Thomas Tuchel has ideal opportunity to land another psychological blow on Pep Guardiola


Chelsea face Manchester City in Saturday’s Premier League showdown with Thomas Tuchel having masterminded three victories over Pep Guardiola in their last three meetings

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Chelsea v Manchester City: Thomas Tuchel pre match

Chelsea’s showdown with Manchester City arguably couldn’t have come at a better time for Thomas Tuchel to hammer home his psychological advantage over Pep Guardiola.

Tuchel’s unbeaten side go into Saturday’s Stamford Bridge showdown as marginal favourites after charging to the top of the Premier League table with four wins from their first five game.

It’s a role reversal from the Champions League final back in May, when Guardiola’s team were backed by many to see off the Chelsea’s challenge and complete a trophy treble.

In the weeks leading into their clash in Porto, Tuchel had twice got the better of Guardiola, with wins over City in the FA Cup and Premier League.

When Sergio Aguero stepped up to take a penalty in the league clash at the Etihad, with City already 1-0 up, the stage was set for the club’s record scorer to not only seal the Premier League title, but also lay down a huge marker ahead of the showdown that was to come three weeks later.








Thomas Tuchel got the better of Pep Guardiola in the Champions League final
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Image:

Pool via REUTERS)



But Edouard Mendy’s save handed Chelsea a reprieve – and it proved pivotal as Tuchel’s side turned the tables on City, winning 2-1 thanks to goals from Hakim Ziyech and Marcos Alonso.

And the effect of that defeat may have been more far-reaching than temporarily halting City’s march to the Premier League title.

City didn’t play their strongest team against Chelsea either in that game or the FA Cup defeat.

But Tuchel appeared to have got into Guardiola’s head with the double victory – with the City boss ultimately paying the price in Porto after tinkering with what had been a winning formula in Europe.

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Guardiola dispensed with playing either Fernandinho or Rodri as a holding midfielder, deploying Ilkay Gundogan in a deeper position instead – and Chelsea capitalised, with City unable to gain control in midfield.

That was against a City team that had all its best players available – but it’s a quite different situation heading into Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off, given the visitors’ growing injury list.

Guardiola may have to overcome three straight defeats to Tuchel without two of his best centre-halves in John Stones and Aymeric Laporte, as well as Alex Zinchenko, whose greater defensive capabilities and ball retention earned him the nod at left-back in Porto ahead of Joao Cancelo.




Stones and Laporte returned to training this week after injuries, as did defensive midfielder Rodri, but it remains to be seen whether they will be fit enough to face Chelsea.

If Rodri doesn’t make it, extra protection for the defence would come from Fernandinho, who gave his side much greater control in the middle when he came on against Porto – but he was criticised for an uncharacteristically poor performance in last Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Southampton.

Guardiola’s side of course made light of their injury crisis with their midweek thrashing of Wycombe Wanderers, which featured eight academy graduates.

But he must turn back to his senior stars for Saturday’s game – and Tuchel may never have a better opportunity to assert his psychological advantage over the man many regard as the best coach in the world.


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