Nine years ago, it was written in the stars. On that May 19, it was the last hurrah of the Old Guard that defined an entire generation of football at Stamford Bridge. It was a victory and a campaign against all the odds. Napoli, Barcelona, Bayern. Chelsea finished sixth in the league, but were Champions of Europe on the greatest night in our history.
This one doesn’t feel like that. This one isn’t the last hurrah, this is the beginning. An entire new guard has come and gone since 2012. Now, we’re just getting started. Only César Azpilicueta remains.
But as he leads out the team today (probably), only one thing matters. Winning.
Date / Time: Saturday, May 29, 2012, 20.00 BST; 3pm EDT; 12.30am IST (next day)
Venue: Estádio do Dragão, Porto, Portugal
Referee: Antonio Matéu Lahoz (on pitch); Alejandro Hernández (VAR) — Lahoz is an experienced referee with over 30 Champions League matches to his name, though this is his first big final ever. This will be his third Chelsea match; his previous two were both in the group stages, both in Portugal (2014-15, when we beat Sporting CP, 1-0 and 2015-16, when we lost to Porto in this stadium, 2-1). He’s refereed four City matches, with City winning three of them. Their only loss was in the 2017-18 quarterfinals to Liverpool.
Forecast: Breezy, warm-ish
On TV: BT Sport 1 (UK); CBS, Univision (USA); Sony TEN 2 (India); SuperSport MaXimo 1, Canal+ Sport 3 (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: BT Sport Live (UK); Paramount+, Univision Now (USA); Sony LIV (India); DStv Now (NGA) — CBS All Access is now called Paramount+, which is the same not-great thing but we have a sparkly new affiliate link for it, which makes it a tiny per cent better. We also have a Fubo TV affiliate link, if you’re so inclined.
Manchester City team news: Like Chelsea, Manchester City arrive with no significant injuries. İlkay Gündoğan appeared to limp out of training earlier in the week, but looked okay yesterday and will likely be available all the same.
Since we last saw and beat City 2-1 in the Premier League to briefly delay their Premier League title celebrations, they beat Newcastle by one goal in seven, lost to Brighton hilariously by one goal in five, and then spanked Everton, 5-0, on the final day. City have been on easy street for a while in the league, so it’s tough to read too much into any of those results. They’ve not lost a Champions League match all season, winning 11 of the 12. Their one draw (0-0), incidentally, was in this same stadium, against Porto in the group stages.
City beat Borussia Mönchengladbach, Borussia Dortmund, and
Borussia PSG in the knockout rounds, scoring exactly two goals in each of the six legs and conceding once in three of them. Like clockwork.
This is Manchester City’s first Champions League final and first European final of any kind since the 1970 Cup Winners’ Cup in which they beat Poland’s Górnik Zabrze. But this is familiar territory for Pep Guardiola, in his third Champions League final as manager, fourth overall, having won all of them. In fact, he’s a bit of a specialist in success in finals.
View from the enemy: Bitter and Blue
Chelsea team news: Chelsea are the underdogs, just as Tuchel is the understudy to Guardiola. But Tactics Tommy is 2-for-2 against Darth Pep since January, though whether that helps him or hurts him remains to be seen. Beating any top team three times in a row in such a short period of time is a tough ask, let alone when that team is the best team in England and Europe, and fighting for the biggest trophy in club football.
With N’Golo Kanté, Édouard Mendy, and Andreas Christensen all fit, Tommy TooCool will have the full squad to choose from. He’s said before that he doesn’t like to mess with success in finals, but that didn’t prevent him from adding a wrinkle or two to the usual 3-4-3 setup in the FA Cup final. Reece James played center back that day, and has done so a couple times since as well, while last weekend, he even popped up at holding midfielder. Tuchel seems to enjoy keeping everyone guessing.
Since taking over in January, Tuchel’s record has been exemplary, though less so than just a handful of games ago. Chelsea have lost three of four in all competitions coming in (including said FA Cup final), often lacking the requisite sharpness in attack and concentration in defense — the levels haven’t dropped much despite having to navigate such a busy and congested season, but even a small percentage drop in performance can make all the difference at this level.
Hopefully there will be no such issues in what will be, for the vast majority, the biggest game of their lives, and perhaps their entire careers.
Previously: Here’s how Chelsea got to the final.