Champions LeagueFootball

Champions League final betting: Back Manchester City to win their biggest prize, narrowly and nervously

May 25, 2021April 8th, 2022

TO what extent is form a consideration going into a Champions League final?

Certainly, it would be folly to outright dismiss it, and it matters that both Manchester City and Chelsea have lost their airs of invincibility in recent weeks. During the closing stages of the season these seemingly perfectly put together sides lost five games between them across all competitions.

Yet still, some context is needed here and that especially applies to the lighter shade of blue competing at the Estadio da Luz this Saturday evening for the biggest club prize of them all.

So formidable and complete have City been for the most part in 2020/21 that they wrapped up the title eons ago, even if it wasn’t officially confirmed until late on. Consequently, so many of their league commitments stretching back to mid-April have been demoted in importance, with their Champions League endeavours prioritized and we’ve seen this time and again in Pep Guardiola’s team selections. In losing to Leeds, eight changes were made with the fixture falling in between quarter-final ties. Against Brighton it was clear that the players were cautious of over-extending, their main emphasis being on getting minutes into legs and avoiding injury.

What is more relevant of course is City’s twin losses to Chelsea, one in the league, the other ending their FA Cup aspirations. We will get to these games shortly.

Chelsea’s form, by comparison, is somewhat pertinent – but only somewhat – by virtue of their defeats all occurring in meaningful fixtures. In Thomas Tuchel’s first 25 games in charge an immediate transformation led to his team losing just twice and keeping 18 clean sheets into the bargain. Across those games the Blues conceded a meagre 11 goals, equating to a concession every 204 minutes.

In their four most recent games however, three have been lost with no shut-outs to speak of.

City are decent value at 9/10 to triumph inside 90 minutes

Tuchel’s mantra after every loss incidentally has been to bemoan the allowing of ‘cheap goals’ but in truth only one has come about from an individual mishap. In truth, Chelsea are still doing the same things and the right things but are presently susceptible.

Even so, we return to the opening question. How much does it really matter that Chelsea were downed at home to Arsenal a fortnight back or that City have been breached on eight occasions in May when this is a one-off game of such magnitude? It’s surely closer to negligible than significant.

And if form is not its usual reliable barometer, before we move on, let’s discount a couple of other facets, namely motivation and narrative.

Ahead of Chelsea’s crunch clash at Villa Park at the weekend City supporters were understandably hoping their rival would secure a top four place, so they would not be reliant on winning the final in Portugal to attain continental football next season. In reality though it is simply not possible to instill extra layers of motivation for this one. It’s the Champions League final. The pinnacle of any player’s club career. You can’t add a few per cent into a hundred.

As for narrative it is irrelevant that this is City’s first final to Chelsea’s third. No-one involved back in 2012 when Bayern were defeated are at the Bridge now and at 7.59pm, 22 bellies will be crammed full of butterflies.

 

 

 

So if form is untrustworthy and motivation and narrative mere diversions what will ultimately decide a game grandads still stubbornly – and endearingly – call the European Cup final? The answer to that is the same two things that usually have a huge bearing on major team events.

Confidence is one, an aspect that admittedly derives from form but is separate to it. In this regard City have an obvious advantage, as anyone who witnessed their 5-0 deconstruction of Everton on Sunday will testify.

In every conceivable way, City’s last rehearsal before the big stage beckons was the perfect fillip, complete with flowing, celebratory, exhibition football and a trophy lift. There was even a sentimental farewell to a striking legend. They fly to Portugal in high spirits.

City have scored in the first half in each of their last five games – including one against Chelsea. Back them in the half time/full time market at 39/20

Whereas the over-riding emotion felt in the Chelsea camp right now is one of relief, after Leicester fluffed their lines for the second year running. Relief doesn’t get you the job, girl or trophy. That’s not a saying but should be.

Charging into the dressing room after besting the Toffees, Ruben Dias could be heard shouting ‘One more to go’. We can assume the response of Chelsea players after their loss to Villa was much more subdued.

The second consideration is player availability and more so, the shape they’re in. Throughout this week’s build-up doubts persist over the fitness of Chelsea’s number one Edouard Mendy and midfield dynamo N’Golo Kante and though both are expected to start such uncertainties can be an unwelcome distraction ahead of any final.

By comparison, barring any training ground breakdowns in the days ahead City have a clean bill of health, having benefited from Guardiola’s chopping and changing with the league long won. Their only concern was in Kevin de Bruyne returning rusty from a short lay-off but the Belgian ran the show at the weekend, scoring his tenth goal of the season and creating his 18th assist.

The Ginger Pele is 11/5 to carve out another assist at Chelsea’s expense.

City look sharp, hungry and ready. Chelsea needed to go full strength and exert themselves for their 59th game of the season.

Yet if all these details are pluses in City’s column what about those two defeats to Chelsea in April and May? How does a greater confidence and being in fine fettle stack up against them?

Certainly, it would be folly to outright dismiss those games but already they feel like they happened in a very different time. A time when City were arguably a bit jaded, and certainly weakened by rotation. A time when Chelsea were flying, feeling invincible.

A lot has changed since then and don’t be surprised if the lighter shade of blue wins out on Saturday. Nervously and narrowly, but finally champions of Europe all the same.

Only two from the last 10 Champions League finals have ended to nil. Back a 2-1 score-line in City’s favour at 15/2