Pep Guardiola believes Ronald Koeman deserves to stay on as Barcelona boss for another season.

Koeman admitted it was a relief to see speculation over his future as Barca head coach ended last week when president Joan Laporta confirmed he would remain in charge for the 2021-22 season.

It followed a period where Laporta sought out other potential candidates while Koeman remained in his post, with some controversy when the president was criticised by the head coach's representatives for comments about his health.

The Dutchman led Barca to Copa del Rey glory last season, though fell short in LaLiga and the Champions League, having taken over at a turbulent period that saw Lionel Messi request to leave following a fallout with former president Josep Maria Bartomeu and Luis Suarez controversially sold to eventual champions Atletico Madrid.

Former Barca team-mates Koeman and Guardiola were golfing together with their sons last week, with the Manchester City boss thrilled at Laporta's decision.

"Koeman is the ideal coach for next season, I spoke to Laporta and I am very happy the president is convinced," Guardiola said to Cadena SER.

"I am a good friend of Ronald. It has been a difficult year for everyone and Ronald deserves one more year, with people in the stadium. 

"Besides, second years are always better.

"At times the team has played very well, they are among those who played better football in Spain.

"They fell at the end when he was close to winning and Atletico won the league, but he won the cup and in general were very good."

Guardiola was one of the names briefly connected with the Camp Nou post when Laporta referenced his dream to bring the Catalan back to the club he coached so successfully from 2008 to 2012.

"I have a two-year contract at Manchester, I'm happy and so it will continue to be," said Guardiola.

He recently saw one of his top young prospects and an experienced stalwart swap City for Barca after the Catalans signed Eric Garcia and Sergio Aguero on free transfers.

Guardiola had warm words for both players, predicting Garcia to become a future Camp Nou star.

"Aguero and Eric Garcia are two great signings - Kun is a scorer," said Guardiola. 

"With Eric I will tell Koeman that he has a spectacular fit, he is a good guy, really intelligent. He will be one of the captains of the next decade."

Manchester City have completed a clean sweep of the Premier League's end-of-season awards after reclaiming the title in impressive fashion.

Pep Guardiola and Ruben Dias have been named the top manager and player respectively for the 2020-21 season, while Phil Foden was chosen as the best youngster in the competition.

City finished 12 points clear of second-placed Manchester United as they reclaimed the title from Liverpool, winning their third league crown in the space of four seasons, albeit an excellent campaign ended in disappointment with a defeat to Chelsea in the Champions League final.

Key to their domestic success was the form of centre-back Dias, who elevated the defence following his arrival from Benfica.

City kept more clean sheets than any other team in the Premier League last season (19), while Dias featured in more of those matches (15) than any other outfield player at the club.

The 24-year-old Portugal international also helped bring the best out of John Stones, with the duo integral to City's remarkable run of 21 straight wins across all competitions between December and March.

Dias, who also won the Football Writers' Player of the Year Award and has been nominated for the PFA Player of the Year accolade, played more league games (32, all of them starts) than any other City defender, helping Guardiola's team to 23 wins in the process, while they lost just four times when he featured.

He won 62 of his 101 aerial contests, again topping the charts for City's defence, while only Joao Cancelo (163) won more duels than Dias (111), who also made the most headed clearances (49) and clearances overall (90).

As for Foden, the 21-year-old contributed nine goals in 28 league appearances – 17 of which were starts – as his involvement in the first team increased following the departure of club legend David Silva.

Guardiola, meanwhile has been named the top manager by the Premier League for a third time, having previously received the honour in City's title-winning years of 2018 and 2019.

Only United's legendary manager Alex Ferguson has won the award on more occasions than Guardiola, though he will have some way to go to match the Scot's haul of 11.

Nominated alongside Guardiola were Marcelo Bielsa, who guided Leeds United to an impressive ninth-placed finish and took four points off City, West Ham's David Moyes, Brendan Rodgers of Leicester City and United boss Ole Gunnar Solskajer.

Dias, meanwhile, saw off competition from Harry Kane, City team-mate Kevin De Bruyne, Liverpool star Mohamed Salah, Aston Villa's talisman Jack Grealish, Mason Mount of Chelsea and West Ham midfielder Tomas Soucek.

Manchester City have four players in the running for the Professional Footballers' Association's (PFA) Men's Footballer of the Year award.

City cruised to Premier League success this term, with Ruben Dias, Phil Foden, Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne all key to their triumph.

All four have been named on the PFA's six-man shortlist for the prize, which is voted for by the players.

Portugal centre-back Dias – winner of the Football Writers' Association gong – is seen as arguably the favourite after a stellar first campaign at City following his move from Benfica last year.

While City only conceded three goals fewer (32) than in 2019-20 (35) when they finished second to Liverpool, many have compared his quick adaptation and influence to that of Virgil van Dijk after he joined the Reds from Southampton.

Admirers have also credited Dias' steadying of the City backline with playing a major role in the improvement of John Stones alongside him, the England international finally reaching a level many suspected he may never find despite his potential.

For a while earlier in the season Gundogan looked as though he would probably be the frontrunner for end-of-season prizes, as he embarked on a remarkable scoring run that ultimately helped him finish with 13 in 28 Premier League appearances – more than double his previous best for a domestic season.

Only Bruno Fernandes (18) can better that among midfielders, though nine of his were penalties – none of Gundogan's were, with the German deployed in a more advanced role as City largely played without an out-and-out striker.

De Bruyne's nomination did not come as a surprise either, the Belgian having laid on 12 assists this term, a haul bettered by only Harry Kane (14).

Foden is the youngest of the six nominees and it is likely to be the first of many for him, with the 21-year-old having a hand in 14 goals (nine scored, five assisted) in what was a breakthrough season – his 1,611 minutes played not far off double the 892 he managed in 2019-20.

Fernandes and Kane are the two non-City representatives up for the award – they are also the two players with the most goal involvements in the 2020-21 season.

Tottenham star Kane took home the Golden Boot thanks to his tally of 23, while he also topped the assist charts.

Fernandes netted 18 times for Manchester United and equalled De Bruyne's assists haul of 12.

They are two of just nine players across the top five European leagues to reach double figures for assists and goals in 2020-21.

Foden is also up for the Young Player of the Year award with Trent Alexander-Arnold, Mason Greenwood, Mason Mount, Declan Rice and Bukayo Saka – an all-English shortlist.

Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak has made a statement of intent ahead of a big transfer window for the Premier League champions, insisting it is "time to send a message".

City's hopes of a treble were dashed on Saturday, as Pep Guardiola's side lost to Chelsea in the club's first appearance in a Champions League final.

Speculation has been rife in recent weeks that City will be in the market for a striker ahead of next season.

Sergio Aguero's departure on a free transfer – the Argentine having joined Barcelona – has left City, who played with a false nine to great success for most of 2020-21, with just one recognised senior striker in Gabriel Jesus.

Erling Haaland and Harry Kane have been the primary targets reported, while Inter's Romelu Lukaku has also been linked with Guardiola previously declaring he wants to bring in a 30-goal per season forward. Kylian Mbappe, meanwhile, has still not penned a new contract with Paris Saint-Germain.

Premier League golden boot winner Kane finished the season with 28 goals and 16 assists in all competitions for Tottenham, averaging a strike every 135 minutes.

Haaland, meanwhile, netted 41 times in as many appearances for Borussia Dortmund. The 20-year-old sensation averaged a goal every 86 minutes, scoring three penalties – Kane netted four times from the spot.

Kane's creativity may make him a more attractive proposition to Guardiola, however. The England captain led the way in the Premier League for assists (14) from 49 chances created. 

And in an interview on City's official media channels released on Tuesday, Al Mubarak hinted at some major movement, stating his confidence in finding the right replacement for Aguero.

"One of the things I've learned over the years is, you need to constantly bring in talent into the team, refresh and particularly when you are at a high level and when you're on the top," he said.

"Having won the league, it is not the time to sit back and be content. That would be your biggest mistake.

"This is the time to send a strong message, that there's no contentment, that you're not satisfied with just winning the league.

"That's great, but you want to win it again and you are committed and you are bringing more talent that is going to compete, not for the squad, but for the starting XI.

"We lose a very important legend in Sergio Aguero. They are very hard shoes to fill, but I'm confident that we will find the right player to fill those shoes."

Reports emerged this week suggesting a number of City players may agitate for a move this off-season, with some rumoured to be unhappy with their roles this season.

Al Mubarak believes firmly in the world class quality at Guardiola's disposal, however, and noted City's business would prioritise adding more high-calibre players, rather than stacking the squad further.

"There are other areas within the group, within the team that obviously need investment. Not too many. It's not about numbers, it's about quality," he continued.

"I think the squad is a phenomenal squad. You don't win the Premier League and you don't reach the Champions League final if you don't have an incredible squad and we have that.

"We will bring quality into the squad in a couple of key positions."

Sergio Aguero signed on the dotted line at Barcelona but refused to discuss the possibility of Pep Guardiola following him from Manchester City to Camp Nou.

Barcelona are in a state of upheaval amid doubts over Ronald Koeman's future, with club president Joan Laporta describing the Dutchman as "a coach that we did not ask for" on Monday.

Laporta has not excluded the possibility of Koeman staying in charge for the second year of his contract, but it appears the club are also looking at alternative options to come in and take charge.

Aguero is also thought of as a potential upgrade on the talent Barcelona have as striking options, besides Lionel Messi, having become Manchester City's record goalscorer during a highly successful decade in England.

The new recruit also said he thought Messi would be staying at Barcelona, continuing their partnership from the Argentina national team.

However, asked about the possibility of Barcelona re-hiring Guardiola, who coached the Blaugrana from 2008 to 2012, Aguero stayed well clear.

He said: "I don't have the right to talk about that. He has a contract with City and I'm not the one who has to talk about the coach."

The 'one' would be Laporta, the president who was elected in March. His predecessor, Josep Maria Bartomeu, appointed Koeman.

Asked about the latest situation with Koeman, during what was Aguero's presentation news conference, Laporta said: "I already said that we have started a period of reflection, for the reasons I said.

"As he was a coach that we did not ask for, we needed that period. There are contacts, I have already said that he is a coach with a current contract and our will is to respect it as long as this period of reflection occurs."

Koeman almost led Barcelona to a domestic double in 2020-21, but a dip in league form over the closing weeks of the season meant their charge since the turn of the year was only good enough for third place in LaLiga. They won the Copa del Rey, but that may not be enough to save him.

Laporta was also questioned about whether Aguero had been brought in to please captain Messi, who has yet to sign a new contract with his current deal to expire at the end of June.

The president replied, according to Mundo Deportivo: "The signing of Aguero is because he is a desired player and an exceptional player. It is the first of a series of signings that you will get to know. Naturally, we want Messi to continue."

The news conference was perhaps a sign of what Aguero can expect at Barcelona, at least in the short term. Messi signing a new deal would bring a sense of calm to proceedings, as would clarity on the coaching situation.

Aguero is looking forward to playing with his compatriot on a week-by-week basis.

He said the prime motivation to join his new club was: "To be at Barca, where the best player in the world is.

"If he [Messi] continues here, which I think he will, we will try to do our best, as we have always done, in the national team."

Laporta could announce a new signing every day of this week – and he might yet, with Eric Garcia, Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum heavily linked – but the coaching situation also needs to be a priority.

Aguero steered away from recommending Guardiola's appointment, but spoke of his admiration for the City coach.

"We all know that Pep, since he arrived at City, has proposed a different football," Aguero said. "He proposes to keep the ball all the time and to keep that is important. It made me and the whole team better."

Injuries and a COVID-19 absence caused Aguero to miss chunks of the 2020-21 season, but he came through a medical on Monday and said his left knee, which was operated on last June, was "perfectly fine".

Messi has benefited from some outstanding forwards lining up alongside him during his Barcelona career, notably David Villa, Neymar and Luis Suarez.

Barcelona averaged 2.7 goals per game when Villa and Messi played together, and it was the same when Neymar played with the six-time Ballon d'Or winner, dipping to 2.6 when Messi and Suarez featured in the same side.

There are overlaps to bear in mind when looking at those figures, but not in the case of Villa who left Barca in July 2013, with Neymar arriving effectively as his replacement. Suarez then came in a year later from Liverpool.

Neymar departed for Paris Saint-Germain in August 2017, while Suarez was sold to Atletico Madrid last year.

Barcelona's win percentage stood at 74.1 per cent when Neymar and Messi played in the same team, 73.6 per cent with Villa and 73.2 per cent with Suarez.

Yet Barca's points per game were curiously slightly lower at 2.3 when Messi played with Neymar compared to when Suarez and Villa were in the team alongside the little maestro (2.4).

It was a sign of the times that Barcelona, led by Guardiola for two of Villa's three seasons, averaged 71.8 per cent possession while the Spain striker was at Camp Nou. When Messi and Neymar played together that figure was 67.2 per cent and when Messi and Suarez teamed up it was 65.3 per cent.

Messi, Suarez and Neymar frequently played in the same side, forming the feared 'MSN' forward line.

Pep Guardiola insisted he "did the selection best to win the game" after Manchester City slumped to a 1-0 Champions League defeat against Chelsea in Porto.

Kai Havertz's 42nd-minute goal on the end of Mason Mount's brilliant throughball was enough to deny City their first success in Europe's top competition.

Premier League champions City lacked their usual fluency and mustered a solitary shot on target over the course of the contest, despite sending record goalscorer Sergio Aguero on for a farewell appearance late on.

The Opta expected goals (xG) figures for the match were 1.35-0.45 in Chelsea's favour.

Guardiola sprung a selectorial surprise before kick-off by omitting Fernandinho and Rodri and starting with Ilkay Gundogan at the base of his midfield.

The ploy backfired as City struggled for control throughout the match, especially in the first half, but Guardiola insisted his process was the same as the one that preceded this season's triumphs over Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain, along with last year's similarly dispiriting quarter-final reverse against Lyon.

"I did my best in the selection. Like last season against Olympique Lyon, like it was against PSG and Dortmund," the City manager told a post-match new conference.

"I did the selection best to win the game, the players know it. I think Gundogan played good, was exceptional. We missed a little but in the first half to break the lines. In the second half it was much better.

"It was a tight game. We had enormous almost chances.

"Against Chelsea it's not easy but it wasn't for them either. They had the goal and Werner's shot in the first half and Pulisic in the second half.

"We struggled a little bit for the long balls, they used the second balls and after they run.

"In that moment, you need inspiration and quality. There were three or four moments with crosses from the byline but we did not arrive."

In City's 61 matches across all competitions in 2020-21, this was only the second time neither Rodri or Fernandinho featured in a starting line-up.

Explaining his rationale, Guardiola said he hoped Gundogan would quicken the tempo of City's play.

The Germany international completed an impressive 76 of his 80 passes (95 per cent) but the club's top scorer this season was unable to have a decisive influence as he created a solitary chance and did not attempt a single shot.

"I decided a decision to have quality players," Guardiola said.

"Gundogan played many years in this position, to have speed on the ball, find the small players, the brilliant players in between the lines and this was the decision."

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel conceded Guardiola's gambit had led to some raised eyebrows in his camp.

"I expected Fernandinho to start," he said. "He chose a very offensive line-up, a very technical line-up, it was very hard to steal the balls and recover the balls.

"Everything else we more or less expected. We expected them to try and pin us on the sides very wide, so it was very important that we stepped out with Toni [Antonio Rudiger] and Azpi [Cesar Azpilicueta] to support our midfield.

"It was important to stay in a block in the front five to avoid diagonal switches of play for the number 10s. We had to play with a strong bond and a genuine belief and this is what we did."

City's cause was not helped by Kevin De Bruyne departing with a nasty-looking head injury following a collision with Rudiger before the hour, for which the Chelsea defender was booked.

"I don't know about the pain he has in his face, I didn't see him or speak to the doctor because I came to speak with all of you, Hopefully it will not be a big problem," said Guardiola, who was also keen to flag the achievements overall of a campaign where City won a third top-flight title in four years and a fourth consecutive EFL Cup.

"I would like to say it was an exceptional, exceptional season for us. It is a dream being here, unfortunately we could not win," he added.

"We tried, we could not do it and we will work to come back one day."

Rumours that Pep Guardiola had gone and done a thing were whipping around Estadio do Dragao's press box long before the news was confirmed an hour and 15 minutes ahead of kick-off.

He had indeed done a thing.

In 59 of City's 60 matches in all competitions this season, at least one of Rodri or Fernandinho had started in holding midfield. It seems unlikely that a 3-0 Champions League group-stage win over Olympiacos was the tactical template for Saturday's insipid 1-0 final defeat against Chelsea.

But there it was in black and white. City's top scorer Ilkay Gundogan would start at the base of the midfield, with a slew of attacking talent to do his bidding further up the field. It was a bold strategy but one that robbed the Premier League champions of their rhythm and did nothing to dissuade the threat coming the other way.

Of course, Guardiola has previous in this regard in the decade since he last lifted the big trophy with Barcelona in 2011. Most recently, he deployed a disjointed 3-5-2 to be dumped out by Lyon in last season's quarter-final, although this probably had as much in common with the cavalier approach that saw Real Madrid dismantle his Bayern Munich side at the Allianz Arena back in 2014. 

There was none of the control he craves, the control that lay at the root of City's magnificent revival from 12 points out of their first eight games to lift a third English title in four seasons. Their best chances in the first half came from an Ederson punt down field and Kyle Walker running terrifyingly fast from right-back. Playmaker Bernardo Silva was the most notable performer in a talent-stacked City midfield for a succession of slide tackles.

What was more, this felt like the season when Guardiola had normalised his cerebral approach. City won the title without a conventional striker for the bulk of the season as false nines become the undisputed truth, he switched between a back three and a back four in-game during the side's most purple patch as Joao Cancelo – now off form and more understandably benched – roved.

In tough knockout encounters with Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain he didn't blink and prevailed. It was the season where the concept of Guardiola "overthink" died until it was resurrected in Porto.

For all that Guardiola said City's two defeats to Chelsea recently, in the FA Cup semi-final and the Premier League with heavily rotated line-ups, counted for "zero" they were evidence of the problems Thomas Tuchel's rigorously well-drilled 3-4-2-1 could cause.

Heading into the game, since the start of the 2019-20, City's win rate against teams playing three or five at the back (P46 W32) was 69.6 per cent, down on 76.7 per cent against those using a back four – not insignificant for a club that does an awful lot of winning.

Additionally, Guardiola's respect for Tuchel is very well documented and that high esteem meant he was perhaps loathe to give his opponent something predictable.

Hard as it was to discern the plan as the men in sky blue engaged in chaosball, it was maybe designed to suffocate Chelsea's back three and Jorginho and N'Golo Kante – again, naturally, imperious on the grandest stage – and not let Tuchel's team out.

But City's disorganisation allowed Chelsea to make merry in the Fernandinho-Rodri shaped hole behind the forwards, exploiting it plenty of times before Mason Mount's delicious throughball allowed Kai Havertz to round Ederson for the decisive goal.

Fernandinho's introduction for Silva in the 64th minute meant the plan had failed. Even with Kevin De Bruyne off injured, it prompted City's most convincing spell of the match – admittedly a painfully low bar – and that should gnaw at Guardiola.

Sergio Aguero came on for Rahem Sterling, whose run of one club goal since February rarely threatened to improve, but one last act of injury-time heroism was beyond City's all-time top scorer, for whom the tears flowed after the final whistle.

Having declared himself "the happiest man in the world" on the eve of the match, Guardiola has ended a season that threatened to be remembered as his masterpiece on a note of bitter disappointment, his 10-year wait for a third European title going on and complicit in his own misery.

Pep Guardiola sprung a team news surprise for Manchester City's Champions League final against Chelsea, leaving both club captain Fernandinho and fellow holding midfielder Rodri on the bench.

Saturday's clash at Porto's Estadio do Dragao is City's 61st game of the campaign. At least one of Rodri or Fernandinho has started each of the previous 60.

Despite taking a knock to the thigh in training on Friday, Ilkay Gundogan – City's top scorer this term with 17 in all competitions - looks like he will start at the base of the midfield.

England winger Raheem Sterling is recalled to the forward line, aiming to build on a return of one club goal since February, with Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden, Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva providing ample attacking support.

It is not the first time Guardiola's selection for a key game has led to raised eyebrows. The decision to deploy a back three in last season's Champions League quarter-final against Lyon backfired horribly as the Ligue 1 side ran out 3-1 winners.

Pep Guardiola and Thomas Tuchel's fondness for sharing a few drinks and intense tactical discussions during their time in Germany has been frequently referenced this week.

In Porto, they have a perfect setting. They could sample some of the fortified wine that takes its name from the Portuguese city, settle in for a Douro Valley red, some Vinho Verde or perhaps a pint of Super Bock or Sagres.

Of course, Saturday's Champions League final between Manchester City and Chelsea means they are unlikely to find the time and that's before we consider the 10:30pm curfew in place as part of Portugal's COVID-19 measures.

Whoever raises a glass at Estadio do Dragao will do so after a sharp change in fortunes mid-season.

Guardiola said City "were not the team I can recognise" in mid-December before a doubling down on his core principles to inspire a 21-game winning run across all competitions that propelled them towards the Premier League title, the EFL Cup and their first taste of European club football's biggest occasion.

Around the same time, Tuchel was days away from the sack at Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea were top of the Premier League. By the end of January, he was installed at Stamford Bridge as Frank Lampard's successor to helm a team in freefall. They have not looked back.

Take the ball, pass the ball

Handily, when it comes to comparisons, Tuchel took over at the halfway point of the English top-flight season in terms of games played.

Lampard's Chelsea won eight, drew five and lost three of their 19 games this term, with Tuchel improving those returns to W11 D5 L3. Two of the three losses came in the final three games of the domestic season.

"[Keeping] the ball is the best way to defend and people have to keep the ball in difficult circumstances," Guardiola said when discussing City's newfound solidity this season – and it is a view to which Tuchel certainly subscribes.

His Blues average 654.2 passes per game in the Premier League, compared to 613 under Lampard. Despite Chelsea's well-documented struggles in terms of prolific goalscoring, their touches in the opposition box are up from 26.1 to 30.3 every 90 minutes.

At the other end, they are facing fewer shots (7.6 down from 10.1) and their expected goals against (xGA) figure has dipped from one per game to 0.6.

In short, they are keeping the ball more and facing fewer shots, partly because more of their possession is happening in the opposition box. Playing against Tuchel's Chelsea, you are likely to find the ball further away from where you ideally want it.

Three is the magic number

Once teams manage to glimpse a fleeting sight of the Chelsea goal, they tend to find a formidable three-man backline in the way. The veteran Thiago Silva has been an assured presence in the heart of defence for Tuchel, with Antonio Rudiger revitalised after struggling under Lampard.

Changing to a 3-4-2-1 formation has been the hallmark of the former Borussia Dortmund coach's reign to date.

"The upside of it is that back three can be more aggressive," former Manchester City defender Nedum Onuoha, who operated at centre-back and right-back during his playing days, told Stats Perform.

"When you're in a two, you're reluctant to go all the way with somebody because it creates a vast amount of space behind you for somebody else.

"But when you have the security of two other players, then a striker dropping short is your invitation to go all the way with them. It suits the way you play because you can defend in a more aggressive manner instead of always worrying about behind you."

While Chelsea have found instant success with this shape since Tuchel's arrival, it is one Guardiola has dabbled in at City but never found his players completely comfortable. What's more, he would probably rather not be facing three centre-backs in his first Champions League final for a decade.

Since the start of the 2019-20 season, City have a 76.7 per cent win rate against teams fielding a back four (P73 W56). This drops to 69.6 per cent versus three/five at the back (P46 W32), still a high win ratio but a notable dip given their incredibly high standards overall.

The pressing matter

Not all back threes are created equally, though. Some of the teams to have frustrated City in this shape have used it as a means to get as many men behind the ball as possible and soak up waves of pressure, with wing-backs not overly concerned about matters beyond the halfway line.

Even if Tuchel opts for the more cautious option of Cesar Azpilicueta at wing-back on Saturday, Chelsea certainly do not fall into this category. With N'Golo Kante and the playmaking talents of Jorginho stationed as a deep-lying midfield pairing in front of their central defenders, they have the capabilities to smoothly play through any opposition press.

This is an intriguing ploy against Guardiola's men, given the manner in which they made their pressing game more efficient this year. City led the Premier League in terms of high turnovers (377) and shot-ending high turnovers (80), meaning no team was more prolific in terms of regaining possession within 40 metres of the opposition goal.

The champions achieved this despite allowing 11.5 passes per defensive action (PPDA), down from 10.1 last season. They were a little happier to let opponents have the ball and picked their moments to press and turnover possession judiciously.

It is an astute tweak that speaks well of Guardiola's impeccable eye for what he refers to as "the small details", but against a Chelsea team so assured on the ball from deep and with the numbers in terms of centre-backs and holding midfielders in their favour, City's work without the ball in opposition territory will have to be almost perfect.

Chelsea (187) were second to City (220) for build-up attacks in the Premier League in 2020-21 and Tuchel will meet Guardiola head-on in this regard. If they end up pumping it long to Olivier Giroud at some stage, it will mean plan A has failed.

False nines and false selections

How much bearing Chelsea's two wins against City over the course of the past six weeks will have on proceedings has been a subject to ponder.

Well, not for Guardiola, who insists a 1-0 FA Cup semi-final loss and fairly bizarre 2-1 Premier League reverse will have "zero" impact.

At Friday's pre-match news conference, Tuchel acknowledged Chelsea would face a very different City in Porto but spoke in positive terms about how his team had "closed the gap" over the course of two rehearsals that showed his players the level of "struggle" required to beat these opponents.

The City line-ups for both recent encounters were heavily rotated on the weekends after their respective Champions League quarter-final and semi-final wins over Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain.

Such is the strength of City's back-up options that their limp display at Wembley was a disappointment, but a team featuring three central defenders, four forwards and Rodri as a lone central midfielder at the Etihad Stadium looked like wanton deception from Guardiola, not wanting to give Chelsea the full City experience with the final looming. Sergio Aguero's Panenka penalty was perhaps sillier than the team sheet, although it was a close-run thing.

Now, Chelsea are likely to face the Champions League version. All fleet of foot, sleight of hand and without a recognised striker. If Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez are charged with pegging back the considerable attacking threat provided by the opposition wing-backs, the onus will then fall on Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan to move Chelsea's midfield and defensive blocks around until they feel like they've been shoved in a blender.

"It'll be interesting. Chelsea have been good at the back because they've been so front foot, but that's when you play against teams with a nine," Onuoha said. "If City go over there with no recognised striker, it puts those three centre-backs in a position they've not had to face before.

"City, as a consequence, could control the midfield more than Chelsea have seen in the past and it will frustrate [Kante and Jorginho] and the defenders, because you can't step out to affect it.

"Playing against false nines is annoying. You're playing against guys with a high football IQ. As a defender, you want to have a match-up with somebody.

"If you play against a team with a really good false nine, they're always right between the six (defensive midfielder) and yourself to the point where you can't drag the six back in to defend against them and you can't venture out that far to deal with them."

Tuchel and Guardiola have been keen dismiss the significance of their battle of wits on the touchline, but whoever prevails will have earned themselves a few big glasses of whatever they fancy.

Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman has insisted he is in good health and told his followers "don't believe anything you hear" in a social media post.

Club president Joan Laporta said in a news conference earlier on Friday that Koeman had given the club "a scare" this week.

It came after the 58-year-old, who had a heart procedure last year, visited hospital, with conflicting reports over whether the trip was routine or related to anxiety.

Koeman attempted to clarify the situation on Twitter, writing: "Don't believe anything you hear. I am healthy, that's all that matters in life!"

The comments come at an uncertain time for Koeman, who has one year left on his contract at Camp Nou but is under pressure to keep his job.

Laporta has held initial talks with the Dutchman and his agent and is set to hold a further round of discussions in the near future after the head coach finished his first campaign in charge.

The president is said to have asked him to wait for a verdict while he looked at alternative options to fill the role.

Laporta faced questions at a news conference after speculation he would look to pursue Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola after the Champions League final.

Former Barca player Xavi, currently in charge of Al Sadd in Qatar, has also been heavily linked with the job.

"Ronald has a contract and that gives him peace of mind that he should not be rushed into a decision," Laporta said. "We spoke calmly with him. 

"He had an episode that took him to hospital and he routinely gets checked up. He gave us a scare, especially thinking that a year ago he had a heart attack. I told him to take it easy.

"We spoke with respect. We will sit down with Ronald next week and we will decide after outlining all the aspects.

"Out of respect we owe Koeman, he has a current contract and don't rule it out [that he stays]. We are talking.

"We [the new board] arrived halfway through the season and said we would give our evaluation of the coach at the end of the season and communicate our decisions then.

"We've always worked with the maximum respect for Ronald Koeman. Of course, the admiration we have for him as the player who won us the European Cup at Wembley, and he still has a contract in place.

"At the end of the season we will evaluate his time here and make decisions accordingly. We spoke to Koeman and will continue to do so when making important decisions."

Adding to the complexity of the situation, Koeman's agent Rob Jansen - via his own Twitter account and that of agency Wasserman - appeared to hit out at Laporta.

"Imagine: I want to marry you, but I have doubts," he posted. "Give me two weeks to find a better partner. If I can't find the right person, we will get married anyway!"

A statement from Wasserman added: "The words of FC Barcelona's president Joan Laporta during a press conference today about Ronald Koeman's anxiety attack are overdone.

"Ronald has been to the hospital for blood pressure checks, a routine check for people with his medical history. We regret the way it got into the media. Ronald is fine, there is nothing to worry about."

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel does not believe Saturday's Champions League final against Manchester City will hinge upon the tactical battle between himself and Pep Guardiola.

Much has been made of Tuchel and Guardiola's friendship and mutual admiration in the build-up to the showpiece encounter at Estadio do Dragao.

The former Paris Saint-Germain boss is back in the final less than a year after the Ligue 1 giants were beaten by Bayern Munich and he feels multiple factors will be at play – including Chelsea's wins over City in the FA Cup and Premier League this season.

"It’s much more than that. I would never suggest that it's me against him," he told a pre-match news conference in Porto. "We don't have a match of tennis tomorrow.

"We arrive with our teams. Pep will prepare his team and I will prepare my team in the best way possible.

"We have two different experiences against them in different competitions. Two different matches, two different line-ups. Tomorrow I think they will be a very different line-up from Man City."

Guardiola heavily rotated his City line-up for the two most recent encounters against Chelsea, coming as they did on the back of Champions League quarter-final and semi-final triumphs over Borussia Dortmund and PSG.

Nevertheless, Tuchel appeared to differ from his counterpart's assessment that those results had "zero" bearing over what will unfold this weekend.

"We have the experience of how much we have to suffer and how brave and courageous we need to play in certain moment of the game," he said.

"It's always tough to play against City, Bayern or Barcelona when Pep is at the sideline. He creates these teams with huge belief and a continuously winning mentality.

"They are maybe, at the moment, the strongest team in the world. They have built a huge gap between them and us in the league.

"We closed the gap for 90 minutes at Wembley, we closed it for 90 minutes at City and this is what we want to do tomorrow.

"We are very well aware that Man City is the benchmark with this team and this manager over the last years, but in football you are always able to close the gap.

"We closed the gap twice. We were courageous, we were brave and we were suffering together. We had a strong belief and strong quality."

Suffering is something Tuchel was happy to report had declined from view for N'Golo Kante and Edouard Mendy, with the influential midfielder and goalkeeper both passed fit.

Indeed, removing the mental strain has been a focus for the 47-year-old as his team aim to bounce back from defeat to Leicester City in the FA Cup final and losses in two of their final three Premier League games that saw them finish 19 points behind champions City.

"Don't get me wrong, I don't want to pretend this is a normal week," he said. "Everybody feels different about it, but we arrive and the countdown is on for a big, big match.

"It's a very exciting, demanding week mentally and physically. We have to get it right, the coaches have to get it right.

"Today was a very relaxed day, we had the possibility to enjoy some quality time in the hotel in beautiful weather to relax and breathe a bit, to connect with our core, with our love of the game and the passion we all shared as little kids.

"The tension is building very naturally. We don't want to arrive in a final over-excited or arrive in a final under-excited."

Tuchel added: "To be nervous, you can use it to be on your best level. Pressure is sometimes a huge boost and sometimes it is a big backpack to carry. Just admit it and let's be who we are. We are a strong group."

Ilkay Gundogan withdrew before the end of Manchester City's training session on the eve of their Champions League final clash with Chelsea in Porto.

Gundogan, who is the Premier League champions' top scorer in all competitions this term with 17 goals this term, appeared to be suffering from discomfort in his right thigh after a collision with captain Fernandinho.

City's practice match at Estadio do Dragao continued in the Germany international's absence, with the players and manager Pep Guardiola retaining an overall relaxed demeanour – suggesting the nature of Gundogan's knock, being impact rather than muscular, meant it was not a major cause for concern.

Gundogan is the only member of the City squad to have featured in a Champions League final when he scored from the penalty spot in Borussia Dortmund's 2-1 defeat to Bayern Munich at Wembley in 2013.

The 30-year-old has been instrumental in City regaining the Premier League and retaining the EFL Cup this season, although he was an unused substitute for last weekend's 5-0 victory over Everton after being substituted following a blow to the knee in a 3-2 defeat at Brighton and Hove Albion.

"I'm alright, I was a little bit cautious in that Brighton game," he said when asked about his fitness earlier this week.

"Because of the knock on my knee I started to feel all the muscles around it a little bit and I didn't want to pull anything.

"I didn't miss any training sessions, so I'm feeling good."

All other members of Guardiola's first team squad trained, with no fitness concerns mentioned by the manager at his pre-match news conference.

Pep Guardiola showed virtually no signs of nerves heading into Manchester City's Champions League final showdown with Chelsea in Porto, serenely declaring himself to be "the happiest man in the world".

Guardiola's news conference on the eve of this weekend's showpiece at Estadio do Dragao also marked the 10-year anniversary of his Barcelona side beating Manchester United 3-1 at Wembley to be crowned European champions.

That was the last of two coaching triumphs for the 50-year-old in the competition he adores, as he went on to suffer three consecutive semi-final losses in charge of Bayern Munich, before failing to guide City beyond the quarter-finals until a superb run this season, when they navigated Borussia Monchengladbach, Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain while scoring four times in each tie.

"Good memories, but it's a long time ago," Guardiola said, reflecting on that defining triumph in London. "It's nice to remember what we lived through, the feelings we had before and after. In that final we expressed what we'd worked four years for."

A year later, Guardiola left Barcelona and the club's infamously tempestuous internal politics for a year on sabbatical, putting recent reports of club president Joan Laporta's desire to bring his old coach back to Camp Nou in reasonable context.

The contrast in his relationship with the board at City, including former Barca executives Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano, does much to explain his satisfaction in a post where he committed to a two-year extension last November before securing a third Premier League title in four years.

"I have friends above me, the players have the feeling I'm the manager as I've been supported by chairman, CEO and sporting director," he said.

"I feel comfortable with my backroom staff, I have everything. I cannot ask for more to do my job.

"I'm the happiest man in the world to be here [in the final]. It's an honour and privilege."

Guardiola's more relaxed demeanour has not escaped the attention of his players, with Kevin De Bruyne noting a drop in intensity was necessitated by this season's more condensed schedule - a switch that paid dividends as City romped to the Premier League title after a slow start.

"I guess the whole season we have done less technical training, less meetings," he said. "I think it would come from a point where we had so many games after each other and it became maybe too much for the team and himself.

"He gave us a little more breathing space I would say and, in the end, maybe he saw it was working and the team were responding well to it."

As such, one of Guardiola's more outlandish selections feels unlikely in Porto, even considering his relish of a tactical battle with Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel, who he holds in high regard.

Throughout the knockout stages, City have played for the majority of the time without a recognised striker, their threat coming form the combined creative midfield talents of De Bruyne, Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez.

"I know exactly the way we want to play, with who we are going to play," Guardiola added. "I'm not going to bother [the players] much

"The guys who will be anxious and nervous, I want to tell them it’s normal. The guys who are more relaxed, it's good as well."

As City try to win the one major honour that has eluded them during the Guardiola era, there seems little doubt to which of those categories their manager belongs.

Joan Laporta says he is eager to see Pep Guardiola lift the Champions League trophy amid reports the Manchester City boss is his top target to coach Barcelona.

It was suggested this week that Barca president Laporta will make an audacious attempt to persuade Guardiola to return to Camp Nou after the Champions League final.

Laporta reportedly wishes to speak to Guardiola - who is under contract with City until 2023 after signing a new deal last year - before determining his next move with under-pressure incumbent Ronald Koeman.

Guardiola enjoyed a hugely successful spell at the Barca helm between 2008 and 2012, winning the Spanish title for three successive seasons, as well as the Champions League twice.

"If you want to ask me about Pep, I wish that he wins the Champions League with City on Saturday," Laporta said on Friday.

"I am not here to talk about my dreams. I focus on realities and like to make my dreams come true, not talk about them.

"May he win the Champions League with Barca and City; I think it will be wonderful for him and also for all of us who love him.

"That is the only thing in my head when we talk about Guardiola. I can't wait to watch the final and I hope Pep can win it because he is a good friend of mine."

It remains to be seen whether Koeman will be around to continue with the new Barca project.

The Dutchman, who has one year left on his contract, is set to hold a fresh round of talks with Laporta in the near future after completing his first campaign in charge.

Koeman and his agent met with Laporta this week for an initial conversation and the president asked him to wait for a verdict while he looked at alternative options.

Former Barca player Xavi, currently in charge of Al Sadd in Qatar, has also been heavily linked with the job.

"Xavi will be a great coach and he is a friend but we have nothing specific," said Laporta.

"These are names that sound good - everyone wants them to come, but we are in a different situation now than when we bet on [Frank] Rijkaard or Guardiola, plus we don't want to involve Ronald in more stories.

"Out of respect we owe Koeman, he has a current contract and don't rule it out [that he stays]. We are talking.

"There are no transitional seasons at Barca. We [the new board] arrived halfway through the season and said we would give our evaluation of the coach at the end of the season and communicate our decisions then.

"We've always worked with the maximum respect for Ronald Koeman. Of course, the admiration we have for him as the player who won us the European Cup at Wembley, and he still has a contract in place.

"At the end of the season we will evaluate his time here and make decisions accordingly. We spoke to Koeman and will continue to do so when making important decisions."

Barcelona president Joan Laporta revealed contract talks with Lionel Messi are going well as he prepares to meet again with Ronald Koeman to decide the head coach's future.

Messi's current deal is set to expire at the end of June but the Spanish club are in negotiations to make sure their talisman remains at Camp Nou.

Having pushed to leave Barca a year ago, the 33-year-old scored 30 goals in 35 LaLiga appearances to finish as the competition's leading scorer, though Barca finished behind both champions Atletico Madrid and rivals Real Madrid in the table.

Laporta provided an update on Messi's situation at a lengthy news conference on Friday that covered a number of topics, during which he confirmed new signings are imminent.

"Messi's new contract is going well, but it has not been done yet," Laporta announced.

"We are working hard, all the executives that we have involved here are working hard to give him a good proposal. We are going to give him a proposal that is within our means and we hope that it will be accepted by the player.

"I see our relationship as very good. Messi loves Barca. We know that he is a man and a player conditioned by his incredible talent.

"Of course, we all want him to continue, and we hope that he will stay with Barca."

Barca are expected to sign defender Eric Garcia and forward Sergio Aguero in the transfer window, with both players soon to be out of contract at Manchester City.

"Our ambition is to improve the current squad and we are working on that very hard," Laporta said.

"Next week, we will talk about new arrivals for the first team. You will see the result of some of the work we have been doing.

"I understand that people want us to work in a rhythm that is faster, but we believe in working step by step, little by little and doing things right. We need to make two situations compatible, when I'm talking about the liquidation of one project and the beginning of a new one."

It remains to be seen whether Koeman will be around to continue with the new Barca project; the Dutchman is set to hold a fresh round of talks with Laporta in the near future after completing his first campaign in charge. Koeman and his agent met with Laporta this week for an initial conversation.

"There are no transitional seasons at Barca," Laporta said. "We [the new board] arrived halfway through the season and said we would give our evaluation of the coach at the end of the season and communicate our decisions then.

"We've always worked with the maximum respect for Ronald Koeman. Of course, the admiration we have for him as the player who won us the European Cup at Wembley, and he still has a contract in place.

"At the end of the season we will evaluate his time here and make decisions accordingly. We spoke to Koeman and will continue to do so when making important decisions."

Laporta was also questioned about links to Xavi and Pep Guardiola, two legendary names at the club who have been rumoured to be potential replacements for Koeman.

“Out of respect we owe Koeman, he has a current contract and don't rule it out [that he stays]," Laporta said. "We are talking."

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