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David Meyler: World-class Aguero can produce fairytale ending if given a chance in the Champions League final

This week, the ex-Premier League midfielder previews Man City v Chelsea and the Championship promotion play-off final.

Sergio Aguero is tracked by Chelsea's Andreas Christensen and N'Golo Kante.
Sergio Aguero is tracked by Chelsea's Andreas Christensen and N'Golo Kante.
Image: PA

EX-IRELAND INTERNATIONAL David Meyler is The42′s football columnist for this season.

Every Friday, the former Hull City and Sunderland midfielder will give expert insight and his predictions ahead of the weekend’s action, alongside the latest William Hill prices.

In his latest column, Meyler looks ahead to an action-packed Saturday that begins with the Championship play-off final at Wembley and climaxes with an all-English Champions League showdown in Porto. 

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Man City v Chelsea, 8pm Saturday

My earliest memory of the Champions League final is Manchester United’s famous win over Bayern Munich in 1999.

I remember, as a nine-year-old, seeing Bayern batter them at the Nou Camp — Peter Schmeichel pulling off save after save and the Germans hitting the woodwork twice before Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer popped up to do the unthinkable in the most dramatic fashion.

Six years later, I sat in the living room watching the club I supported take on one of the great Milan sides with my dad and my buddy. We all thought Liverpool were dead and buried after conceding three unanswered goals in the first half. How could they come back from that?

Once Steven Gerrard got one, however, we started to believe that they were still in the game and it turned out to be the most magical of nights in Istanbul.

You think back to huge moments like Zinedine Zidane’s volley against Bayer Leverkusen at Hampden Park, Chelsea beating Bayern Munich on penalties after Didier Drogba’s late header, Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona twice dismantling Man United and Real Madrid’s dominance in more recent years.

Most players can only dream of winning the Champions League as it is the top club competition in world football and I’m glad plans to devalue it with the creation of a European Super League never got off the ground. 

soccer-uefa-champions-league-final-real-madrid-v-bayer-leverkusen Zidane's stunning volley in the 2002 Champions League final. Source: EMPICS Sport

For only the third time (after 2008 and 2019), the final will be contested by two English teams on Saturday night. 

It signifies the strength of the Premier League right now, while also highlighting the fact that some of Europe’s elite clubs didn’t perform this season.

Look at Bayern Munich’s dominance last year and you would have expected them to follow that up again. Spanish sides — Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid — the Italian outfits like Juventus and Inter Milan, and Paris Saint-Germain were not at their best in the Champions League this term either.

Personally, I’m more invested when it’s an all-English final as I’ve been fortunate enough to play against these clubs. The squads may have changed since I retired but there are still players who I faced knocking about.

Tomorrow will be Man City’s first appearance in the final and they will never have a better opportunity to win their first Champions League title. 

Pep Guardiola’s men dominated the Premier League and are unquestionably the best side in the country but they have lost out to Chelsea in their two most recent meetings. 

That said, City didn’t have their strongest XI out in those defeats so this will be an intriguing match up. 

Chelsea were undone by Leicester City in the FA Cup final so they will be very disappointed with that and the prospect of losing two finals in a couple of weeks.

City, meanwhile, had a convincing 5-0 win over Everton to close out their league campaign.

I think both teams could be nervous as they know each other so well. This has the hallmarks of being a tight game, where neither side wants to give much away as there is so much at stake.

Chelsea have won this competition once before, under Roberto Di Matteo nearly a decade ago, but none of that squad are still around so this will be quite new for most of them.

Thomas Tuchel was obviously on the losing side in year’s final and Thiago Silva captained his PSG team. Mateo Kovacic won the Champions League three times with Real Madrid but this will be his first appearance in the final if he steps foot on the pitch in Porto. 

imago-20190209 Thomas Tuchel and Thiago Silva lost out in last season's final. Source: Imago/PA Images

For City, Ilkay Gundogan played in the 2013 Champions League final with Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund but lost to Bayern Munich.

Sergio Aguero is set to make his last appearance before moving on — reportedly to link up with close friend Lionel Messi at Barcelona — and I see the Argentine striker having a role to play in this game.

And it could well be the fairytale ending to his decade-long Man City career if he does.

As Aguero showed when he came on against Everton to bag two superb goals, there is still plenty of life left in him.

You would think with 20 minutes to go, having a world-class player like him who can create half a yard of space and get his shot off could prove to be the difference. He’s well capable of producing that moment of magic on the biggest stage.

It depends how the game is going but it they find themselves needing a goal, then who better to call on than Aguero?

I don’t think there will be too many chances or a lot given up generally and I’m leaning towards a 1-1 after 90 minutes and City to win in extra time.

Brentford v Swansea, 3pm Saturday 

Earlier in the day, the Championship play-off final provides the perfect warm-up act. 

As the old cliché goes, it is “the richest game in football” and I feel that Brentford v Swansea is going to be fascinating spectacle. 

The Bees have been in this position before, having suffered heartbreak at the hands of Fulham in last year’s final. They have since lost key players such as Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma but Thomas Frank has done a great job again this season. 

After losing the semi-final first leg 1-0 to Bournemouth and then conceding early in the return leg, Brentford rallied to win the tie 3-2 on aggregate and that will be massive for their confidence.

Swansea, who saw off Barnsley to book a place at Wembley, also play attractive football and I expect to see keepers playing out from the back and through the thirds, an emphasis on possession, patient build-up play and not many balls being lumped. 

These clubs actually met in last year’s semi-finals, when Brentford progressed despite suffering defeat in the first leg.

swansea-city-v-brentford-sky-bet-championship-liberty-stadium The Swansea players celebrating with Conor Hourihane after his goal against Brentford earlier in the season. Source: PA

I’ve no attachment to either club but I would like to see my old Ireland team-mate and fellow Cork man Conor Hourihane do well. He made a big commitment leaving Aston Villa on loan to join Swansea in January and you saw the immediate impact he had with four goals and an assist in his first six Championship matches.

So it would be nice for Conor — and Galway native Ryan Manning — to earn promotion to the Premier League.

I’m predicting Swansea to win 3-2 and Hourihane to score.

 William Hill odds above correct at the time of writing. New online customers get €30 in free bets when they bet €10 with William Hill. Just use the promo code H30. For all the latest prices, visit williamhill.com. 18+, always gamble responsibly. For more information, see gamblingtherapy.org    

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