Manchester City vs Chelsea | Saturday 29th May 2021, 20:00 | BT Sport
The climax to the European season sees the third all English final of its premier club competition as Manchester City and Chelsea head for the Estádio do Dragão to contest the 66th UCL final – the perfect warm up to the delayed 2020 Euro which kicks off less than two weeks after the final whistle blows here in Porto.
Pep Guardiola will be hoping it’s third time lucky against his recent nemesis Thomas Tuchel who has had the upper hand in the two meetings since taking over the hot seat at Stamford Bridge in January, however, the German comes in to this clash on the worst run of form since his arrival in London.
Losing three of their last four games including the FA Cup final to Leicester and EPL season finale flop at Villa Park were definitely games the Blues would have been wanting to win and their will now be a knock to the confidence of a backline that was up to that point pretty much water tight.
It has been a Chelsea trait in the 29 games since Tuchel’s arrival to keep the big games tight – they have only conceded twice in six UCL games with one of those an injury time goal against Porto with progress to the next round already assured.
In eleven fixtures in all competitions against the EPL top 10 (W7, D2, L2) Chelsea conceded just four times and in those combined 17 clashes not once have they let in over 1.5 goals so this has the makings of another typically tight and tense affair.
This is the third appearance in the UCL final for Chelsea with the previous two having been decided by penalties (2007/08 & 2011/12), and given that strong defensive record I am prepared to take a chance at a nice price of 13/2 with Sky Bet that they will take this battle all the way again.
We are used to seeing Manchester City dominate the ball, however they haven’t had things all their own way in those recent skirmishes with the Blues and will have those two recent defeats firmly in their mind, but one angle in which has seen Pep’s side score higher in both those games is worth getting onside once again here.
The Citizens forced six corners in both recent clashes with Tuchel’s Chelsea and odds of 1/1 with Paddy Power to have at least that many again appeal greatly.
With Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez all likely to start not only do we have skillful, tricky customers who will be looking to get in behind the Chelsea back line but also players that are all happy to have a go from distance – both raising the likelihood of flag kicks.
Finally, I have one final attempt at landing us a big longshot to take in to the forthcoming Euros – and this fixture looks to be a perfect opportunity to try something big, but backed up by some great supporting statistics.
Legendary Spanish whistle blower Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz is the man in the middle for this showpiece final, an ideal appointment for those of us looking to see a few cards flashed about as he has shown a total of 144 cards in his 29 appointments across all competitions this season, with 25 coming from five UCL games so averaging exactly five plus seven shown in a qualifying round when Omonia Nikosia hosted Olympiacos.
Last season’s final saw PSG and Bayern Munich share eight cards between them, issued by equally renowned disciplinarian Daniele Orsato and remember that was a game held behind closed doors, having at least 16,500 fans in the stadium can only add to the occasion.
When these two met in that recent FA Cup semi-final Mike Dean took five names and the bookies are expecting a similar number again in this tie – but as I mentioned this angle is about putting a long shot with a chance together not a bet at a shade of odds on – so rather than look at how many will get booked let’s try work out who.
Let’s start with a fairly obvious name – Jorginho, no other Chelsea player has been cautioned more than the Italian midfielder in his sides UCL run so far and will surely have his work cut out against that fluid Manchester City attack and odds of 5/2 to be carded reflect that.
Next up Ilkay Gundogan who is expected to be included in the starting line up here after shaking off a knee injury that meant he was not risked in last weekend's final Premier League game against Everton.
The German international has only picked up two yellow cards this campaign, one in league action the other in this competition away at Olympiacos however one of Lahoz’s characteristics is he is an official that will card players for persistent fouling which makes this an interesting play.
Gundogan ranks way down the City players for fouls committed in the EPL averaging just 0.3 per game – compare that to a number four times higher when competing in Europe’s elite club competition and has committed more fouls than any of his team mates (13), which if repeated here could catch the Spanish referee’s eye and lead to him taking action – odds of 5/1 definitely caught my eye.
Finally, and on similar lines is Kevin De Bruyne, who started both legs of the semi-final against PSG as a forward, or false 9 as it is better known when talking about Pep’s formations!
The 29-year-old former Chelsea player ranks only behind Fernandinho for the average number of fouls per UCL games with 1.6, however he committed four in both of those aforementioned semis and picked up cautions in both, odds of 13/2 are too big, too tempting.
Manchester City vs Chelsea – Man City Over 5.5 Corners (1/1 Paddy Power)
Manchester City vs Chelsea – Tie to be decided on penalties (13/2 Sky Bet)
Manchester City vs Chelsea – Jorginho, Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne to be booked (160/1 Bet 365)