Chelsea's pre-season preparations in Ireland took a hit on Thursday as they had to cancel their friendly with Drogheda United due to one of the Blues' players becoming a coronavirus concern.

The Champions League winners were settling into their third day near Dublin when they had to tell the League of Ireland Premier Division team that one of their players had returned a possible positive COVID-19 test.

A Chelsea spokesman said: "Earlier today, we had a possible positive coronavirus case which we are investigating. The individual has been isolated from the rest of the group.

"We also decided, as a precaution, to cancel tonight's behind closed doors game against Drogheda."

Instead of the 90-minute workout, Thomas Tuchel held another training session as he attempts to combat an already poor pre-season due to many of his players being delayed in returning after Euro 2020 and Copa America duty.

Peterborough United provided the Blues' only pre-season preparation so far behind closed doors at Cobham, which Tuchel's men won 6-1, but Chelsea still have significant work to do before their European Super Cup clash with Villarreal on August 11.

Chelsea do, however, have additional friendlies scheduled against Bournemouth, Arsenal and Tottenham as they race the clock to get into shape for their first competitive game of 2021-22.

Chelsea head coach Tuchel is yet to strengthen this transfer window, instead watching the likes of Fikayo Tomori, Olivier Giroud and Victor Moses seek new challenges across various leagues in Europe.

After winning the Champions League, Chelsea are looking to add a goalscorer. 

With Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland seemingly no longer a possibility, the Blues could look elsewhere in Germany.

Robert Lewandowski has become the name to watch. 

 

TOP STORY - CHELSEA LINE UP LEWANDOWSKI BID

Robert Lewandowski has moved to the top of Chelsea's wish list, according to the Sun. 

The Poland international scored a record 41 league goals for Bayern Munich last season and is under contract through 2023.

But Thomas Tuchel wants a prolific scorer and Lewandowski would certainly fit the bill, should Bayern accept a £50million offer for the 32-year-old.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester United will make an offer for Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane this week, says the Daily Mail, but not at the rumoured £50m asking price. Fabrizio Romano reports Varane wants to move to the Premier League and is ready to accept United's contract proposal. 

United also are in the mix for Real Madrid's winger Vinicius Junior, claims the Mirror. 

Mauro Icardi could leave Paris Saint-Germain for Juventus, says Footmercato.

– Barring a Lewandowski move, Chelsea could wind up as a surprise landing spot for Harry Kane if he does not end up at Manchester City, according to The Athletic.

Liverpool will extend Alisson's contract through 2026 within the next few weeks, Fabrizio Romano reports, while the Mirror says Jordan Henderson will sign a new deal at Anfield through 2023. 

Roma and Inter could lure Alex Telles away from United, according to Calciomercato. 

Arsenal are hoping to complete a deal for Anderlecht midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga within the next week, says the Daily Mail.

Tottenham are eyeing Atalanta's Pierluigi Gollini, says Calciomercato. 

European champions Chelsea will begin their tilt at domestic glory at home to Crystal Palace on the first weekend of the Premier League season.

Thomas Tuchel's side then face tough back-to-back away trips to Arsenal and Liverpool before the end of August.

The Blues made it three consecutive victories over Premier League champions Manchester City in all competitions when they beat Pep Guardiola's side 1-0 in last month's Champions League final.

City visit Stamford Bridge on September 25 – a week after Spurs v Chelsea at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium - with the return clash at the Etihad Stadium on January 15.

That game comes amid a tricky start to 2022, with Liverpool on New Year's Day, Tottenham and Arsenal standing as Chelsea's first three home league games after the turn of the year.

Tuchel's men wrap up their campaign by hosting Watford, following a potentially pivotal penultimate fixture against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

 

Chelsea's 2021-22 Premier League fixtures in full:

14/08/2021 - Crystal Palace (h)
21/08/2021 - Arsenal (a)
28/08/2021 - Liverpool (a)
11/09/2021 - Aston Villa (h)
18/09/2021 - Tottenham (a)
25/09/2021 - Manchester City (h)
02/10/2021 - Southampton (h)
16/10/2021 - Brentford (a)
23/10/2021 - Norwich City (h)
30/10/2021 - Newcastle United (a)
06/11/2021 - Burnley (h)
20/11/2021 - Leicester City (a)
27/11/2021 - Manchester United (h)
30/11/2021 - Watford (a)
04/12/2021 - West Ham (a)
11/12/2021 - Leeds United (h)
15/12/2021 - Everton (h)
18/12/2021 - Wolves (a)
26/12/2021 - Aston Villa (a)
28/12/2021 - Brighton and Hove Albion (h)
01/01/2022 - Liverpool (h)
15/01/2022 - Manchester City (a)
22/01/2022 - Tottenham (h)
08/02/2022 - Brighton and Hove Albion (a)
12/02/2022 - Arsenal (h)
19/02/2022 - Crystal Palace (a)
26/02/2022 - Leicester City (h)
05/03/2022 - Burnley (a)
12/03/2022 - Newcastle United (h)
19/03/2022 - Norwich City (a)
02/04/2022 - Brentford (h)
09/04/2022 - Southampton (a)
16/04/2022 - Leeds United (a)
23/04/2022 - West Ham (h)
30/04/2022 - Everton (a)
07/05/2022 - Wolves (h)
15/05/2022 - Manchester United (a)
22/05/2022 - Watford (h)

Manchester City will begin their Premier League title defence at Tottenham.

Pep Guardiola's side won their third top-flight crown in four seasons in 2020-21 and there is likely to be plenty of intrigue in the build-up to the August 14 encounter at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, given Spurs striker Harry Kane has been touted as a potential replacement for Sergio Aguero.

Chelsea denied City European glory with a 1-0 win in last month's Champions League final and Thomas Tuchel's side start their bid to unseat Guardiola's men domestically by hosting Crystal Palace, who like Spurs remain without a manager.

Manchester United were runners-up last term and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's third full season in charge will launch with a mouth-watering clash against Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds United at Old Trafford.

Newly promoted Brentford have a similarly eye-catching assignment at home to Arsenal, who have no European commitments for the first time since 1995-96.

Liverpool are also away to one of the newcomers in the form of Championship winners Norwich City, while Watford host Aston Villa on their top-flight return.

Tricky start for Guardiola, Tuchel facing January Blues

City claimed a first victory at Anfield since 2003 last season and Jurgen Klopp will enjoy his latest battle with Pep Guardiola on Merseyside on October 2, a week after the champions get their shot at revenge over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Those matches all come within City's first seven fixtures, which also include Arsenal visiting the Etihad Stadium on August 28, the same day Chelsea travel to Liverpool and a week after Mikel Arteta's men welcome the European champions.

The season's first Manchester United v Liverpool encounter comes at Old Trafford on October 23, two weeks before United host City in the Manchester derby.

The return meetings for those two rivalries are at Anfield on March 19 and the Etihad Stadium on March 5.

Those games could prove key to the title run-in, much like Chelsea's trip to Old Trafford on the penultimate weekend.

The Blues have a tough January schedule, with Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on New Year's Day, followed by City away a fortnight later and a home derby against Tottenham.

Spurs and Arsenal are each aiming to improve upon dispiriting campaigns last time around. The first north London derby of the season is at Emirates Stadium on September 25, with Tottenham hosting their neighbours on January 15.

 

Premier League opening weekend fixtures
Brentford v Arsenal
Burnley v Brighton and Hove Albion
Chelsea v Crystal Palace
Everton v Southampton
Leicester City v Wolves
Manchester United v Leeds United
Newcastle United v West Ham 
Norwich City v Liverpool
Tottenham v Manchester City
Watford v Aston Villa

Thomas Tuchel has signed a two-year contract extension with Chelsea after guiding the club to Champions League glory.

The German replaced Frank Lampard in the Stamford Bridge dugout in January, also leading Chelsea to the FA Cup final and into the top four of the Premier League in his first four months in charge.

Tuchel signed an 18-month deal with the Blues at the time, but he has been rewarded for his successful start to life in west London with a contract that runs through to the end of 2023-24.

"I cannot imagine a better occasion for a contract renewal. I am grateful for the experience and very happy to stay part of the Chelsea family," Tuchel told Chelsea's official website on Friday.

"There is far more to come and we are looking forward to our next steps with ambition and much anticipation."

Tuchel has won 19, drawn six and lost five of his first 30 matches in charge of Chelsea in all competitions, conceding only 16 goals across that period.

Since his first game at the helm on January 27, no Premier League have lost fewer games, conceded fewer goals or kept more clean sheets (19) across all competitions than Chelsea.

The Blues lost 1-0 to Leicester City in the FA Cup final on May 15, but they pipped the Foxes to fourth spot in the Premier League – having been ninth when Tuchel took charge – and beat Manchester City 1-0 in the Champions League final.

Speaking after that triumph in Porto, secured through a Kai Havertz strike, Tuchel suggested his agent had already agreed a new contract for him in the event of Chelsea being crowned champions of Europe.

Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia said: "When Thomas joined us in January there was still so much to play for domestically and in Europe. He slotted in seamlessly and immediately became an integral part of the Chelsea family.

"Returning us to the top four in the Premier League was crucial, and we could not be happier with our success in the Champions League, which crowned a remarkable season at Chelsea.

"We are obviously extremely pleased therefore to retain Thomas for a further two years, and look forward to more achievements in the coming seasons."

Thomas Tuchel has signed a two-year contract extension with Chelsea after guiding the club to Champions League glory.

The German replaced Frank Lampard in the Stamford Bridge dugout in January, also leading Chelsea to the FA Cup final and into the top four of the Premier League in his first four months in charge.

Tuchel signed an 18-month deal with the Blues at the time, but he has been rewarded for his successful start to life in west London with a contract that runs through to the end of 2023-24.

Thomas Tuchel's transformation of Chelsea's defence was the key to their stunning turnaround in fortunes following Frank Lampard's dismissal, according to former Blues midfielder and assistant head coach Eddie Newton.

Lampard was sacked on January 25 after a run of just two wins in eight Premier League games left Chelsea ninth, 11 points off the summit. 

Former Paris Saint-Germain boss Tuchel was swiftly appointed and oversaw an impressive second half of the season, culminating in a stunning 1-0 win over Manchester City in the Champions League final on Saturday, Kai Havertz scoring the decisive goal shortly before half-time. 

Tuchel also sealed a top-four finish for Chelsea and guided them to the FA Cup final, although they ultimately lost that to Leicester City. 

Lampard and Tuchel were both in charge for 30 games across all competitions in the 2020-21 campaign, with the Blues conceding just 16 under the German compared to 31 in their former manager's games. 

And Newton, who played for Chelsea between 1990 and 1999 and had spells as assistant head coach in 2012 and 2015-16, is in no doubt the success is down to Tuchel's work on remodelling the backline. 

"Frank wanted to be on the front foot and the team was fundamentally in his personality," Newton told Stats Perform.

"He's a very offensive-thinking person, which leaves gaps at the back and towards the end they were getting punished on a regular basis. What Tuchel has done is put right the defensive side.

"He's also brought back senior players into the fold that were not in favour under Frank. Seniority brings stability and more nous about how to get through games when you're struggling. He brought that in.

"He changed the formation by playing three defenders at the back. It became multi-faceted.

"It's been fantastic stuff since he's come in. He's grabbed the bull by its horns and put down the foundations of what he wants to do.

"He's giving clear, concise information to everyone. Getting the results that he has, the players have bought into him. You can see the fight and that comes from the belief the coach has instilled into that team."

Tuchel once again chose Timo Werner to lead the line against City despite the Germany international's struggles in front of goal this season. 

He arrived from RB Leipzig last June for a fee in the region of £45million (€50m) with a reputation of being one of the most prolific attackers in Europe.

Werner scored 34 goals and supplied 12 assists in 45 appearances in all competitions for Leipzig in 2019-20, departing as the club's all-time leading scorer with 95 goals in total.

He has not been able to scale the same heights in his maiden campaign in English football, though, the 25-year-old scoring 12 times in 52 appearances across all competitions. He finished the Premier League season with a shot conversion rate of just 7.59 per cent.

While Newton is impressed with Werner's work ethic, he believes Tuchel will need to sign an established central striker for the 2021-22 campaign, with Chelsea having been linked to Harry Kane and Erling Haaland.

"He hasn't played with a number nine," Newton said. "Werner's work rate, even though he's not been clinical in front of goal, is what he admires and I'm sure his team-mates do as well. 

"He's willing to commit for the team. He's selfless, unlike other strikers, and works immensely hard for the team and that's where their defending starts from. It makes it easier for the team to defend.

"It's going to be interesting to see what he does next season. They can't continue without a number nine. Havertz is not a nine and won't be happy playing there. Werner is not a natural number nine; he likes to come in off the left and right. 

"It's going to be interesting to see how Tuchel addresses that situation. If they bring in a number nine, where do you put Havertz and Werner?"

Thomas Tuchel was delighted to make the best possible first impression with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and suggested Saturday's Champions League final win over Manchester City had already secured him a longer-term stay at Stamford Bridge.

Kai Havertz scored the only goal in the 42nd minute at Estadio do Dragao, as Chelsea sealed a deserved triumph over the lacklustre Premier League champions.

Tuchel joined Chelsea with the Blues at a low ebb in January after Frank Lampard's sacking, but he has overseen a remarkable turnaround, including a run to the final that saw off Porto, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid.

The former Borussia Dortmund boss only signed an 18-month contract at Stamford Bridge shortly after being sacked by Paris Saint-Germain.

When discussing his first meeting with Abramovich on the pitch after the match, Tuchel hinted a clause to extend his deal might have been triggered by Chelsea's second European title.

"I'm not 100 per cent sure, but maybe I have already a new contract with that win. My manager [agent] said something about it – let's check this first," he said.

"I spoke to the owner right now on the pitch, it was the best moment for a first meeting. Or the maybe the worst, because from now on it can only get worse!

"We will speak tomorrow and I'm looking forward to this. I can assure him that I will stay hungry and want the next title.

"I feel really happy as part of a really ambitious club, part of a strong group that suits my beliefs and passion about football in this moment perfectly.

"My desire is to go for more victories, to grow as a coach and to push the squad on the first day of next season to the limit.

"We have work to do, we have to close the gap and this is what it's all about. He knows what's going on for me directly and it's nice to meet him."

Tuchel's refusal to bask in success and train his eyes on the next challenge was particularly notable and a mantra to which he kept returning.

Chelsea have now beaten City three times in succession since mid-April and, despite their fourth-placed finish this season, are likely to be seen as key contenders to Pep Guardiola and his side's domestic crown next time around.

"It's about the next one, honestly," he said. "I experienced it in a lower level with my first title in professional football and I was not surprised, it was even a nice feeling that it did not do too much to me.

"When we won the cup in Dortmund I did not arrive in the next training with less hunger, less desire or less ambition.

"Now is the time to celebrate for some days, to enjoy and to let it sink in. Of course this is the time now for one or two weeks, to talk about it and reflect on it, but then it does surprisingly not a lot to you.

"Nobody wants to rest, I don't want to rest. I want the next success, the next title, the next process on the same level of quality and consistency.

"I want to be a part of it and I demand to be a part of it. This is what comes next, make no mistake about it."

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."

Thomas Tuchel savoured Chelsea's "incredible" Champions League triumph and said the approach to beating Manchester City was to be "a stone in their shoe".

Club-record signing Kai Havertz's first Champions League goal late in the first half was enough for the Blues to win the biggest prize in European club football in Porto on Saturday.

City could only register one shot on target at Estadio do Dragao as Chelsea were crowned champions of Europe for a second time.

Tuchel was only appointed to replace Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge in January and four months later the German has made them the kings of the continent. 

The 47-year-old suffered the agony of losing the Champions League final to Bayern Munich when he was Paris Saint-Germain head coach last season, but had very different emotions this time around.

"To share it with everybody is incredible. We made it. Wow. I don't know what to feel," said the former Borussia Dortmund boss.

"I was so grateful to arrive a second time [in the final]. I felt different. We were somehow... You could feel it getting closer, we had the focus.

"The [players] were determined to win this. We wanted to be a stone in their shoe. We encouraged everybody to step up and step out, to be more brave and create dangerous counter-attacks.

"It was a tough physical game. We had to help each other out."

Tuchel has masterminded three victories over City in just over a month, overcoming Pep Guardiola's side in the Premier League and FA Cup prior to this weekend's triumph.

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.

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."

At long last, Manchester City have made it to the Champions League final – ever since their 2008 takeover, becoming the major force in Europe has been one of their main targets.

Achieving that goal is finally within their grasp, with Saturday's showpiece being the club’s first final in the competition.

For all the success during Sheikh Mansour's ownership, the Champions League has been the missing piece of the puzzle, a situation City set out to remedy in 2016 when they hired Pep Guardiola.

It is no surprise the Catalan coach has been the man to get them to the edge of glory, such is his pedigree and reputation, though it may have taken a little longer than some expected.

However, success in Porto on Saturday is by no means a foregone conclusion, with Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea standing in their way.

Ahead of the biggest match in European football, Stats Perform looks at the key Opta data…

The Coaches

Much of the focus until now has been centred around the two coaches, whose situations are rather different.

While Guardiola may be taking charge of Champions League final newcomers, he of course has a stellar reputation in the competition and will become only the third manager to win it three times if City prevail – the others being Carlo Ancelotti and Zinedine Zidane.

Tuchel, on the other hand, was here just last year in charge of Paris Saint-Germain, who were defeated in the final by Bayern Munich. He is already the first coach to reach successive Champions League/European Cup finals with different teams, while only Marcello Lippi and Hector Cuper have lost two in a row.

Nevertheless, Guardiola has lost more matches to Chelsea in all competitions across his managerial (seven) than any other club, including the past two.

The Records

City have already made history by getting this far, with this their first European final in 51 years since beating Gornik Zabrze 2-1 in the 1970 Cup Winners' Cup final – it's the longest gap between finals for a team, beating the 41 years that Sporting CP chalked up between 1964 and 2005.

Another record in sight for City is Real Madrid's benchmark of 12 wins in a single Champions League campaign, with Guardiola's side on 11. However, Los Blancos' haul is a little less impressive when you consider their 12 victories came from 17 matches – City have played 13 so far.

Although both clubs have become European mainstays this century, they have only actually played each other outside of domestic football once, meeting in the two-legged 1970-71 Cup Winners' Cup semi-final when Chelsea won 2-0 on aggregate.

City's regularity in this competition has been impressive, though as previously mentioned it will be their first final, which means it will be the third year running that a new team contests the main event, following on from Tottenham and PSG – this last occurred from 1986 to 1988 when Steaua Bucharest, Porto and PSV contested finals.

The Star Names

As with any Champions League final, there will be an impressive array of quality on show, including Kevin De Bruyne, a former Chelsea player.

Along with Riyad Mahrez, the Belgian has scored in the quarter-final and semi-final this season. If they both net in the final, they will be the first duo to accomplish the impressive hat-trick since Real Madrid greats Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas in 1959-60.

Phil Foden's career trajectory already suggests this will not be his last European final, and if he is named in the starting XI he will be the third-youngest Englishman (21 years, one day) to start a Champions League decider after Owen Hargreaves (20y 123d) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (19y 231d in 2018 and 20y 237d in 2019).

Foden is also on the second-longest unbeaten run in Champions League history at 21 matches, a streak that stretches back to a defeat to Basel in March 2018.

And the longest unbeaten run in Champion League belongs to? That's right, another City player: Bernardo Silva. He hasn't lost in the competition since September 2018, a sequence of 26 appearances.

Sergio Aguero will play his final match for City should he make an appearance, and few would bet against that given he has scored 13 times against Chelsea, a record he has only bettered against Newcastle United.

Standing in City's way, however, will be Edouard Mendy – Chelsea hope. The Senegal international suffered a knock against Aston Villa and the Blues will be desperate for him to be make it given he has kept eight clean sheets in Europe this term. Only Santi Canizares and Keylor Navas have ever kept nine in a single campaign.

Another man who has been key to Chelsea's defensive solidity this term, particularly since Tuchel took over, is Thiago Silva. The Brazilian is set to become only the fifth player to feature in consecutive finals with different teams.

The others? Marcel Desailly (1993 Marseille, 1994 Milan), Paulo Sousa (1996 Juventus, 1997 Borussia Dortmund), Samuel Eto'o (2009 Barcelona, 2010 Inter Milan) and Alvaro Morata (2014 Real Madrid, 2015 Juventus) – now there is a quiz question for you.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel is positive over the fitness of N'Golo Kante and Edouard Mendy ahead of the Champions League final.

Midfielder Kante sat out the 2-1 loss to Aston Villa on Sunday as the Blues scraped a top-four finish in the Premier League on the final day thanks to Tottenham's win over Leicester City.

Goalkeeper Mendy was substituted at Villa Park with a rib injury, making him a doubt for the showdown with Manchester City in Porto on Saturday.

However, Tuchel does not appear overly concerned by either injury and is prepared to give them time to recover before he makes a decision on their involvement.

"The situation has not changed with N'Golo in the sense we are still waiting, but it is looking good that he will return to training on Wednesday," he said on Monday.

"I think about changing my tactics now and stop asking about N'Golo. I'll just put him on the pitch in Wednesday training and don't ask anymore. If there are any problems we will just put him in training and put him on the pitch when the game starts on Saturday.

"Maybe I won't talk to the doctors and physios so I don't hear doubts or complaints or nothing. Maybe I have to think about the tactics. It looks good and I hope it stays like this.

"[Mendy] made a huge improvement with the management of pain from when the injury happened, which is good but of course we will need a further update on Wednesday. We hope to have him back.

"Edou will play if he's fit. And if he's not fit on Wednesday, we will try Thursday, and if not then we will try Friday. We will be reasonable and take responsibility for the decision. At the same time, we have trust if he can't make it. We have a strong guy with Kepa [Arrizabalaga] on the bench who would take his place.

"So the race is on. We are happy the images didn't show the injury was too serious. So we are positive. But every hour and every day counts. Hopefully, the team around Edou and he himself can do enough that he is on the pitch. It would be a good boost for us."

Tuchel's primary focus is to allow his squad the chance to rest and recover after a hectic schedule in which Chelsea battled for a top-four league finish and reached the FA Cup final as well as the showpiece clash with City.

"It's mental relaxation now because it was a tight schedule for us being in the race for top four from the first moment we arrived, and making it to the FA Cup and Champions League final meant a huge task to fulfill," he said. "That's why it was a constant up and down, constant pressure, focusing on different competitions, that was not easy.

"So we are absolutely happy and it's an outstanding achievement we made it. Now is the moment for a mental break for the players. I will use it personally to think about how we will approach the game on Saturday. What are the headlines? The key points? How do we approach it mentally, emotionally, tactically?

"This is my day tomorrow to be prepared on Wednesday when the players come back. The players need a bit of distraction and mental rest to breathe. And then I want them to be here on Wednesday full of joy because this is maybe their most exciting week in their life as professional players."

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