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.

A lifetime of going toe-to-toe with bigger boys stands Phil Foden in perfect stead for the biggest game in European club football on Saturday.

Foden, who turned 21 on Friday, has enjoyed a superb season for Premier League champions Manchester City, progressing from undoubted talent and potential to be one of the first names on Pep Guardiola's team sheet.

The attacking midfielder's rise has delighted Steve Eyre, a former youth coach at City who oversaw some of Foden's earliest steps on the road to stardom.

"It's amazing, really. He just keeps evolving and getting better. As a supporter, first and foremost, I am mesmerised by some of his performances and capabilities," Eyre told Stats Perform ahead of the Champions League final between City and Chelsea at Estadio do Dragao this weekend.

"His temperament has come to the fore recently, now that the opposition are more aware of him. There are more people wanting to foul him, there are more people wanting to mark him tighter."

Foden joined City as an eight-year-old and Eyre said: "He's got such a hunger and such a desire to affect the scoreline in a variety of positions now that I don’t think the lad himself knows what his best position is."

Nedum Onuoha was a product of the youth set-up, overseen by Jim Cassell – viewed by Eyre as "the best academy manager of his generation" – that serviced City's first team after the turn of the century, producing the likes of Shaun Wright-Phillips, Micah Richards, Daniel Sturridge and Kieran Trippier.

Nevertheless, despite that esteemed list of internationals, ex-City defender Onuoha believes Foden's gifts put him on another level.

"I wouldn't necessarily say there are going to be a ton of people like Foden to come after him, because for me - not to downplay the people that came before - he's the best player I've ever seen come out of our academy," Onuoha told Stats Perform.

"That academy has seen players come through who've won Premier Leagues, not just at City, like Kasper Schmeichel. You've had players come through and play for England. But in terms of actual talent and ability, the fact Phil can fit into this City team, like he has done over the past couple of years, says a lot about how good he actually is.

"From hearing little things, from players and people who spend time with him, he's got this obsession with winning and an obsession with getting better. And a true love for the football club."

Foden's capacity to excel was spotted quickly by Cassell's team and Eyre had a conversation with the player's father, asking if he could train for an extra night a week to mix it with the older age groups.

"He said 'no problem', he agreed," the coach recalled, before explaining the rationale.

"It's very important that you don't divorce a boy from his childhood. It's important that he plays with lads his own age and mixes and socialises with them. The challenge for Phil – we think it suited him; it doesn't necessarily suit others – was to design a mixed age-group programme for him.

"Very quickly he had to find a way to make space and find space to avoid contact with the big boys. When everything became a bit more familiar, they wanted to get stuck into him a little bit and make sure he didn’t have everything his own way. What he had to do then was the opposite and learn how to take contact.

"What you see now, with his incredible balance, is he's absolutely amazing at avoiding contact.

"When he takes contact these days, he either wins the physical battle with upper-body strength or if he's thrown to the floor he's very, very durable and he just pulls his socks back up, looks at the referee for a little bit of support, gets on his feet and gets playing again."

Even if emulating Foden will prove beyond most of the hopefuls who tread the pitches at the City Football Academy, Onuoha believes his progress to become a first-team star for Pep Guardiola and England boss Gareth Southgate provides a shining light for City's next generation.

"It does matter because it justifies the academy, it justifies why your kid comes into the place," Onuoha said. "If you don't have somebody in the first team who's come through the ranks, you start to ask bigger questions about what's the point.

"But ultimately, City do invest in their academy. It doesn't guarantee that everybody will play for the first team, but it shows that you can. Seeing an academy face, especially a Mancunian one for fans, that really, really matters and it makes you feel excited. It shows that pathway is still there."

Onuoha added: "When Phil was growing up, there were people in City's first team who he was looking up to, like a David Silva. Who's to say that the next Phil Foden-level talent isn't looking at him now? They're 10 years old, thinking, 'I want to be like Phil Foden'."

Phil Foden turned 21 on Friday, the day before he will play for Manchester City in arguably the biggest game in his boyhood club's history.

For all Foden's understated public persona and the unfussy way he goes about his business on the field, such a high-stakes landmark has felt inevitable since he emerged as a precocious and remarkably fully formed talent four years ago.

"I don't have words. I would like to have the right words to describe what I saw," Pep Guardiola told reporters after Foden sparkled in an International Champions Cup friendly against Manchester United in Houston, Texas.

"You are lucky guys, believe me, you are the guys who saw his first game in the first team at Manchester City. I've not seen something like I saw today for a long time. His performance was another level."

It is a level at which Foden has largely remained, meaning Guardiola frequently had to resist clamour to give the youngster more game-time. Over the past six months, he has become one of the first names on the team-sheet, so that is no longer a problem.

Ilkay Gundogan, the only City player to have previously featured in a Champions League final, when Borussia Dortmund lost to Bayern Munich in 2013, expects Foden to take Saturday's encounter with Chelsea at Estadio do Dragao smoothly in his stride.

"Phil has become one of our main players throughout the season," Gundogan said. "He's doing incredibly well, he improved in so many details of his game, mainly in taking the right decisions at crucial times.

"For such a young age it is really impressive. I wouldn't recommend him to change anything from what he's done over the past few weeks. He is one of the game-changers for us and he can be one on Saturday."

Next on the horizon will be the European Championship, where Gareth Southgate will have designs on Foden being a game-changer for England. It could be a momentous few weeks for the quicksilver attacker, so it feels like a very good time to have a look at some of the numbers – from one to 21 – that got him to this point.

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Foden has scored 31 times for City in all competitions but few have been as important as goal number one in the Premier League. Starting for just the second time in the top-flight, he showed an aptitude for timing runs into the box to nod home Sergio Aguero's header across goal against Tottenham in April 2019. It was the only goal of the game, coming four days after Spurs knocked City out of the Champions League in dramatic fashion and at the business end of a knife-edge title battle with Liverpool, where Guardiola's side prevailed by a point, 98 to 97.

In the book Pep's City by Pol Ballus and Lu Martin, Foden was described as "lighting up the darkness that engulfed the first team squad in training" after the Champions League heartbreak.

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Foden probably overhauled that Spurs goal twice in the eight days when he made it two winning goals in two against Borussia Dortmund in this season's Champions League quarter-finals. First, he struck in stoppage time for a 2-1 win in Manchester after Marco Reus equalised for the visitors, and then he smashed home from a short corner to spark frenzied touchline celebrations with Guardiola as City won by the same scoreline at Signal Iduna Park.

It meant Foden was the second player under the age of 21 to score in both legs of a Champions League quarter-final after Kylian Mbappe, who did so for Monaco against Dortmund in 2017. Considering the prolific start to Mbappe's career in Europe's elite club competition and his exclusive use as a forward, Foden shapes up pretty well by comparison. In 1,544 minutes of Champions League football he has 11 goal involvements (six goals, five assists). After 1,540 minutes in the tournament, Mbappe had 17 (12 goals, five assists).

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The 2020-21 season saw Foden make it three Premier League winners' medals for his personal collection. He has played a far bigger part this time around. All of his five appearances in 2017-18 came from the bench. When City retained the league the following year, that vital winner versus Spurs was his only goal involvement in three starts and 10 outings as a sub.

This time around, Foden played in 28 of City's 38 matches, starting 17. His final-day goal against Everton took his Premier League tally to nine, alongside five assists.

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After his first trip away with the England senior side ended in ignominy last September, Foden needed something special to fire himself back into the Euro 2020 reckoning upon his return. He duly delivered in November with a first international goal against Iceland at Wembley. His second followed four minutes later.

At 20 years and 174 days, he was the youngest England player in history to score more than once in a game at Wembley.

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Foden has truly excelled since making the left-wing spot his own at City this season. When Aston Villa arrived at the Etihad Stadium for a thrilling encounter in January he was in full flight. Five shots and six chances created over the course of a 2-0 win made him the youngest player to register 10+ shot involvements in a game under Guardiola at 20 years and 237 days.

He overtook a certain Lionel Messi, who managed the feat against Sporting Gijon at 21 years and 89 days in 2008 – during Guardiola's first season in charge of Barcelona – giving a timely reminder that Foden has come under his tutelage at an earlier stage of development.

"I didn't meet Leo Messi at 17 years old like when I met Phil. And at that age, I never saw a player with this potential," Guardiola told BT Sport. "But you have to see them on pitch in the biggest stages, and he is a guy who is comfortable, who loves to play."

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Following his first pre-season tour with the senior City squad, Foden served loud notice of his potential by standing above his peers in England's 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup win. Featuring in all seven of his country's games in India, scoring three times, including two in the 5-2 final victory over Spain, Foden was named player of the tournament.

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The prizes have continued to stack up for Foden, with this season's Premier League being a major trophy number eight in City colours. Alongside three league titles are four EFL Cups in succession and the 2019 FA Cup, where he scored three times over the course of the competition to help complete a domestic treble.

He also starred in Community Shield triumphs against Chelsea and Liverpool in 2018 and 2019 respectively, but we're not counting those as major honours. Don't tell Pep!

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Although a knack for scoring crucial goals has been a defining feature of his early career, Foden's reputation is built upon his exceptional creative skills. In 2019-20, as his prominence in Guardiola's plans was increasing, he supplied nine assists from 41 chances created, placing him fifth overall for City in all competitions as Kevin De Bruyne led the way with an absurd 22 assists from 177 chances created.

This season, De Bruyne is still out in front (18 assists, 111 chances created) but Foden is up next on 10 assists. He has created 75 chances overall, 13 of which have been classed as big chances by Opta.

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But back to those goals, because this is certainly an area where he has shifted rapidly through the gears. In 2020, Foden completed the calendar year with 11 to his name. He already has the same amount in 2021 heading into Saturday's final.

"I am feeling really confident in front of goal. Every chance I get, I feel like I am going to score,” he told Sky Sports last year, having put his time to good use during lockdown..

"I was in okay form before we broke up, if I am honest, but I have come back flying. Through quarantine I tried to work on some things like one-on-ones and come back stronger."

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Much like the goals and assists stats, another Foden figure that is likely to climb rapidly over the coming months and years is the fact he has only started 12 competitive games against the other members of English football's 'big six', including Community Shield meetings with Chelsea and Liverpool.

"Now Phil is demanding other things from the manager," Guardiola said in his BT Sport interview with Rio Ferdinand. "Before, play five minutes, 20 minutes he is happy; play Carabao Cup, he is happy. Now next season, don't play him in a Champions League game, see what happens. He is another status, he is going to demand."

This status looks like being beneficial to Guardiola, given Foden's overall record in City colours, which reads: played 123, won 100, drawn 10 and lost 13. In matches he has started this season, the English champions are W30 D3 L2 and W17 D3 L5 when Foden has been on the bench or missing, a win percentage drop from 85.7 to 68.

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Foden's enhanced standing means he is now less likely to be a victim of the dreaded Guardiola "overthink". This is, of course a disingenuous tag attached to a coach who gets so deeply into his work he has spent press conferences eulogising over the terrifying qualities of Nathan Redmond and Sam Vokes. If he overthinks, he does it every single game, for better and for worse.

However, plenty of City fans will dread an unusual team selection in Porto, such as the 3-5-2 that collapsed in a heap against Lyon in last season's quarter-final. Foden had started in the previous round's second leg against Real Madrid as a false nine and had 14 goal involvements for the season (eight goals, six assists), but looked on as an unused substitute in Lisbon. His blossoming is one of the reasons the City team sheet should be more predictable this time around.

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Having led his country to glory in India, Foden graduated to England Under-21 level, where he was similarly dazzling over the course of 15 caps and four goals.

He scored both in a 2-0 win over Kosovo and curled in a wonderful free-kick in Albania. The Young Lions flopped badly at Under-21 Euro 2019, but Foden's deft solo goal in a 2-1 defeat to France marked a rare high point.

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Only Gundogan has managed more than Foden's 16 in a season where City have shared the goals around. Although plenty would back him should a key opportunity fall his way at Estadio do Dragao, there is room to become more clinical.

In terms of expected goals overperformance among City players to have scored 10 or more times this season, Foden is in a good place, over-performing his xG of 10.88 at a similar rate to Gundogan (17 goals, xG 11.69).

A shot conversion rate of 16.2 puts him below Gundogan, Ferran Torres and Gabriel Jesus within this group of players, while he has scored seven and missed eight big chances (46.7 per cent).

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Foden's early breakthrough at City meant he achieved a cluster of age-related records. At 17 years and 283 days, he became the youngest English player to feature in a Champions League knockout match when Guardiola shuffled his pack thanks to a 4-0 first-leg advantage over Basel in the 2017-18 round of 16.

The next season, the cherished moment of Foden's first senior goal arrived, at the start of one of those triumphant EFL Cup campaigns against Oxford United. By now 18 years and 120 days, he was the first City player to score for the club having been born since the turn of the millennium.

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When the following season's competition concluded, at a full Wembley a couple of weeks before the pandemic took hold of the UK, Foden was a surprise starter and man of the match at 19 in a 2-1 win over Villa.

Along with an assist for Sergio Aguero's goal, he completed 90 per cent of his 41 passes in the opposition half, made 70 touches overall and won seven out of 10 duels.

He was all over the contest and his prominence has increased exponentially since that point. This February, when City roared to a 4-1 win at Liverpool – their first away win in the fixture since 2003 – Foden bent the game to his will and crowned victory with a blistering individual strike. At 20 years and 255 days, he was the youngest player to score and assist in a Premier League game against Liverpool at Anfield.

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And now, to another big game. The biggest.

The day after he turns 21, Foden will take all of this prodigious talent and elite experience and try to build upon it in pursuit of European glory. And we all get to watch.

"You are lucky guys, believe me."

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.

Manchester City star Raheem Sterling is confident of Champions League success, insisting "the only thing that can stop us are ourselves".

Premier League champions City and rivals Chelsea will meet in an all-English final in Porto, Portugal on Saturday.

City will contest their first Champions League final, while it is 51 years since the club's last major European decider, having won the 1970 Cup Winners' Cup – breaking the record for the longest gap between finals for a team, eclipsing Sporting CP's 41-year drought.

Pep Guardiola's City have won 11 Champions League matches this season and victory over Chelsea would see them equal the all-time record of 12 by Real Madrid in 2001-02, although the Spanish giants played 17 matches that campaign, compared to City's 13 this season.

"It is now about focusing on winning that trophy," Sterling said. "The only thing that can stop us are ourselves, if I am honest.

"We have played them [Chelsea] twice [under head coach Thomas Tuchel] and lost twice, but this is a Champions League final.

"On the day, things are a lot different. You go into it with a clean mindset. Those games that happened against them in recent times go out the window.

"It is a game where I expect a difficult test, but at the same time I expect us to pull through.

"I expect a physically demanding game. Chelsea is a strong a team who have a lot of physically strong players."

City are the ninth different English team to reach a European Cup/Champions League final, at least three more than any other nation (Germany and Italy, six).

However, only one of the last 10 teams competing in their maiden final have won, with Borussia Dortmund 3-1 victors against Juventus in 1997. The last English outfit to win their first final was Aston Villa in 1982 against Bayern Munich.

Since Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan's takeover in 2008, City have claimed five Premier League titles, including three of the past four in England.

However, City's hierarchy have long craved European glory.

"It is a club that, since I have come here, the way they want us to go is to win the Premier League and Champions League," England international Sterling said.

"It is a massive achievement to get there, but I know that the club won't just be happy to get there. Hopefully we can do it, we can win at the weekend and make history at this club.

"I think the camp is pretty relaxed. Being in finals before with this football club, that only gives you that experience of going into a final.

"Of course, it is the Champions League final, but at the same time we are footballers and we have to not let the occasion get to us and play our football."

Stade Michel d'Ornano in Caen is a long way from Porto's Estadio do Dragao. To be precise, it's 1,573 kilometers in the unlikely event you ever have the urge to drive across Portugal and Spain, then all the way up to Normandy in northern France.

In terms of staging posts within a career, second tier French football in 2013-14 and the 2021 Champions League final are a million miles apart. But this is the journey Riyad Mahrez and N'Golo Kante have taken, almost stride for stride, as they wait to contest the European club game's greatest prize.

A look at Ligue 2's YouTube highlights from the first time the Manchester City winger and Chelsea midfielder faced one another on September 27, 2013, when Caen hosted Le Havre, reveals a few very familiar traits.

Kante can be seen bustling around with intent from the right of Caen's midfield three, although three-minute condensed match clips are obviously not the best medium for showcasing his qualities.

Mahrez created Le Havre's best first-half chance with a cute throughball, almost snuck in a cheeky free-kick at the near post and then did that first touch. You know the one – kills a cross-field ball stone dead with the outside of his left boot, twists the defender inside out and gets a shot off.

That attempt was saved, however, and a Faycal Fajr penalty after Le Havre's Zargo Toure was sent off gave Caen a 1-0 win. They would go on to secure promotion, beginning a remarkable mid-decade run of success for Kante, irrespective of which team he happened to be representing.

But Mahrez was the first to escape Ligue 2, joining Leicester City midway through the campaign and similarly earning promotion from the Championship.

After an improbable escape from relegation in 2014-15, Leicester parted company with manager Nigel Pearson and appointed Claudio Ranieri. Kante was one of his close-season signings, with Caen pocketing £5.6m, and the rest is gloriously improbable history.

That was a hefty outlay compared to the £400,000 Leicester sent Le Havre's way for Mahrez, who finished the Foxes' Premier League-winning campaign in 2015-16 with 17 goals, 11 assists and the PFA Players' Player of the Year award.

 

While the Algeria winger won the approval of his fellow professionals and Jamie Vardy's astonishing rise from non-league to the top of the English game earned him the FWA Footballer of the Year prize, the biggest revelation was arguably Kante.

"This player Kante, he was running so hard that I thought he must have a pack of batteries hidden in his shorts," Ranieri told the Players' Tribune.

"I tell him, 'One day, I'm going to see you cross the ball and then finish the cross with a header yourself!'."

A run to the final of Euro 2016 followed with France, and Kante was the one jewel of the Leicester triumph to depart in its immediate afterglow. He joined Chelsea for £32m, helped to drive Antonio Conte's men to the Premier League title and cleaned up at the end of season awards.

Twelve months later, he was a world champion as France romped to glory at Russia 2018. Kante was football's sure thing, at club or international level. And yet, in hindsight, the full palate of his qualities were perhaps a touch under-appreciated.

All eulogies came back to that insatiable work-rate, that battery pack in the shorts. Maurizio Sarri's installation as Antonio Conte's successor at Stamford Bridge, bringing with him his cerebral deep-lying playmaker Jorginho, would mean a change of pace.

In his two seasons under Conte, Kante made 127 and 113 tackles. This was down from terrifyingly relentless 175 (winning 71.4 per cent – his best success rate in the Premier League) in that season at Leicester, which does much to explain how his reputation was established and remained in the popular imagination.

 

In 2018-19, his tackles number fell to 74 and it has never returned to previous levels under Frank Lampard or Thomas Tuchel. But as a shuttling midfield presence under Sarri, his 73 touches in the opposition box that season were more than in his entire Premier League career up until that point, with four goals and four assists his reward.

Where some feared Jorginho's arrival would shove Kante out of his preferred position, they now operate very effectively in tandem and will probably do so against City. For all that the former Napoli man is charged with setting the tempo, Kante remains tidily efficient in possession. His pass completion in every season at the Bridge tracks between 85 and 89 per cent.

The 30-year-old stamped his presence all over the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid and was named man of the match for both legs in a 3-1 aggregate triumph. During the second encounter in London, Kante made five interceptions – only bettered by six from Jorginho – but also made more passes in the opposition half (25) and created more chances (three) than any other Chelsea player.

This week in Porto, UEFA is displaying the Champions League trophy in a public square opposite Jardim de Joao Chagas. The shimmering prize is flanked by a City shirt bearing Kevin De Bruyne's name and number. The Chelsea jersey has Kante on the back. He is unquestionably one of the main attractions and keys to victory this weekend.

The same can be said for Mahrez, although his adjustment to life in Manchester was not as seamless as Kante's in England's capital.

As his old team-mate adapted to Sarri, Mahrez struggled to take on board Guardiola's demands having got the £60m move he had long craved. However, his 2019-20 returns showed improvements, with 11 Premier League goals and nine assists – up from seven and four a year earlier. Waiting patiently on the right-wing for his team-mates to disrupt opponents and leave him with one-on-one duels was different to the freedom he enjoyed at Leicester but starting to pay dividends.

He is now one of Guardiola's go-to men, came second behind Ruben Dias in City's player of the year poll and is a scorer of heavy goals.

When the Champions League quarter-final against Borussia Dortmund was on the line, 2-2 on aggregate with his team heading out on away goals at Signal Iduna Park, Mahrez slammed home a high-pressure penalty after an interminable VAR delay. He went on to score a goal in each leg as Paris Saint-Germain were swept aside 4-1 on aggregate, including the winner through a disintegrating defensive wall at the Parc des Princes.

"Riyad always was at a good level," Guardiola said earlier this month. "Maybe at the beginning he didn’t play much in the first season because we already had a structure with Leroy [Sane] and the other ones, but step by step he regained his position.

"Lately he has been playing really good and hopefully he can maintain this level."

At the other end of the square where Kante's shirt stands alongside the trophy he hopes to lift this weekend, UEFA have installed a merchandise stall where a shirt to commemorate the all-English final will set you back €60.

That amounts to fleecing that could not be further away from the value for money Leicester enjoyed when they plucked Mahrez and Kante from France and set them on the path to Porto.

Chelsea forward Timo Werner admits to having mixed emotions as he approaches the conclusion of the "worst and unluckiest season" of his career.

The Germany international joined Chelsea 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.

He 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.

Werner 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 51 appearances in 2020-21.

However, Werner has also contributed 15 assists and is the first Chelsea player since Eden Hazard in 2018-19 to both score and assist 10 or more goals in a single season.

And while the former Leipzig man accepts more will be required of him next season, he is keen to take some positives from the 2020-21 campaign, which concludes with Saturday's Champions League final against Manchester City.

"In terms of scoring and missing chances, it was the worst season, but in the end I still have 27 goal contributions," he told The Telegraph.

"I think I'm the first in our team for that, so it was not everything bad.

"A lot of people's expectations for me outside the club but also inside were very high because of my goalscoring record. I also assisted many goals last year in my old club.

"But I think the main reason why they brought me here in the club is to score and maybe at the end 12 goals and six goals in the Premier League, that's not good enough. 

"You have to say that I have 12 goals and 15 assists or something like that in every competition and 27 goal contributions – that's not so bad in what's maybe my unluckiest season.

"It is also maybe my worst season I've had for many years. If I'm scoring next season, hopefully, maybe people will become happier with me."

Werner has gone on runs of 13 and 14 matches without scoring for club and country at various points this season.

During that most recent barren streak, which ended with a winning goal against West Ham last month, Werner says he started to lose faith in himself.

"I had these two or three games after the international break where I missed a lot of chances and that was in my head. After this my confidence was gone," he said.

"It was like a period where in my head I was going crazy because I missed those chances."

Werner's shot conversion rate of 7.59 in the Premier League this term was substantially lower than the likes of Edinson Cavani (29.41), Gareth Bale (28.95) and Alexandre Lacazette (28.89), who led the way among forwards.

Chelsea have been linked with a number of high-profile strikers to lead their line from next season, but Werner insists he has no intention of moving on during the transfer window.

"I don't think about leaving the club this year, for sure not, and also for the next year," he said.

Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid have made official what has long been rumoured – they are parting ways, again.

The Frenchman’s future at the Santiago Bernabeu was a hot topic for weeks, at times overshadowing Madrid's attempts to retain their league crown.

In the end, despite Los Blancos producing an 18-game unbeaten run in LaLiga as they surged towards the finishing line, Atletico Madrid did just enough to keep their noses in front in a title race that went down to the wire.

The focus for Madrid now turns to finding a replacement: What about club legend Raul? Or could the suddenly available Antonio Conte be tempted by a project in Spain?

And what next for Zidane? As so often is the case with sequels, the second episode was not quite able to live up to the standards of the original production. Still, as Opta data shows, he leaves with an impressive coaching resume across his spells in charge in the Spanish capital.

Better than Beenhakker, behind Benitez

First, the basic numbers: Zidane had 263 games in charge in all competitions across his two tenures in Madrid, winning 65.4 per cent of them.

He achieved a points-per-game ratio of 2.17, which seems impressive, right? Well, perhaps surprisingly, that average sits behind both Rafael Benitez (2.21) and Manuel Pellegrini (2.35), two coaches who did not last anywhere near as long in the job.

Indeed, Pellegrini's time in charge spanned just 48 games, despite winning him 36 of them. In his solitary LaLiga campaign, Los Blancos collected 96 points – good enough for only second place, behind Pep Guardiola's Barcelona. Despite such an impressive points record, the Chilean made way as Jose Mourinho arrived from Inter.

Zidane also finished runner-up in the 2020-21 campaign, unable to quite close the gap on Atleti down the stretch.

In comparison to the notable head coaches who reached a century of matches, both Mourinho (2.31) and Carlo Ancelotti (2.36) exceeded Zidane in terms of points per game. Leo Beenhakker – who won three successive titles in the late 1980s – however, managed 2.11 during his reign.


The reunion and a second LaLiga title

Zidane's second spell lowered his overall points-per-game average, as he won 68 out of 114 matches upon his return. That is a notable drop-off when compared to his time between January 2016 and the end of the 2017-18 season, when he rattled along at 2.29 points per outing.

His win percentage in LaLiga in his initial spell was a mighty impressive 70.8, yet Madrid still only finished top of the table once in that time, crowned champions at the end of the 2016-17 season when collecting 93 points, enough to be above a Barca squad coached by Luis Enrique in the final table.

However, since Zidane sensationally agreed to replace Santiago Solari in March 2019, Madrid have the best record in LaLiga.

That 87-game span produced 188 points, three more than rivals Barcelona managed - though both won the same number of games (56) - and it puts Madrid 12 points ahead of newly crowned champions Atleti.

Having set a ridiculously high bar in his initial stint, Zidane has not been able to match his previous successes in the Champions League either.

Madrid were already out of the 2018-19 competition when he came back to the job, stunningly beaten 4-1 at home by Ajax in the second leg of a last-16 tie. They fell in the same round a year later to Manchester City and, while able to get past Atalanta and Liverpool in the knockout stages in 2021, a 3-1 aggregate semi-final loss to Chelsea ended hopes of further European glory.


Life with and without Ronaldo

It helped Zidane first time around that he had a star-studded squad at his disposal, most of whom were in their prime. Plenty were still around for a reunion when he took over again, though one notable departure had left a sizeable gap in the squad.

Just like his head coach, Cristiano Ronaldo decided the time was right to leave Madrid after they had been crowned Champions League winners for a third successive year in 2018. A move to Juventus broke up the formidable 'BBC' triumvirate, the forward having prospered when playing alongside Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema.

The Portuguese superstar departed as the club's all-time leading scorer, with 112 of his Madrid goals coming while working under Zidane. That is the same number as he managed when Ancelotti was at the helm, while four behind his career tally with Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.

However, Ronaldo's most successful player-coach alliance in terms of scoring output was with Mourinho, when he managed 168 working alongside his compatriot. 

Perhaps surprisingly, Zidane's Madrid were actually better without the five-time Ballon d'Or winner during his initial reign, at least in terms of average goals for and win percentage.

When Ronaldo was involved, the head coach won 68.4 per cent of matches, his team scoring at a rate of 2.6 goals per game. However, without him, those figures actually climbed to 74.3 per cent and 2.8 goals for. Addition by subtraction perhaps, but Madrid's loss was certainly a gain for Juve when the superstar decided he wanted a new challenge in Turin.

Zidane, too, will now contemplate what is next in his coaching career. Considering his ties to Madrid, the possibility of a third stint should not be ruled out.

Unai Emery has set his sights on the Champions League after guiding Villarreal to their first major European title thanks to an upset of Manchester United in the Europa League.

Villarreal surprisingly conquered United in the Europa League final following a marathon 11-10 penalty shoot-out in Gdansk, where the match finished 1-1 after extra time on Wednesday.

Gerard Moreno's first-half opener was cancelled out by United star Edinson Cavani in the 55th minute and the showdown was decided on penalties.

United goalkeeper David de Gea missed the only penalty of a lengthy shoot-out as Emery became the first head coach to win either the UEFA Cup or Europa League four times, surpassing Giovanni Trapattoni.

LaLiga outfit Villarreal are the first side to win in their first appearance of a major European final since Shakhtar Donetsk in the 2008-09 UEFA Cup.

Villarreal will now feature in the Champions League group stage for the first time since 2011-12 and Emery revelled in the achievement post-match while seeking continuity at the club.

"I feel proud [of the credibility of the project] and responsible as I have participated here," Emery said during his post-match news conference. "What they want me to come here for? They didn't want me to come to win the Europa League, because this is very difficult.

"They wanted me to make a job, and the job to give results. In fact, my goal, as I transmitted to the players and the club is to give continuity, hopefully, to be in Europe year after year, with certain continuity.

"Logically, to win a title is something that always is in our mind, and above all, Villarreal build and create the circumstances to be able to have this chance… in the Copa del Rey… to win LaLiga title is more complicated because of the force the top four have right now.

"But we can make our way in the Europa League and now will have the chance to compete in the Champions League. This season in the Europe League our way has been impeccable since the day one."

Moreno opened the scoring in the 29th minute in Poland midweek to move level with Giuseppe Rossi as Villarreal's leading all-time goalscorer with 82, 30 of which have come this season.

Villarreal's Moreno became the first player to score 30-plus goals for the Yellow Submarine in a single season in all competitions since Rossi in 2010-11 (32).

"It's a dream come true," Moreno said. "We remember everything we've done to work toward this. Everyone deserves it; the president, the vice-president.

"We wanted to make history in a big way and we've done it. This has been my best year. Individually and collectively, it's a dream to end up with this title, to be able to score. It's incredible, we're on a cloud."

This season's Manchester City side could be remembered as "one of the best teams ever" if they deliver Champions League success in style against Chelsea on Saturday.

City great Francis Lee told Stats Perform he believes Pep Guardiola's men could "hit the jackpot" in Porto.

The club Lee represented between 1967 and 1974 – winning four major honours, including the 1970 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup – have never taken home Europe's top prize.

Indeed, this is City's first Champions League final, becoming the ninth English team to reach this stage.

The gap of 51 years to that Cup Winners' Cup triumph is the biggest ever between European deciders, longer than Sporting CP's barren 41 years between the 1964 Cup Winners' Cup and 2005 UEFA Cup finals.

But victory against domestic rivals Chelsea would complete a City treble following success in the Premier League and EFL Cup.

Lee was asked by Stats Perform how that might compare to rivals Manchester United's three trophies in 1999.

"Well, you can't say that one team is better than any other team," he said. "You can only say in the way they win the game, the style they play the game, and the contribution to all the players in the team.

"And if it's a scrappy 1-0, 2-1 win...

"It just depends. It depends on the day, with the fluidity of the City team. If they hit the jackpot, you could be talking about one of the best teams ever."

Guardiola has lost more games against Chelsea (seven) than any other opponent in his coaching career, including the past two in a row.

Yet the Blues have not won three straight matches against City since a run of eight victories between 2005 and 2009, and Lee is not concerned by their recent meetings.

"It's going to be difficult but I think it'll be a different result," he said.

"I think that we played Chelsea before [these two games] and have always done pretty well against them.

"It's been the last two games, and there was nothing in it anyway; it was here and there.

"And if you have a City squad, a full squad, bubbling and ready to go, they're going to be very, very difficult to beat."

UEFA has begun disciplinary proceedings against European giants Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus over their role in the collapsed Super League.

The announcement from European football's governing body could result in heavy punishments for Spanish titans Barca and Madrid and Italian heavyweights Juventus.

UEFA said in a statement: "Following an investigation conducted by UEFA ethics and disciplinary inspectors in connection with the so-called 'Super League' project, disciplinary proceedings have been opened against Real Madrid CF, FC Barcelona and Juventus FC for a potential violation of UEFA's legal framework.

"Further information will be made available in due course."

Juve chairman Andrea Agnelli has been seen as a driving force behind the organisation of the tournament, which was announced on April 18 but fell apart just 48 hours later when the six English teams that had entered all withdrew.

The proposed competition guaranteed participation for the 12 founding teams.

But the anti-competitive tournament prompted outrage around the football world, and pressure from fans, players, coaches, governing bodies, governments and the media soon told.

Once the Premier League clubs – Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea – pulled out, it was clear the project would not be viable.

Milan, Inter and Atletico Madrid soon followed.

However, there has been reluctance from Juve, Barca and Madrid to let the Super League die.

Amid urging from UEFA and others to back away from the project, those clubs collaborated on May 8 to defend their actions.

The three clubs stated: "The founding clubs have suffered, and continue to suffer, unacceptable third-party pressures, threats, and offences to abandon the project and therefore desist from their right and duty to provide solutions to the football ecosystem via concrete proposals and constructive dialogue.

"This is intolerable under the rule of law and tribunals have already ruled in favour of the Super League proposal, ordering FIFA and UEFA to, either directly or through their affiliated bodies, refrain from taking any action which may hinder this initiative in any way while court proceedings are pending."

They stressed that "structural reforms are vital to ensure our sport remains appealing and survives in the long-term."

Madrid, Barca and Juve claim the Super League provided "a unique opportunity to offer fans around the world the best possible show and to reinforce global interest in the sport".

UEFA has begun disciplinary proceedings against European giants Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus over their role in the collapsed Super League.

The announcement from European football's governing body could result in heavy punishments for Spanish titans Barca and Madrid and Italian heavyweights Juventus.

UEFA said in a statement: "Following an investigation conducted by UEFA ethics and disciplinary inspectors in connection with the so-called 'Super League' project, disciplinary proceedings have been opened against Real Madrid CF, FC Barcelona and Juventus FC for a potential violation of UEFA's legal framework.

"Further information will be made available in due course."

N'Golo Kante "becomes an animal that never stops running" when he puts on the Chelsea shirt, team-mate Davide Zappacosta has told Stats Perform.

The France international has won three major honours in five years at Chelsea since joining from Leicester City, where he played his part in a shock Premier League triumph in 2016.

He has also lifted the World Cup with France and will be looking to add a first Champions League title to his collection when Chelsea take on Manchester City in Saturday's final.

Kante is a fitness doubt for the all-English showpiece and would be a huge miss for the Blues should he fail to fully recover from a niggling hamstring complaint.

The 2.48 interceptions Kante averaged per 90 minutes in the Premier League this season trailed only Wilfred Ndidi (2.52) among midfielders to have played at least 20 times.

He also ranked fifth for tackles per 90 with 3.31 – Leicester's Ndidi again led the way with 3.97 – and his importance was further highlighted in the European win over Atletico Madrid.

Kante recovered possession 13 times in the 2-0 last-16 first-leg victory – the most by a Chelsea player in the Champions League since Kante's own 13 versus Barcelona in February 2018. 

The former Leicester man's on-field persona is completely different to how he acts off it, though, where he often comes across as shy and reserved.

"What makes him so appreciated is his natural goodness and being genuine," said Zappacosta, who played in the same side as Kante for two seasons before spells with Roma and Genoa on loan.
 
"This kind of player conquers our hearts and is respected by all of us. Honestly, outside of the pitch, he is professional and calm; on it, he transforms.

"It's like he suffers from a double personality syndrome. Outside the pitch, he is so calm, and then on it, he becomes an animal that never stops running and is tough in duels.

"But he is an exceptional player and a very good chap."

Kante has formed a solid partnership with Jorginho in front of Chelsea's back four under Thomas Tuchel, the latter also topping Chelsea's scoring charts in the Premier League this season with seven goals, each of them penalties.

And Zappacosta is pleased that his compatriot, who is expected to be part of Italy's final Euro 2020 squad, has proved his doubters wrong.

"He has showed he can adapt to different roles in midfield," Zappacosta said. "Whether it's three midfielders or two, it makes no difference.

"If after so many Chelsea managers he is still in the starting line-up, there must be a reason. I think he is a very good player, very intelligent. He deserves to be there."

Zappacosta is set to return to Chelsea ahead of next season after a year on loan with Genoa, where he made 25 Serie A appearances, scoring four goals.

The 28-year-old has been impressed with the work Tuchel has done in west London since taking over from Frank Lampard midway through the campaign.

"I haven't watched so many Chelsea games in the Premier League because I was often playing at the same time," said Zappacosta, who has been linked with a move to Atalanta.

"But I have watched them in the Champions League and I have been impressed by their solidity and absurd intensity, and most of all by their style and ideas. 

"They play really well and I am so happy they managed to get to the final. I guess you can see the great work done by the new manager and his staff. 

"You see they are compact, intense and almost playing by heart. It is a pleasure to watch them play."

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