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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Manchester City seek to crown Guardiola era with Champions League title

Led by Pep Guardiola, Manchester City have reached the Champions League final for the first time in their history and seek to finish the season with the most desired European trophy in their cabinet.

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Pep Guardiola can proudly say he has had a successful stint with Manchester City so far. The manager secured three Premier League titles with the team and helped to establish the club as one of the top sides in Europe.

But there’s something missing: the Champions League title, which for the first time ever City will have a chance to secure when they face fellow Premier League side Chelsea on Saturday at the Estadio do Dragao in Porto.

“Sometimes clubs need more finals to win the first one, others need one shot. Hopefully that will be the case,” Guardiola said.

“I am so confident in my team. You cannot imagine how confident I am in my team and what we have to do,” he added.

For Guardiola, it’s the chance to clinch his first Champions League title since his second triumph with Barcelona in 2011.

“Pep is our map. He has won the competition several times, both as a player and as a manager,” midfielder Bernardo Silva told the club website.

“He knows the way to win. If we all pull together, we are one step closer to achieve the final goal.”

On the other side of the pitch, Chelsea reached the final for the first time since 2012, when they beat last season’s winners Bayern Munich at their own Allianz Arena stadium.

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel is the first to reach back-to-back finals with two different clubs in Champions League and European Cup history after losing last season’s final with Paris Saint-Germain.

Tuchel took over at Stamford Bridge in January and has made an instant impact, which was crucial to lead the team to the big finale in Porto.

“He came in and from the first minute the players felt a great connection with him,” Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic said.

“He did a good job and we had a great season in the end, because we came to the Champions League final, reached the FA Cup final, got top four. So it’s a good season, but not perfect because we need to win a trophy.”

Chelsea have beaten City twice this season and knocked them out of the FA Cup in the semi-finals. But Tuchel knows the Champions League final is another topic.

“It’s always so, so tough to play against [Guardiola’s] teams. We’re trying to close the gap and the good thing is, in football, you can close gaps in 90 minutes.

“That is absolutely possible, and that’s what we are aiming to do in the final,” the manager said.

As like last year, the Champions League final was once again affected by the coronavirus and moved from Istanbul to Porto due to travel restrictions related to the pandemic.

Turkey was added to Britain’s “red list” for travel because of the high coronavirus infections numbers. That means those returning to the country must face a 10-day hotel quarantine period on their return.

This year, however, fans will be in the stands with 16,500 spectators allowed into the stadium.

It’s the second consecutive year Istanbul has been unable to host the showpiece as planned due to the global health crisis, with Portugal stepping in.

Last season, Lisbon staged a mini-tournament culminating in a closed door final when Bayern defeated PSG.

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