In the weeks leading up to the Champions League final, Chelsea and Manchester City met twice. Which was tactically very variable.
It worked on the sixth attempt. While Thomas Tuchel had never been able to beat Pep Guardiola, then Bayern coach, in five attempts in Mainz and Dortmund, the 47-year-old changed that in the six weeks before the Champions League final on Saturday (9 p.m., LIVE! At kicker ).
Both the 1-0 win in the FA Cup semi-finals on April 17 and the 2-1 win three weeks later in the Premier League, the Blues had the better end for themselves. What earned the first time and was a little happy the second time.
Guardiola brings Rodri and Fernandinho together
At the first encounter in the Cup, Tuchel chose his 3-4-2-1 basic formation, as almost always, Guardiola opted for a rather untypical 4-2-3-1 with the two defensive midfielders Rodri and Fernandinho, of whom only one normally plays . The plan behind it?
Built Chelsea in the back, City pressed the three defenders in equal numbers and also delivered Chelsea’s two sixes. As a result, the Blues were free, while the assignment and the two tens in Chelsea’s formation resulted in a 4: 3 majority for Tuchel’s men in midfield. Because City’s defenders hardly moved out to compensate, because Werner – with the risk of his speed – pinned City’s last line deeper.
So Chelsea passed the ball over the winger players, for whom one-on-one situations arose. Behind these duels, rooms opened up for Tuchel’s evasive tens, which City’s two sixes could follow by shifting – but this again resulted in a central majority for the blues. At this point the Citizens had to make a decision.
Werner as template provider, Sterling fizzled out
They did that by running up to Chelsea’s sixes, while their now shifting defensive chain switched on to pick up Chelsea’s ten, which was close to the ball. As a result, the gaps between the defenders grew and there were also more spaces behind the last chain that had moved up. The fast Werner benefited from this, for example with the winning goal.
The initially free tens mount used the space behind the Cancelo, who was involved in one-on-one, to finally send Werner, who had the advantage of speed and served the goalscorer Ziyech in an exemplary manner.
Raheem Sterling (Mi.), who should have received a penalty in the league game, missed out on being the difference player.
When City was on the ball, Chelsea also pushed up and fed the central opponents – so City also had to build on the outside and use the actual winger Sterling as the second ten so that he could be played between the lines. With the numerical luxury of Chelsea’s defensive five-man chain, defender Azpilicueta was able to pursue sterling, who was weak on the day and who more or less fizzled out as a key player.
City were eventually forced to try long passes behind the last chain, which also didn’t really work because of Sterling’s form on the day, as the expected goals of 1.42 to 0.76 for Chelsea showed.
Guardiola changes to deep eights and double top
When they first met three weeks later, Guardiola chose an unusual type of 3-1-4-2 formation with the two deep afts Sterling and Ferran Torres. Both eights could not be covered by Chelsea’s pressing at the same time, so that one was always playable who could turn up and drive the ball forward – because City’s double point tied Chelsea’s triple chain.
Tuchel reacted quite risky by again setting Azpilicueta as a guard on Sterling, so that his two remaining defenders against City’s strikers each played face-to-face. Again Guardiola put on long balls in the space behind Azpilicueta, which this time – on the higher positioned winger Mendy – worked.
Azpilicueta now had to choose between Mendy and Sterling, so the Skyblues always had an option. In reality, the long balls to the left were actually a double danger, because even a covered sterling who is faster than his direct opponent Azpilicueta could run them.
Play over left, hit over right
Tuchel reacted again by changing his pressing structure to cover City’s eights both. As a result, City had a 3: 2 or 4: 3 advantage in the build-up, so that one of the defenders could dribble with the ball and push it forward a few meters.
In the second game, City also attacked more on the right side, where both defender Rüdiger pressed on the eighth Torres and flank player Alonso on flank player Cancelo, so that the two one-on-one situations for City’s striker remained behind them.
In the deserved 1-0 for City, Christensen lost his direct duel against Gabriel Jesus, who was able to prepare the goal in peace. Overall, Guardiola’s eleven was much more dangerous in the league game, remained when playing out and exploiting clear chances – Aguero missed a penalty miserably – but owed a lot. The expected goals of 1.79 to 0.62 per Manchester show that things could have turned out differently.
Panenka breakdown: If Aguero had made it 2-0 with a penalty, the league game would have gone sovereign to ManCity.
Lying behind, Tuchel actually managed to adjust his pressing so that City’s previously free defender, Aké, could no longer dribble and both opposing eights were somewhat shielded – while the Blues themselves took the initiative.
City “forces” Chelsea to score five offside goals
In order to be able to start Chelsea’s three-man build-up with three men, City had to change its structure, which took some time and organization, from which Chelsea benefited. When City started up with only two men, Rüdiger, a free blues defender, was also able to carry the ball forward.
Zehner Ziyech then dropped on the left side to pull the slide assigned to him from his position and to create space behind the Portuguese for the fast Werner. On the other hand, the other ten Pulisic succeeded in the same process with defender Aké, striker Werner was also used on the right.
Time and again, City managed to make a virtue out of this need and to sideline the Blues, who scored five supposed goals from the forbidden zone in both games together.
Like the Citizens, Chelsea also had decisive success on the less-used right side, where wing player James, strong in one-on-one, was able to assert himself several times and provide an outnumbered attack. In this way, after James’ through ball a one-on-one situation remained for Werner, who did not appear as a scorer again, but also played Chelsea’s late winning goal in the second game.