Even though Pep Guardiola is considered one of the greatest managers to ever grace the game, his lack of European conquests since leaving FC Barcelona has brought upon questions asking his ability of winning the coveted trophy without Messi, Xavi and Iniesta. This season just might be the season that Pep not only put an end to those criticisms but also help city win their first ever European title in 50 years.
According to the data calculated by Five Thirty Eight, Manchester City are the favourites to lift the trophy with a 37% chance of winning with the German Champions Bayern Munich coming in second at 17%. The Manchester Blues are in red hot form winning 25 of their last 26 games losing only once to their City Rivals. This form has allowed them to sit 14 points clear on the top which will certainly help City focus on the Champions League. Right now City also have the chance to make unprecedented history by winning all 4 major trophies available to an English team as they are alive in all 4 competitions; UCL QFs, FA Cup SFs, EFL Cup Final and a comfortable lead in the League.
In the next round Manchester City come up against Borussia Dortmund who possess 2 of the best attacking prospects in World Football at the moment in the shapes of the Norwegian goal machine Erling Braut Haaland and the English technician Jadon Sancho. Apart from these 2 however, Dortmund does not have much to boast about this season. They are sitting at 5th place in the Bundesliga which already tells us how they are severely underperforming this season especially given the quality in the squad they have.
While Pep will give the entire Dortmund team the attention they deserve, he will keep a particular eye out on Haaland not only because he is a hammer that can crack open his rock solid defence but also how could he fit in his squad the next season. Haaland is inarguably the hottest property on the transfer market with 39 goals for club and country this season and is bound to start a bidding war with City one of the most probable sides. This is even more evident now with the scrapping of FFP rules. They certainly will be looking for a world class striker with Aguero set to leave after the season ends on a free transfer after being unable to strike a deal with the City hierarchy.
After defeating Dortmund, City will have to play either Bayern Munich or Paris Saint Germain depending on who wins that tie. The Bavarians are the team along with City most likely to win the trophy so a strong case can be made that whoever wins this tie will be the favourites going into the final. One thing is for sure that Manchester City vs Bayern Munich will be a historic tie with both team’s fire power, their defensive prowess, their unplayable midfields and a master technician at the helm of each team all pointing towards entertaining football. It would also mean Pep Guardiola coming up against his old club and Leroy Sane could also come back to haunt his former club. PSG prior to the appointment of Mauricio Pochettino were looking very underwhelming and just didn’t have the same spark as they did last season. However, since the Argentine took the reigns they are looking like a new team climbing back to the top of Ligue 1 and thrashing Barcelona at the Camp Nou in the previous round.
In the Final of the UEFA Chamions League 2021, the 3 teams to most likely meet City are Liverpool, Real Madrid and Chelsea. Chelsea like PSG prior to the signing of a new coach were extremely disappointing but now under Thomas Tuchel their defense is looking solid, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz are showing their worth. City will be looking to settle a score after Liverpool knocked City out of the competition in the quarter finals of the 2017-18. Liverpool have proven to be worthy rivals to the Cityzens in the past few years but this season they are looking like a shadow of their previous selves. However, if Liverpool cannot overcome Real Madrid, there will still be some history to avenge between Real Madrid and Pep Guardiola given his history at Barcelona first as a player and then their most successful ever coach.
The biggest concern for Pep right now must be his own mind, in recent seasons he has overthought his tactics, formations and line ups when it came to high pressure UCL games which have back fired on him several times. He needs to keep playing his own game, dominating possession and having that same cold blooded ruthlessness in front of goals and this season they have found a new and rather surprisingly good attacking outlet in the form of Ilkay Gundigan. When Sergio Aguero suffered another injury nobody expected that the player to replace his goals would be the German mid fielder but he has done a fantastic job in his new higher role this season. The center back partnership of Ruben Dias and John Stones is rock solid and Cancelo is having one of the best seasons of his career and their mid field is diamond studded to say the least.
This Manchester City Squad is looking primed to get their hands on the trophy which has eluded them for 50 years while watching their solemn rivals Manchester United win the same thrice. This may finally be their time.
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