By Manuel Sánchez Gómez
London, May 27 (EFE).- Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola will be the last hurdle in Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel’s second attempt to win his first Champions League title in Saturday’s final.
Tuchel, who lost to Bayern Munich in last season’s final, is once again walking the last mile of the path to glory. And he has reached it after a most unexpected turn of events, having been sacked by Paris Saint-Germain only five months ago.
Chelsea was his sideline of choice, amongst the flood of offers that came his way. The German was seduced by the club’s long-term project, summer investments, and the youth of its line-up.
Tuchel’s system was easy to implement, building hierarchy and order over the anarchic style left over by his predecessor Frank Lampard.
He rejuvenated Chelsea, restoring a solidity and tactical discipline not seen since the departure of Antonio Conte, from whom he replicated a five-man defence leaving Chelsea’s goal unbreached in 10 of his first 12 matches in charge.
The challenge he still needs to overcome is Chelsea’s goal-scoring inefficiency, with fewer shots on target than other teams of its calibre and Timo Werner’s “unluckiest season” ever, as he himself has described it.
Although Chelsea’s solid defence has allowed it to overcome its difficulties up front, it couldn’t carry the team to victory in the FA Cup against Leicester, and didn’t help much when just managing to sneak into the Premier League top 4 thanks to Tottenham Hotspurs late win at the Foxes on the last day of the season.
The mental factor will be Tuchel’s biggest asset Saturday, making him the best counter to Guardiola.
The Champions League has witnessed two clashes between Guardiola and Tuchel, with two victories for the latter. The German coach also won against his Spanish counterpart in the FA Cup semi finals and in the Premier League this year.
Guardiola has not won a single game against Tuchel this season, but will arrive in Porto with an almost perfect line-up, the pinnacle of his period in Manchester.
Guardiola’s strategy is simple at a first glance, with his typical 4-3-3 formation, but the trick lies in how he moves the pieces.
Throughout the year, he has employed the false nine approach, given Sergio Agüero’s low scoring returns and struggles for fitness. Instead, he has turned to players like Phil Foden, Kevin de Bruyne and Ferran Torres at the front.
Man City’s weak defence has been fixed with the arrival of Rúben Dias, after a humiliating 0-5 defeat against Leicester City prompted Guardiola to buy the Portuguese defender.
Dias was Football Writers’ Association’s Footballer of the Year this season, and he has substantially improved the performance of his teammates John Stones and Aymeric Laporte.
Most likely, Saturday’s duel won’t be a flamboyant show of prowess, but rather a stunning tactical battle to crown one coach: Tuchel or Guardiola.