Europe is painted blue, at least until next summer. Against all odds, Chelsea successfully beat Man City in the UEFA Champions League final held in Porto on May 29th. Chelsea will representing Europe in the Club World Cup this winter, and will play against Villareal sometime in August for the UEFA Europe Super Cup. Thomas Tuchel proved that it was not his fault for not winning last season’s UCL; credit the Chelsea decision makers for hiring the German tactician mid-season to win the UCL, achieve a top-4 finish in the Premier League and reach the final of the FA Cup.
UEFA.com announced the 2020-21 all-star XI:
- Goalkeeper: E. Mendy - 66 pts (Chelsea)
- Defenders: Rudiger - 63 pts & Azpilicueta - 61 pts (Chelsea). Walker - 62 pts & Dias - 60 pts (Man City)
- Midfielders: Gundogan - 58 pts & Foden - 65 pts (Man City). Jorginho - 57 pts (Chelsea).
- Forwards: Salah - 63 pts (Liverpool). Haaland - 62 pts (Dortmund). Mbappe - 61 pts (Paris Saint-Germain).
Here is the link for 2020-21 all-star XI
UCL 20-21 Best Moments
As a mid-table Italian football team fan, I enjoy having an unbiased opinion on all UCL subjects in recent years. As a spectator, I believe one of the best moments was Mbappe’s hattrick against Barcelona at Camp Nou. It reminded the Catalonia club of the 8-goal defeat to Bayern Munich last season and that Ronald Koeman still has work cut out for him.
I went on to ask my fellow writers on the blog about the same subject and here are their answers (I did not have a good, let alone best, fantasy moment so mine was on the field!):
David S: For me it was MD-6, in which I used my limitless chip to score 97 points. I’m usually not very good with chip strategy (I wasted my wildcard by uselessly saving it for the final!), so having it pay off so well that time was a very happy moment for me.
Chris: Definitely MD-6 using my limitless chip to the tune of 105 points was the greatest joy, particularly watching captain Neymar run rampant to deliver 36 of those points. Anytime you can get 100+ points in fantasy is pure happiness!
Dhivakhar: As a Man United fan, most of my favorite moments from this season’s UCL have been wiped out due to the shock exit in the group stages. But Rashford’s second-half hattrick against Leipzig and the 2-1 away win at PSG are moments that give us a glimmer of hope for the future.
Jeff: Mine was seeing Chelsea clinically knockout Real Madrid over the two legs of their semifinal. There’s something about Spanish royalty that I’ve never liked (could be envy at their past success, could be the way Ramos treated Salah in the 2018 final), so I indulged myself in a bit of delicious schadenfreude at their expense. In hindsight, I can now see how a team that could control Real Madrid would be a match for City.
I honestly did not expect Chelsea to reach the final; I thought maybe next season after Tuchel had become accustomed to the players and the players synced with the new tactics. I still believe it was Zidane’s tactical fault, but no one can deny that Chelsea (manager and players) did everything right.
Manchester City reaching the final had a 50% chance in my books. I believe a healthy Bayern Munich squad would have had better odds, and we’d have probably avoided Pep’s unfathomable tactical choices in the final. Here is what my colleagues thought when asked which two teams from the quarterfinals they had expected to reach the finals:
David S: I thought Liverpool and Real were the strongest teams on their side of the bracket, and that Real would probably go through due to Liverpool’s erratic form in the later stages of the season. On the other side I was always very confident that City would go through to the final and probably win it.
Chris: I absolutely hated the draw both from a fantasy and nonpartisan fan perspective, and would have pegged Man City and Real Madrid to make it through to the final. I certainly wasn’t expecting the Chelsea/Porto winner to make it through.
Dhivakhar: I had Real Madrid and Bayern Munich playing in the finals, and I couldn’t have been more wrong. Lewandoski’s injury dashed Bayern’s qualification hopes. I had a feeling Liverpool didn’t have enough firepower to beat Madrid, and the injuries didn’t help the scousers’ case.
Chelsea was a surprise package. I didn’t watch much of the Blue’s games and was surprised by their defensive solidity. They always seemed to have the knack of grinding out results. After their scintillating performance against Madrid, I had Chelsea winning the finals 2-0 against Man City. I was wrong with the score, but I’m happy to have gotten the result right. The Londoners’ defensive robustness was too good to ignore, and forcing several UCL fantasy managers into loading up on Chelsea defenders.
On Man City’s side of the bracket, I thought they would best Dortmund and end up getting knocked out by Bayern in the semifinals. The Dortmund game was much closer than I estimated, and after the PSG vs Bayern result, I thought PSG would do enough to beat Man City. I was proven wrong again. The Citizens tactically outclassed PSG and it wasn’t even close. Mbappe and Neymar were blunted by Pep’s tactics. The surprises and the underdog stories make the Champions League what it is, and Porto-like fairy tales would never happen in a European Super League.
Before the match started, a wise man said (me to my friends) if Guardiola will not have Rodri nor Fernandinho in the starting line-up and suddenly decided that Gundogan is a fit defensive midfielder choice, then he is going to suffer at least two goals in the first half before he realizes his mistake. In my opinion, it was Manchester City’s game to lose, but fielding Sterling and not fielding a proper and tested defensive midfielder did indeed lose it. The Citizens were quite lucky the game did not end with an embarrassing score.
I asked my colleagues what they thought about the final and they had loads to say about it:
David S: Pep’s starting lineup was baffling. Why would he start Sterling after consistently winning all season with a striker-less setup? And of all the players he could have started as a #9, why Sterling, whose form has been stone-cold for weeks? Pep seems to overthink things in the biggest games, and it cost him yesterday. But take nothing away from Thomas Tuchel — he’s been marvelous at Chelsea and seems to really have Pep’s number. As a final thought, although Antonio Rudiger has been very good in the center of Chelsea’s defense this season, his hit on KDB yesterday was dirty. I’ve lost respect for him lately as he seems to be too eager to front-up to players after tackles and to get in the middle of shoving matches. There’s a line between playing with intensity and being a thug, and he crossed it yesterday. Targeting the opposition’s stars for injury, as Sergio Ramos did to Mo Salah in the 2018 UCL final and Rudiger did to KDB on Saturday, cannot be a strategy FIFA or the leagues should tolerate.
Chris: It was sad seeing the 4th best Premier League team beat the dominant champions, Man City, in the Champions League final, as the Blues clearly are the Sky Blues’ Kryptonite. Chelsea played 11 men behind the ball for almost the entire game, which resulted in an aesthetically ugly match offering a measly total of three shots on target combined. Neither keeper was truly tested in his goal. Tuchel managed depressingly successfully like a 2014-15 Jose Mourinho, while Pep managed more in the vein of the depressingly unsuccessful 2020-21 Mourinho who in big games always seemed to introduce a nonsensical “surprise” line-up that completely backfired on him. It’s difficult to second-guess Pep who usually is an absolute genius, but it’s impossible not to question his approach in this case. I would have understood if he had turned to either Ferran Torres, Gabriel Jesus or even Sergio Aguero up front, but starting out-of-form Raheem Sterling at left wing and going without a defensive midfielder left the Citizens more confused than the Blues: The on-fire left winger Phil Foden was largely nullified by being placed out of position in sharing a more central alternating false 9 role with KDB. Along with his overall subpar play, Sterling’s failure to convert his early chance put the stamp on that bizarre XI choice from Pep.
Dhivakhar: Both line-ups were quite different from all those predicted online, especially City’s. An interesting tweet pointed out that this was the first game in the entire season that Man City lined up without either Rodri or Fernandinho. That was quite a bold decision for Pep to make in the biggest game of the season. Had it worked out, he would have been called a tactical god. Since it didn’t, he’s on the receiving end of some heavy criticism for overthinking it. Tuchel surprisingly went with Kai Havertz and didn’t start either Pulisic or Ziyech. We all know how that worked out. Mahrez’s shot in the 96th was a spine-tingler that had Edouard Mendy rooted to his spot. Had it dipped in, Pulisic would have regretted missing the sitter he had earlier in the second half. It all panned out well for Chelsea in the end, winning their 2nd ever Champions league, against all odds.
Pep Guardiola started either Rodri or Fernandinho in 59/60 games this season.— SPORTbible (@sportbible) May 30, 2021
The one game he didn't was yesterday. pic.twitter.com/4YIenDEPIM
Once again, no one can deny Chelsea’s success even if the mistakes of their opponents were highlighted. Chelsea did the work right to achieve their second UCL trophy.
What are your thoughts? Do you agree with the opinions outlined in this article or do you have a different take? Please share with us!