Chelsea, however, will complete quite a turnaround should they win the competition, given that they had their backs to the walls 3 months ago when Frank Lampard was sacked by the Chelsea hierarchy. Thomas Tuchel has come in and steadied the ship to quite an extent, and the German philosophy has been a hit with the players, however, it will be interesting to see who Tuchel selects for the final.
While the formation would be similar, Tuchel’s choice of players will be intriguing as he has selected two different lineups in the two times he has faced City this season.
So, how can Chelsea lineup against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City?
DEFENCE : Thiago Silva, Antonio Rudiger, Reece James
While Edouard Mendy will surely start in goal, Tuchel’s defensive picks have been slightly quirky towards the end of the season. While Cesar Azpilicueta was fielded as the permanent right center-back, the last three games have seen Reece James shift to that position, and it has worked wonders. Reece James is an able runner and a sturdy solution as a right center-back as he can fend off both, burly as well as fast attackers. The likes of Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne have penetrated down the left this season, and Reece James could be the perfect option to fend off the two.
While Reece James would have to chase down attackers when he used to play as a wingback, he now has the advantage of going 1v1 against the forwards, and this bodes well for James, who is an excellent tackler of the ball. Additionally, his passing range is also better than Azpilicueta and, this could prove to be key for Chelsea keeping a clean- sheet in the final.
Alongside James, Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger are no-brainers. While Thiago Silva provides a calm and composed figure at the back, Rudiger provides a much more aggressive body, and this is where the 3 defenders complement each other perfectly. Manchester City are a free-flowing side, and they like to keep the ball. Players like Rudiger and James are quick to intercept balls, while Thiago Silva can sniff out danger almost instantly. This forces City to not make any mistakes in the final third, and this is a hard task, even for a team as good as City.
Chelsea’s defence has been one of the best across Europe this season, and ironically, they will be hoping to keep out one of the best attacks across Europe on Saturday night, a job they are very capable of performing.
WING-BACKS : Cesar Azpilicueta, Ben Chilwell
Chelsea’s club captain in Cesar Azpilicueta has provided the Blues with yet another sensational season, and the defender’s versatility has helped Tuchel change tactics quite often. Although people like to believe that Azpiliceuta is a conservative option in a full-back role, the defender also has his perks while going forward. Azpilicueta is an underrated crosser of the ball while he is also quick to pass the balls around the corner, which enables Chelsea’s front three to go on swift counter-attacks.
Defensively, Azpilicueta’s aggressive pressing will be useful against the likes of Joao Cancelo, who will mostly play as left-back for City on the night. Cancelo likes to push forward, and Azpilicueta will be key in stopping him from progressing on that wing.
Ben Chilwell, on the other wing, has been brilliant for the Blues this season while Tuchel is also a fan of the full-back. Ben Chilwell’s marauding runs on the right-wing will be a huge problem for Riyad Mahrez, who will start on the right side for City. Chilwell’s running and progression with the ball has been used very cleverly by Thomas Tuchel this season. He helps Chelsea to stretch the game out wide, something Guardiola does not like all that much.
Riyad Mahrez will be forced to track back on Saturday due to how high Chilwell stays when Chelsea have possession of the ball. Defensively, Chilwell has been sound and will be a perfect match for Mahrez’s trickery on the wing.
CENTER MIDFIELD: Jorginho, N’Golo Kante
Chelsea’s heart and soul – Jorginho and N’Golo Kante have been ridiculously amazing at the base of midfield this season. While Kante has bombed down through the center, Jorginho has controlled and managed the tempo of the game. The two complement each other perfectly. While Jorginho lacks pace, Kante lacks a passing range, and the two cover up for each other’s shortcomings. While both are excellent interceptors of the ball, they have different approaches and this will be an advantage for Chelsea against Man City.
Kante prefers pressing the ball in the opposition half, Jorginho lets people face him 1v1 inside his own half as he is an incredible tackler of the ball in tight areas. He has been the heartbeat of this Chelsea side, while Jorginho is a leader in the center of the pitch for the side. Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan, and Rodri are intricate passers of the ball, and Kante and Jorginho will be crucial in break the trident’s momentum from time to time.
FRONT THREE: Hakim Ziyech, Mason Mount, Timo Werner
On the two occasions, Thomas Tuchel has faced City this season, he has opted for the Ziyech and Werner in his frontline, while Mason Mount was also selected in the first game but was rested in the 2nd due to the severe load of games.
Ziyech, in particular, has been inventive and played a crucial role in both of those games. While he scored the only goal of the game in the FA Cup semi-final, he also scored a scorching equalizer when the Blues faced City earlier this month in the Premier League. Ziyech’s understanding of the City’s weakness on the left-back role is what makes the Moroccan a starter for the game on Saturday. He is an incredible passer while he is also an able runner on the shoulder of the full-back. Ziyech also presses from the front, which is important against a possession-based side like Manchester City.
Chelsea’s Player of the Year, Mason Mount, has been the standout performer for Chelsea in all competitions this season. One of Chelsea’s very own, Mount has been instrumental in being the link between midfield and attack this season. The Englishman’s vision and pressing has made him a leader in the front line, with his sensational goal against Porto the perfect example for that.
Mount was also one of the main perpetrators against Real Madrid in the semi-final as he continuously found spaces between Madrid’s defence and midfield. His direct running and thirst to keep possession of the ball will make him an absolute pain for Kyle Walker. Walker, who is not as fast as he used to be, will face problems if Mount plays on his shoulder, a tactic Tuchel will certainly employ on Saturday to restrict Walker’s progression up the field.
Timo Werner, although unfortunate in front of goal, has also enjoyed playing against City this season, with the forward picking up 2 crucial assists in the two games against the Citizens in the last two months. Werner’s running behind the last man denies City from holding a high line, while it also shifts the attention from Ziyech and Mount on the wings. Werner will be key in keeping Ruben Dias busy, while the German has also been one of the most fouled players across Europe this season. Werner will be a nuisance for both center-backs, and if Chelsea are to win the Champions League the £47 million men will have to deliver when it matters the most.
Chelsea Predicted XI vs Man City: Edouard Mendy; Thiago Silva, Antonio Rudiger, Reece James; Jorginho, N’Golo Kante; Hakim Ziyech, Mason Mount, Timo Werner.