Chelsea, Man City will face each other in a Champions League final in England

A season marked by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the shock waves of the failed attempt to create an escaping Super League culminated on Saturday when Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City and Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea compete against each other in an all-English Champions League final in Porto.

The finalists were among the group of 12 clubs that announced their escape project in April, but were also among the first to back out in light of the fury of the fans – who now hope to celebrate European glory in Portugal this weekend.

It is the third final of Europe’s elite club competition to be played between two Premier League teams, and the second in just three seasons, such is the financial power of the modern English game.

And these are the two clubs whose own transformations over the past two decades under mega-rich foreign owners have done the most to change the Premier League landscape forever.

Chelsea and City have not met in a final since 1986 in the short-lived Full Members Cup, when the London club won 5-4 at Wembley.

That was before the Premier League and the modern Champions League existed, before Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003 and before Abu Dhabi’s takeover of City in 2008. Together they have now won seven of the last 10 Premier League titles.

Chelsea have experienced this stage in Europe before, after beating Bayern Munich on penalties in the 2012 final. Since then they have also won the Europa League twice.

‘If you win, you are a hero’

City has never made it this far, but is finally here, after 13 years of massive investment under Sheikh Mansour and four previous years of disappointment under Guardiola, the man who was primarily hired to win them this match.

“When you reach the Champions League final, you complete part of the process that started five years ago,” Guardiola said Friday.

After battling for the Premier League title, their third in four seasons, and also winning the League Cup, a City side starring Kevin De Bruyne and Ruben Dias are the clear favorites at the Estadio do Dragao.

“We as players understand the scope of the game,” said playmaker De Bruyne on Friday. “If you win, you are a hero, if you lose, you are almost a failure.”

Chelsea have transformed since Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard as coach in January, even though they have closed the national season with three losses in four games, including the FA Cup final against Leicester City.

They have beaten City twice in the past six weeks, first in the cup semi-finals and then in Manchester in the league.

“They are arguably the strongest team in Europe and perhaps the world at the moment. They have made a huge gap between them and us in the league, but we closed the gap for 90 minutes at Wembley and away from City and England. this is what we want to do tomorrow, ”Tuchel said Friday.

Shadow of Covid-19

Covid-19 is once again casting its shadow over the final, which will be played in Porto following the last-minute decision to relocate it from Istanbul.

The Turkish metropolis was denied the opportunity to host the match for the second year in a row after the British government put the country on the travel red list, preventing fans of either finalist from attending the match from England.

Just like last year, when Lisbon was the last-minute solution, Portugal came to the rescue once again, with the country being one of the few on the UK’s green travel list.

There can be few more charming host cities than Porto, with its cobbled streets tumbling down to the waterfront overlooking the port wine warehouses on the other side of the Douro River.

English fans gathered on café terraces under a bright blue sky on Friday. With the Portuguese authorities allowing 33 percent of the Estadio do Dragao to be filled, there will be a total of 16,500 spectators in the ground, including 6,000 fans from each club.

Many more are expected in the city without tickets and there will be two fan zones, one for supporters from each side, including one under a giant inflatable Champions League trophy on the city’s main Avenida dos Aliados.

A negative coronavirus test is required to enter, but fans are allowed to consume alcohol before being transported by bus to the competition venue.

(AFP)

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