Skip to content
Guardiola and Tuchel ahead of the 2016 German Cup final.
Guardiola and Tuchel ahead of the 2016 German Cup final.
Image: DPA/PA Images

David Meyler: Saturday will be a fascinating dress rehearsal for the Champions League final

In this week’s column, the ex-Sunderland and Hull City midfielder gives his predictions for Man City v Chelsea and previews Liverpool’s late push for the top four.
May 7th 2021, 9:45 AM 3,033 0

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 Saturday’s Premier League clash between this season’s Champions League finalists and gives his thoughts on Liverpool v Southampton. 

Meyler WH banner

 Man City v Chelsea, 5.30pm Saturday

For the third time in Champions League history — and the second in three seasons — the final of European football’s elite club competition will be contested by two English sides.

This week saw Manchester City and Chelsea both book their place for the showcase at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium on 29 July. Before that, however, they face off tomorrow evening in a Premier League fixture that will now be viewed as a dress rehearsal of sorts.

City had a terrific result against Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg and followed that up with one of the best all-round performances I’ve seen from them on Tuesday.

People will point to the fact that PSG didn’t have Kylian Mbappe available and that was certainly a huge blow, but every single City player was phenomenal on the night. It was a masterclass — both defensively and going forward.

Their strength in depth is scary. Pep Guardiola played what he felt was his strongest XI, but one of their form players this season, Joao Cancelo, only made it onto an exceptionally talented bench alongside Aymeric Laporte, Benjamin Mendy, Rodri, Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero, Ferran Torres and Gabriel Jesus.

Pep is a tactical genius but he also deserves credit for his ability to man-manage those players and keep them all hungry.

manchester-city-v-paris-saint-germain-uefa-champions-league-semi-final-second-leg-etihad-stadium Riyad Mahrez celebrating one of two goals against PSG on Tuesday. Source: PA

Since the Abu Dhabi takeover by Sheikh Mansour, the ultimate goal has been to win the Champions League. They have invested somewhere in the region of two billion euros over the past 13 years, recruiting the world’s most talented players and building state-of-the-art facilities.

A major turning point was enticing Guardiola to join the project. He is a serial winner who has racked up trophies everywhere he has managed. His record in cup finals is remarkable, having won 14 out of 15.

The Catalan coach has revolutionised their style of play and claimed two league titles along the way, but Europe has continued to be a stumbling block. Pep had lost four Champions League semi-finals prior to this season (one with Barcelona and three at Bayern Munich), so reaching his first final since 2011 and the first in City’s history is undoubtedly a monkey off his back.

In his post-match interview on Tuesday, Pep spoke about some people expecting him to be in the final every year, but it doesn’t work like that.

If you look back at the competition, there is an element of luck involved and it comes down to key moments.

Liverpool claw their way back to 3-2 down in 2005 and then Xabi Alonso’s penalty is saved by Dida. If the rebound goes a couple of feet more to the right then Milan get a significant boost, but instead he follows up to score a crucial equaliser.

Man United win it in 2008 after John Terry slips taking his penalty. Sergio Ramos grabs a 93rd-minute header to draw them level against Atletico Madrid in 2014.

Even for City, PSG have a penalty ruled out and Marquinhos heads against the bar in two moments that could have made it a totally different game.

Now Guardiola is back in the final, he will be desperate to win a Champions League without Lionel Messi as that has been a criticism thrown at him during his time at Bayern Munich and Man City.

This is the best chance he is going to get and it’s also a massive opportunity to claim the treble as the Carabao Cup is already wrapped up and the league title will be very soon.

The match in Istanbul will be Sergio Aguero’s last for the club.

What the Argentine striker has achieved with City has been outstanding. He will always be remembered for his goal against QPR in 2012 that won them their first Premier League title — and Martin Tyler’s famous commentary that accompanied it.

Back in 2014, Aguero said he wouldn’t leave Man City until he won the Champions League. How fitting it would be for him to end his time there by lifting the trophy.

crystal-palace-v-manchester-city-premier-league-selhurst-park Sergio Aguero's time at Man City is coming to an end. Source: PA

Sheikh Mansour has been keen to grow his image around the world using Man City and being crowned European champions would help that. We’ve all read about the human rights issues in Abu Dhabi and there’s something similar going on with PSG and Qatar.

Sportswashing is the term often used to describe what these owners are doing and those who know a lot more than me about what happens in these countries are strongly opposed. They feel it is totally unacceptable. 

The problem is that the average fan is desperate for huge investment into their club so they can buy the best players. It is a messed up situation that the sport finds itself in and I don’t know what the solution is.

The Super League fallout has also highlighted the fact that owners at the likes of Man United, Liverpool and Arsenal are more concerned about profits than anything else. 

chelsea-v-real-madrid-uefa-champions-league-semi-final-second-leg-stamford-bridge The Chelsea players with Mason Mount after his goal against Real Madrid. Source: PA

Looking at Chelsea, Thomas Tuchel has done an incredible job since taking over and Wednesday’s win over Real Madrid is the latest evidence of that.

The German coach is the first manager to reach consecutive Champions League finals with two different clubs, and they also have an FA Cup final against Leicester City coming up, which you would expect them to win.

A cup double would have been hard to believe when he replaced Frank Lampard in January.

The Blues are a lot more solid defensively now and they don’t concede many goals. Attacking players like Kai Havertz and Timo Werner are starting to come good, while Mason Mount has been key and N’Golo Kante was sensational again during the week. 

It has been an incredible turnaround and Tuchel can be proud of the work he has done there so far.

The Champions League final will be fascinating to watch but Guardiola and Tuchel — former rivals at Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund — must first meet at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

In last month’s FA Cup semi-final tie, which Chelsea won 1-0, Pep got his selection wrong and they could potentially miss out on an unprecedented quadruple because of it.

This time around, I’d expect City to claim victory — let’s go with 3-1.

Liverpool v Southampton, 8.15pm Saturday

Liverpool didn’t play last weekend due to the protests at Old Trafford.

I mentioned that I was in favour of fans protesting as long as it was peaceful, and while the majority of those involved made their point to Man United’s owners, a small number of idiots overstepped the mark. The last thing you want to see is people getting injured.

The Liverpool players will be eager to end the season strongly and make a late surge into the top four. They have had some extra time to rest and should be fresh for Saturday’s match against Southampton.

southampton-v-liverpool-premier-league-st-marys-stadium Ralph Hasenhuttl reacts after Southampton beat Liverpool, with Jurgen Klopp close by. Source: PA

In the most recent meeting between these two, the Saints claimed a memorable 1-0 victory through former Reds centre forward Danny Ings, and you could see how much it meant to manager Ralph Hasenhuttl at the final whistle.

After starting the season well and having sat top of the table at one point, Southampton have fallen off completely and now occupy 15th place.

I think Jurgen Klopp’s men will take all three points but I don’t expect the visitors to roll over. I’ll say a 3-1 home win at Anfield.

 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     

COMMENTS

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a comment

     
    cancel reply
    Back to top