do worry for them in this one. Let's not get carried away, in the game at the Etihad, City missed a penalty to go 2-0 up. If that game goes to 2-0 it could get very messy, but for Chelsea, after the penalty miss, the reins came off and bang.
If you have a go at Man City you have got a chance, but you've got to take that chance, and I don't think Chelsea have got the players to take them chances. Against Leicester in the FA Cup final, Chelsea had all that play in the first half but they just don't put teams away.
Do you stick or twist? It's a hard one. Manchester City look menacing. That's the problem for Chelsea, they do look very good. When they've been successful, they've taken the game to Man City. They did exactly that at the Etihad the other week.
You look at that and if they do it again, they have got a chance. But you do open the game up at your peril against Manchester City, and I don't think Chelsea have got the firepower to go toe to toe and end to end with Pep Guardiola's team.
I just can't' see how they can do that without natural goal scorers.
Man City are going to be nervous. They haven't won this competition before. It's their first final.
We all take for granted that Man City will go out and just play their game, but it is different when you get to finals. It's completely and utterly different. It is all about how you cope with it and how you are going to be on the day.
For me, it's going to be a very interesting game. It's a very interesting final, which both teams can win, and you have to say Chelsea can win it because of their wins over City this season.
It is going to be about who can handle the nerves the best because even though it is two Premier League teams, it is a massive football match. It's the Champions League final and the history that comes with that is massive.
I have to say Timo Werner, and I say that as his biggest critic. If he gets it right on the day and makes the right decisions, Man City are in trouble because he will cause you a lot of problems.
However, we've seen it too many times over the last eight to nine months, he doesn't make the right decisions consistently enough. If he'd have made the right decisions at Wembley against Leicester, Chelsea would have won the FA Cup before half-time.
So, for those reasons he is the most important player on Saturday night.
I could have said Thiago Silva because you have to be so sharp in defence with Man City. You can't switch off for a second. You've got to be aware and you've got to be organised, but I am going with Werner because on his day, he can hurt you.
Both N'Golo Kante and Edouard Mendy are also musts for the game on Saturday. It's good news for Chelsea that they are on course to play. They are two of the first names on the teamsheet alongside Mason Mount.
How many key players do you want? They've got them all and that's the problem.
We all talk about Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden, but who's to say Joao Cancelo isn't going to pop up outside the penalty area and score a goal, and he's the full-back.
It's mind-blowing. The key players are all over the field and that's why Kante and Thiago Silva are going to have huge roles to play. You've got to be alive all over the field in every second of every minute against Man City.
If you switch off or if one player gets lazy, the ball is in the back of the net.