Can Manchester City finally win the Champions League?
After losing last year’s final in a heartbreaking manner, it was unclear whether Manchester City would return to title contention the following season. Fast forward 11 months and England’s top club finds itself in a prime position to take it all this year.
While Manchester City has failed to secure any of the smaller tournaments they qualified for this season, with less than a month left in Champions League play, the team should bring home the European Cup for the first time in club history.
Despite losing the club’s all-time leading goal scorer, Sergio Aguero, in the transfer market, Manchester City has remained a force to be reckoned with. City sits atop the Premier League table with 80 points in only 33 matches played. The Sky Blues also dominated Group A of the Champions League-winning four of six games with 18 goals scored in those matches.
The team has come up with a winning formula under manager Pep Guardiola, among the most highly regarded leaders of this era. Guardiola knows what it takes to win at the highest level, winning two Champions League titles in his time at Barcelona. While he has not been able to replicate this success in Manchester, he has still led the club to multiple Premier League titles, winning the English league three out of the last four years.
Guardiola has this year’s iteration of City playing in exceptional form. The tactical manager’s balanced attack has six players with double-digit goals scored this season. Among the top is world-class midfielder Kevin de Bruyne with 15 goals and a team-leading 12 assists. The Belgian superstar is the key to Manchester’s success as they approach the end of the European tournament. The steady force he, Bernardo Silva, and Rodrigo provide in the classic 3-3-4 formation Manchester often plays in is a big reason for the team’s success. De Bruyne is considered by many to be one of, if not, the most complete soccer player in the world and will lead his squad to a title this season.
Barring any unexpected results, Liverpool will be the opponent standing in Manchester’s way of the title on May 28. Liverpool has had an incredibly successful and dominant season themselves, already winning the EFL Cup in dramatic fashion.
Additionally, the Reds are finalists for the yet-to-be-played FA Cup, currently in second place in the Premier League sitting one point under Manchester City, and finally, a semi-finalist in the Champions League as things currently stand.
Much of Liverpool’s success this season is thanks to the world-class play they have received from the forward position. While Manchester City may have Liverpool’s number in the midfield, it is hard to find a trio of forwards who have played as well as Sadio Mane, Mohammed Salah, and Diogo Jota have played this season. The three have a total of 71 goals along with 20 assists across all competitions.
Salah will be the catalyst in any matchup as he leads the team with 30 goals and playing alongside his two running mates, they are certainly a handful for any defense they run into.
Liverpool’s play in the Champions League this season has been nothing short of exceptional. After being drawn into this season’s “Group of Death,” it was unclear how things would turn out for the Jurgen Klopp-managed club. To the surprise of many, Klopp’s club finished an astounding 6-0 in the group stage with 17 goals scored.
Liverpool and Manchester have faced each other three times this season with two games finishing in a draw. Although Manchester City did fall to Liverpool in the FA Cup Semi-final, the two clubs are very evenly matched.
A Champions League Final between these two English clubs would certainly be one for the ages. Both teams are well balanced in all facets of the game from goalkeeping to attacking. The two managers are experienced experts in exposing an opponent, and attacking the weakest spots on the pitch.
Manchester’s edge over Liverpool will be its ability to stay poised in a close game. Liverpool is known to be weak against opponents’ counterattacks which should bode well for Manchester City, should the two meet. City’s stout defense, along with its all-world midfield, will cause problems for Liverpool, a team that has shown it can struggle defensively. Much of the Reds’ success this season has stemmed from simply outscoring opponents.
That tactic might not prove to be viable against such a well-rounded club like Manchester City, a team that is clearly intent on changing the championship narrative from last season.