Premier League rivals Chelsea and Manchester City have battled plenty of times before, but there’ll be more at stake than ever Saturday when they clash for the Champions League title in Portugal. Below, we examine the key individual matchups to watch in the all-English final.
Mount vs. Fernandinho
Despite Mason Mount being in the infancy of his career, the Chelsea academy graduate could eventually become a club legend if he can cap off his breakout season with a Champions League trophy.
The 22-year-old English international has been sensational throughout the competition – scoring against Real Madrid in the last match to help Chelsea reach the final – and he possesses the type of knowledge and vision usually reserved for players well beyond his age.
Those skills will be put to the test when Mount goes up against an already-established City legend in Fernandinho. The wily midfielder will be happy to end Mount and Chelsea’s season on a sour note in order to lift the Champions League trophy in what could be his last game with Manchester City.
Mahrez vs. Chilwell
It could be a tough day at the office for Ben Chilwell if Pep Guardiola gives Riyad Mahrez a chance to flourish down the right flank. It’s a tactic that’s caused the Chelsea full-back headaches in previous meetings against his former Leicester City mate.
While with the Foxes in 2019, Chilwell said Guardiola’s game plan to exploit the wings – using Mahrez and others – during a City win against Leicester made it “a very challenging game for us as full-backs, especially when it’s for 90 minutes.”
If Guardiola goes the same route, Chilwell can expect another healthy dose of Mahrez – City’s joint top scorer with four Champions League goals – cutting in from the right and causing havoc, just as he did in the semifinals against PSG.
Werner vs. Dias
It doesn’t get much bigger than the gap between Timo Werner’s and Ruben Dias’ debut campaigns.
The German striker’s reputation as a prolific scorer is in tatters due to his inconsistency in front of goal this season. Meanwhile, City have displayed significantly greater defensive cohesion with Dias, as Guardiola’s team has conceded just four goals in 12 Champions League games. The Portuguese stalwart has arguably been the player of the year in the Premier League, too.
Despite the contrasting resumes, there’s still plenty of intrigue. Just imagine the scenes if Werner can somehow end the campaign on a high with a Champions League-winning goal against a City side that’s yet to taste defeat in the competition this season.
De Bruyne vs. Kante
The prospect of watching two of the best ply their trade against one another for the most coveted trophy in club football should excite every fan of the sport. Just how often Kevin De Bruyne and N’Golo Kante actually cross paths remains to be seen, though.
The Belgian could be deployed higher up the pitch as a false nine on Saturday, which would bring veteran center-back Thiago Silva and Chelsea’s stubborn defense into the equation.
But regardless of position, marking De Bruyne – a proven superstar who’s been influential in guiding City to their first Champions League final appearance – is about as challenging as it gets. It takes multiple players to slow him down. Wherever De Bruyne lines up, the indefatigable Kante will be one of a handful of those tasked with containing him.