As Manchester City and Chelsea ramp up preparations towards a historic Champions League matchup, many connected to both sides are making their feelings known. From journalists and fans alike, to the players and managers, there’s no scarcity of opinion about the epic event.
John Stones has joined the party, stating Manchester City’s readiness for the showpiece. He went on to express confidence in his team’s ability to emerge victorious on Saturday night.
The England international has seen a resurgence in his career after a surprise return to top form. Partnering Ruben Dias at the heart of City’s defence, the duo has been instrumental to the team’s success this term.
Their solidity at the back helped the Blues keep 19 clean sheets in the league. That secured Ederson another Golden Glove alongside his Premier League winners’ medal with the rest of the team
But perhaps their biggest test of the campaign will come against Chelsea in the Champions League final. City have failed to keep a clean sheet against Thomas Tuchel’s men in the last two meetings.
Although Guardiola fielded much-changed sides on both occasions, back-to-back defeats still served as a huge confidence booster for the opponents. It’s something Tuchel and his players like to mention at the slightest opportunity. If only to cause anyone who has already written them off to think again.
They come into the game on Saturday hoping to repeat the feat.
But Stones believes that is not going to happen. The 26-year-old detailed the progress City have made in the last several seasons and gave reasons for why he believes the Champions League final will be a different ball game.
“It’s been an incredible season from where we were in December,” he told Man City.
“It shows the strength of the boys. To achieve what we have this season, we can make more history. In Covid times everything’s difficult, games every three days, it shouldn’t be underestimated what we’ve all done this season as a club. Really pleased and proud of everyone.
“Everyone has come together as a team that’s been together for the five years I’ve been here. Whether that’s winning stuff or not winning stuff, we’re successful as a team and taking steps in the right direction. I’m proud of every single one of the people here and we have just gelled together so well and that’s why we’re so successful.
“To finish the Premier League on a high is what we needed. To go into the next game with goals and a clean sheet is perfect.”
When asked whether the two losses to the London side will affect the result on Saturday, Stones was bullish with his answer.
“Definitely not, we always learn from things that have happened in the past. It’s a Champions League final, everyone will be nervous. But the lads wouldn’t be where they are now without having to control these things,” he responded.
“Big pressure, big games, we’ve got the calibre of players for this occasion. We deserve to be there and hopefully, we can be stood talking with a Champions League trophy for us and for the fans.
“We take a lot of things we’ve learned from the games we’ve played Chelsea. We beat them at Stamford Bridge, I know it was a different manager. I thought we were hard done by in the last game, but it’s a totally different kettle of fish. It’s a final, we’ve got the calibre of players, we’ve been in so many finals and we’ve got the passion to win it.”
It’s clear Man City have a better team and (all things being equal) should beat Chelsea. But so many things can happen in a final.
From officiating mistakes to the players’ attitude or a few players having a bad day in the office, down to the selection made by the manager. Sometimes, what appears like a mere stroke of bad luck could be the difference-maker.
So City will need more than just playing better to overcome Chelsea. It begins from not taking the opponent for granted. And that’s where the recent two defeats could actually serve as a blessing in disguise.