Just two years on from Liverpool‘s Champions League triumph over Tottenham, fans will again be treated to another all-English final after Chelsea booked their spot in the Istanbul showpiece with Manchester City.
Thomas Tuchel’s men put on a masterclass at Stamford Bridge to deny Real Madrid, with Timo Werner and Mason Mount sealing the 3-1 aggregate win.
City themselves outplayed PSG in their last-four encounter to book their spot in the final the night before, setting up another intriguing meeting between Pep Guardiola and Tuchel.
Champions League finalists Manchester City and Chelsea will meet in a dress rehearsal this weekend when Pep Guardiola’s (left) men welcome Thomas Tuchel’s (right) side to the Etihad
The two managers engaged in a battle of wits only a few weeks ago in the FA Cup semi-final, which saw the German prevail to book another final in the Blues’ already packed fixtures schedule.
But just as luck would have it, City and Chelsea will meet in the Premier League just days after confirming their places in the Champions League final, setting up what will be an impromptu dress rehearsal for the May 29 fixture.
This Saturday’s evening kick-off will give both managers another chance to get a closer look at each other’s teams just weeks before they duke it out for the biggest club trophy in world football.
But can Guardiola learn from his FA Cup semi-final mistakes and level the scores against Tuchel or does the Chelsea boss have his number?
Here Sportsmail looks at the key tactical battles that will shape this Saturday’s Etihad clash just weeks before their all-Premier League European showdown in Turkey.
Evade City’s dominant press
In Tuchel’s remarkable four months in charge of Chelsea, he has managed to make them an unbelievable defensive outfit, has got them to two finals and has claimed the scalps of some of the best managers in the game.
So far, he has beaten Zinedine Zidane, Jurgen Klopp, Carlo Ancelotti, Diego Simeone (twice), Jose Mourinho and, quite crucially, Guardiola.
Tuchel set his Chelsea side up brilliantly to nullify City when they met in the FA Cup semi-final last month, which saw the Blues walk away with a 1-0 victory under the Wembley arch – signifying that Tuchel and his men can do it on the big occasions against arguably the best manager around right now.
Chelsea beat City’s press when they came out on top in their FA Cup semi-final meeting
Tuchel got his tactics spot on and stopped City from effectively pressing his side, which created a whole host of issues for Guardiola.
Guardiola opted to go with a deep double-pivot of Fernandinho and Rodri against Chelsea while Kevin De Bruyne was deployed to press higher up the pitch in attempt to suffocate the Blues into giving up the ball.
However, this led to an issue of persisting with a high defensive line while also trying to sit back and stop Chelsea’s lethal counter-attacks.
As a result of Rodri and Fernandinho sitting deep, Chelsea were able to escape City’s usually dominant press, given how De Bruyne was often left isolated when pressing intensely.
City were off the pace offensively and struggled to contain Chelsea when not in possession
With City’s front-line pushed high up the pitch along with their wing backs but plenty of space between the lines, Jorginho and N’Golo Kante could easily escape and create counter-attacks for Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner and Mason Mount.
Guardiola will be sure to address these issues for this Saturday’s clash at the Etihad in what will be the perfect time to right any wrongs from the semi-final defeat – but should he continue to be indecisive in how to shut down Tuchel’s side, then it could be dropped points when they’re inches away from wrapping up the Premier League title.
Stop Chelsea’s counter-attacks
During both legs of their semi-final win over Real, Chelsea showed how ruthless they can be on the counter attack.
The only real reason the aggregate score finished as 3-1 to the Blues was really down to their poor finishing.
Especially at the Bridge on Wednesday, Chelsea got in behind Real’s high line on multiple occasions before Werner broke the deadlock after heading in Kai Havertz’s dinked effort, which hit the crossbar.
Real had most of the possession as they searched for that all important away goal to take things to extra-time but were only afforded a handful of opportunities to do so.
Edouard Mendy was quite imperious in Chelsea’s net, pulling off several world-class saves to deny Karim Benzema but while the possession stats seemed to imply that it was all Real, it couldn’t be further from the truth.
Chelsea’s counter-attacks saw Kai Havertz (left) come close to scoring three times against Real
Once Real squandered possession, and with Sergio Ramos picking up a first-half yellow card, Chelsea sprang counter attack after counter attack and could’ve been four or five up if Havertz had his shooting boots on.
Before Mount made sure of the tie five minutes from time, the England international blasted over in what was a glorious chance to put Real to bed moments before that.
Christian Pulisic also added a different threat in the second half against Real, making a second Chelsea goal seem inevitable at points.
Given how defensively solid Chelsea now are under Tuchel, they only needed a goal last time they faced City when Werner was sent to run in behind by Jorginho only for Werner to tap into an empty net.
Once they got their goal, they could shut up shop and play to their strengths.
Play to Foden and Mahrez’s strengths
In their FA Cup defeat by Chelsea, City were often outplayed and struggled to create their usual flurry of chances that are made by their ability to hog the ball and force opponents into making mistakes.
The double-pivot of Fernandinho and Rodri also seemed to disrupt their attacking structure while the centre of midfield was flooded with bodies, with Kante, Jorginho, Werner and Mount all instructed to force City out wide and limit their options going forward.
With Aymeric Laporte carrying the ball out from defence, Werner’s pressing from the front often stopped him from recycling the ball to his defensive partners while Gabriel Jesus was unable to offer options by dropping deep as he was closely shadowed by Chelsea’s centre backs.
City defended brilliantly against PSG across both legs and managed to nullify Neymar’s impact
Against PSG, City found themselves with similar issues of dealing with a pacey forward in Kylian Mbappe trying to exploit their high line while Angel Di Maria collected the ball and tried to execute counters.
In the second leg, Mauro Icardi lacked the pace to threaten in behind, which saw Oleksandr Zinchenko able to come inside a lot more often to defend Di Maria.
PSG enjoyed a lot of possession – more than what City are used to – and had plenty of chances at goal but were wasteful. It must also be said that City were imperious while defending with John Stones and Ruben Dias the two stalwarts in defence.
While they didn’t concede a goal in the second leg, the threat was there and Guardiola must tighten things up to stop Chelsea.
Saying that, when they did have the ball and Phil Foden was able to drive at the PSG defence, Riyad Mahrez was constantly in the right position at the right time to deliver the knockout blows when it mattered.
Riyad Mahrez (left) scored three goals across the two ties and is now in a rich vein of form
Phil Foden (right) was given license to carry the ball and drive at PSG’s defence at the Etihad
The Algerian, somewhat luckily, found the ball fall to his feet following a deflection off a De Bruyne shot but the former Leicester man was never going to miss.
His and City’s second was again down to the good work of Foden, who picked Mahrez out at the back post to put the tie to bed and seal their place in the final.
Mahrez is a tricky winger and is in a fine run of form at the moment. Should he be allowed to find time and space inside the box, then there’s a real possibility that he can add to his tally of three goals in two games at the Etihad on Saturday.
Continue with Kante and Werner
In both legs against Real Madrid, Kante walked away with both man of the match awards after returning to his best form following long bouts of injuries during both Frank Lampard and Tuchel’s reigns as Chelsea boss.
Tuchel is now starting to reap the rewards of Kante’s unrivalled abilities and is proving to be the key in making the Blues so defensively stable.
While it is known that Chelsea are defensively rigid under Tuchel, a key area of weakness is attack.
Havertz squandered so many chances in the second leg against Real and could’ve had a hat-trick, hitting the bar twice.
Chelsea star N’Golo Kante won the match of the match award in both legs against Real Madrid
Timo Werner is also starting to grow in confidence and could be crucial for Chelsea this month
However, his first effort at goal did eventually fall perfectly onto the head of Werner, who is now starting to look a lot more confident in front of goal.
The German has endured some torrid times during his first season at the club since completing a £53million last summer and is being questioned as to whether he is the man to take Chelsea forward.
While many have been quick to write him off, the fact he has scored four goals in 11 games will please Tuchel, who views him as a vital cog in pressing from the front.
Tuchel will likely play him again this weekend as the Blues continue their hunt for a top-four finish, giving the German forward more chances to redeem himself ahead of the final at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium.