Manchester City are playing in their first European Cup final. It’s the end of a journey they began in 1968, when Malcolm Allison promised his and Joe Mercer’s English champions would set about Europe “as they have not been attacked since the days of the old Real Madrid … I think a lot of these European people are cowards.”
Sure enough, having talked the big talk, they fell at the first hurdle against Fenerbahce. That brilliant Lee-Bell-Summerbee side brought home some European silverware in the end, winning the 1970 Cup Winners’ Cup, but that night everyone was watching the FA Cup final replay live in glorious technicolor on BBC1, City’s 2-1 win over Gornik Zabrze relegated to late-night black-and-white highlights over on 2. Hapless happenstance always used to befall City back in the day.
Times change, though, and millions will be watching this evening as magisterial City finally look to make good on Allison’s words. City have scored 60 goals in their last 25 Champions League games.
They’ve scored 25 in this campaign, letting in just four en route to the final. All this without a designated striker! They’re favourites tonight to win their second European bauble and their first European Cup.
Both teams are at full strength with Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy and midfielder N’golo Kante both passing late fitness tests to be included. City have no injury concerns with Guardiola able to pick from a full-strength squad. Raheem Sterling gets the nod for the Premier League champions with both Fernandinho and Rodri on the bench.
Thomas Tuchel says his team are prepared: “The penalty shootout [in the Europa League final] was fantastic in terms of quality from the takers. I don’t think I have ever seen something like this – 20 penalties in a row with no miss and so well taken.
“We have identified the guys who should take the penalties for us but I don’t know who is in the end on the pitch so we need to be well aware but if we go to penalties we go in together and out together.”
KAI HAVERTZ GOAL WINNING #UCLFinal pic.twitter.com/2IWJ4TlONp
— CHAMPIONS OF EUROPE ? (@pleschels) May 30, 2021