Man City vs. Chelsea
Venue: Etihad Stadium
Kick off: 5:30PM
In a dress rehearsal for the upcoming all-English Champions League final, Manchester City host Chelsea in today’s Premier League showdown at the Etihad Stadium.
Pep Guardiola’s men booked their tickets to Istanbul with a 4-1 aggregate victory over last year’s runners-up Paris Saint-Germain, while Chelsea beat Real Madrid 3-1 over two legs to set up a European battle with their counterparts.
A win here for City would also confirm their status as Premier League champions, while Chelsea are still embroiled in a fight for a top-four finish.
With an injured Kylian Mbappe helplessly watching on from the bench and Neymar nullified by an impenetrable City rearguard, the stage was set for Guardiola’s attackers to steal the show in the second leg against PSG, and they did so with aplomb.
One week after his match-winning free kick somehow crept through the wall to hand City a 2-1 first-leg triumph, Riyad Mahrez was on hand to tuck home at the back stick with 11 minutes on the clock, and PSG’s attacks were futile against a City rearguard marshalled by the unwavering Ruben Dias and John Stones.
With 63 minutes on the clock, a fast City break ended with Phil Foden once again picking out Mahrez at the far post, and the Algerian attacker coolly slotted home to send the Manchester giants into the Champions League final that they have been dreaming of for the past decade.
Guardiola has never been able to hack it on the European stage since swapping the Allianz Arena for the Etihad Stadium, and the charismatic Catalan may now just be 90 minutes away from writing his name into another page of City’s ever-growing history books, but the domestic crown is the only one in their sights this weekend.
City gave themselves the best chance of being crowned champions last weekend with a straightforward 2-0 victory at Crystal Palace – during which Sergio Aguero netted only his second Premier League goal of the season – but Manchester United’s game with Liverpool being postponed prevented Guardiola’s side from planning their trophy parade.
However, with 80 points collected from 34 matches and a 13-point chasm separating them from closest challengers Man United – who now have a game in hand – City’s fifth Premier League title will be wrapped up this afternoon should they come up trumps against Chelsea, although the league has more or less been a foregone conclusion since January.
The Citizens welcome Chelsea to the Etihad Stadium on a five-game winning streak across all competitions and boasting back-to-back clean sheets against Palace and PSG, but it is at home where the banana skins have presented themselves for Guardiola’s side, who have lost to Man United and Leeds United at the Etihad since the start of March.
With 71 goals scored unsurprisingly a league high and 24 shipped at the other end by far the fewest in the league, City’s talent in all areas of the pitch could propel them to a domestic and European treble come the end of May, but hopes of an unprecedented quadruple were dashed by none other than Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-finals.
City need not panic if their status as champions is not confirmed this weekend, but they welcome Chelsea to their headquarters on a 14-game unbeaten run against sides from London, and today’s game is the perfect opportunity for both teams to scope out their opponents ahead of the Champions League final.
Twenty-four hours after witnessing City put PSG to the sword, Chelsea produced an equally dominant performance to send serial winners Real Madrid packing, as Thomas Tuchel masterminded a 2-0 second-leg victory over Champions League expert Zinedine Zidane in West London.
Aiming to build on a 1-1 draw at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, Chelsea drew first blood through a chance that Timo Werner and his alarming catalogue of wasted chances could not possibly miss, with the German striker on hand to head home after Kai Havertz’s audacious chip struck the woodwork.
After a wave of fruitless attacks, the irrepressible Mason Mount sealed the Blues’ place in the final on the 85-minute mark, as the young Englishman crashed in a second following some bright attacking play from substitute Christian Pulisic to set up a mouth-watering encounter with City.
Frank Lampard’s sacking over the winter period was met with surprise and condemnation, but Tuchel has taken no time whatsoever to settle into life in the English capital, and the former PSG boss will endeavour to go one better in the Champions League this time around after losing last season’s final to Bayern.
The Blues are some way off their Istanbul opponents in the Premier League table, though, as Tuchel still has work to do if he is to confirm Chelsea’s top-four status and a route into next season’s Champions League should their efforts in Turkey prove unsuccessful.
Havertz’s well-taken brace saw Chelsea stroll to a 2-0 win over relegation-threatened rivals Fulham last time out in the Premier League, and their previous victory over West Ham United has seen them open up a three-point gap over the fifth-placed Hammers, and third-placed Leicester City are also within touching distance before they face Newcastle United.
Last week’s stalemate in Madrid extended Tuchel’s unbeaten away record to 11 matches in all competitions since replacing club legend Lampard at the helm, and Chelsea have conceded a mere four goals on their travels in that time – three of them in the Premier League.
Out of the 15 Premier League games that Tuchel has managed, his Chelsea side have kept clean sheets in 11 of them – including each of their last three – and the Blues could now register three consecutive wins with clean sheets for the first time since November 2017.
Chelsea and City prepare to renew hostilities just three weeks after their closely-fought affair in the FA Cup semi-finals, and with only three weeks to go until the European finalists do battle in Istanbul, Today’s game may provide the answers to several questions before the continental crown takes precedence.
Man City possible XI: Ederson, Cancelo, Dias, Laporte, Mendy, Rodri, Gundogan, De Bruyne, Mahrez, Aguero, Sterling.
Chelsea possible XI: Mendy, Zouma, Rudiger, Christensen, James, Jorginho, Kante, Alonso, Mount, Pulisic, Havertz.