Manchester City vs Chelsea: Road to Champions League final

By Can Erozden

ANKARA (AA) – For Manchester City, it is the one glaring omission from a glittering trophy cabinet – the one title that just keeps getting away.

For Chelsea, it is a chance to relive the glory of their 2012 triumph – undoubtedly one of the crowning moments of the Roman Abramovich era.

As the two English powerhouses prepare to fight for the 2021 UEFA Champions League title on May 29, both know that the stakes could not be higher in the battle for the ultimate prize in European club football.

The millions pumped in by City’s Emirati owners since the 2008 takeover have helped the club achieve immense domestic success, winning every major competition in English football.

However, for all their financial might and star-studded squads over the years, City had never been able to reach the Champions League final.

Pep Guardiola’s side has changed that with a ruthless run in this year’s competition, storming through with five wins and a draw to finish top of a group that included Portugal’s Porto, Greek champions Olympiacos, and French side Olympique Marseille.

The Spanish tactician put out teams that were clinical in front of goal and miserly in defense, netting 13 times in the group stages and conceding just once.

In the Round of 16, they eased past Germany’s Borussia Monchengladbach with comfortable 2-0 wins in both legs, which were played at the Puskas Arena in Budapest due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

City tamed another German side, Borussia Dortmund, in the quarterfinals, clinching both legs 2-1 to set up a semifinal clash with last year’s finalists Paris Saint-Germain.

The English club did not falter against Neymar and co., winning the first leg 2-1 in Paris to secure a vital advantage for the return tie in Manchester.

Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez was the star of the game on May 4, scoring both goals as City shut out PSG for a 2-0 victory that earned them a spot in their first Champions League final.

City has scored 25 goals in the competition this season, averaging 2.09 goals per game.

Mahrez and Spanish midfielder Ferran Torres led the scoring with four goals each, followed by three each from midfielders Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin De Bruyne, and Phil Foden.

City’s two main forwards, Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus have netted twice in the tournament.

– Chelsea eye 2nd Champions League title

Chelsea are out to make sure that May 29 is a repeat of their 2012 final success against Germany’s Bayern Munich.

The Blues won four games and drew two to rack up 14 points and top a group that included Spanish club Sevilla, Russia’s FC Krasnodar, and French side Rennes.

Like their final opponents, Chelsea also finished with a massive goal difference in the group phase, scoring 14 times and conceding just twice in six matches.

Before the next stage started, the London club had a change in the dugout as manager Frank Lampard was sacked and replaced by former PSG boss Thomas Tuchel.

Chelsea made light work of Spanish side Atletico Madrid in the Round of 16, winning 3-0 on aggregate, before claiming a 2-1 aggregate win to eliminate Porto in the quarterfinals.

Their semifinal against Spanish giants Real Madrid was the biggest challenge for Tuchel and Chelsea this season.

With the game perfectly poised after a 1-1 draw in Madrid, Chelsea put in an inspired performance for a 2-0 win in the return leg in London, leaving them just one step away from a second Champions League title.

The Blues definitely have more experience dealing with the pressure at this stage of the tournament, as this will be their third time in the final of Europe’s elite club competition.

Their first in 2008 ended with a dramatic loss on penalties to Manchester United in Moscow before they achieved a nail-biting victory over Bayern Munich after a penalty shoot-out at the German side’s home in 2012.

Chelsea have racked up 22 goals this season, at an average of 1.84 per game.

French striker Olivier Giroud leads the club’s scoring chart with six goals, followed by German forward Timo Werner with four, and two each for Christian Pulisic, Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi, and Hakim Ziyech.

– From Istanbul to Porto

The venue for this year’s final was changed earlier this month due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

Instead of Turkey’s historic city of Istanbul, Manchester City and Chelsea will head to Portugal’s coastal town of Porto for the May 29 showdown.
The decision to change the venue was taken as the UK government had placed Turkey, which was under lockdown from April 29 to May 17, on its red travel list.

The Estadio do Dragao, a stadium with a capacity of over 50,000, will host 12,000 people for the final, following UEFA’s announcement that City and Chelsea will each be allowed to have 6,000 fans in attendance.