Pep Guardiola has finally secured his long-awaited Champions League final with Manchester City. It has been 10 years since he last reached such heights, with his incomparable Barcelona side led by Messi, Xavi and Iniesta. After that he was beaten on three consecutive occasions in the semi-finals with Bayern Munich (against the “big three” of Spanish football) and now, after many attempts, he has taken City to the final after seeing off PSG. But who will Guardiola go up against? For Madrid fans there is a special resonance in imagining a final against their former Barcelona adversary. I wouldn’t say the same applies to the players, who tend not to be as concerned by rivalries, but it certainly is for the majority of Madridistas who this evening will settle in front of the television with their hearts in their mouths.
City progressed with a solid margin of victory. They carved out a decent result in Paris that obliged PSG to chase the game in Manchester. And even in the absence of Kylian Mbappé they started well and took the game to the hosts but an early counter-attack finished off by Riyad Mahrez made their task considerably more difficult. From there, PSG’s hopes lay chiefly in Neymar and Ángel di María, who drifted out of the game against a well set-up defence screened by the formidable Fernandinho. In the second half another counter-attack, another Mahrez goal and it was all over. PSG fell apart from there, dishing out fouls and going down to 10 men when Di María was rightfully given his marching orders for a kick on Fernandinho. This semi-final has done little to embellish the image of the Ligue 1 giants.
Zidane to rely on Real Madrid's old guard
Today, it the turn of Chelsea and Real Madrid. On Tuesday it was all about who would make the squad. Sergio Ramos is the side’s captain and talisman and it is difficult to imagine Madrid without him. We have been waiting for Eden Hazard for months and the Belgian is finally fit. His form may not be spectacular at the moment but he carries a goal threat that none other of Karim Benzema’s strike partners possess. I would imagine Ramos and Hazard will start in a side built around its excellent chassis, the midfield of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Casemiro that can withstand any terrain. Zinedine Zidane’s side are running out of steam, but they are still running. The Frenchman’s praetorian guard has demonstrated a loyalty capable of overcoming a thousand setbacks. These players are pure Real Madrid.