A classic master versus apprentice contest will take place on Saturday night; Pep Guardiola and Thomas Tuchel are set to determine whether Manchester City or Chelsea will be crowned as this season’s Champions League winners.
Guardiola and Tuchel share a background, with the latter inspired by the former as a young coach learning his trade in Germany, watching Barcelona conquer Europe by playing in an attractive manner.
The German reminisced about what he had learnt from watching Guardiola’s Barcelona outfit, stating: “Pep and Barcelona taught me that you can play nice and you can win everything. You can attack and still be intense in defending. You can do it using guys from the academy.”
Chelsea have performed very much in the mould of a typical Guardiola and City team since the turn of the year, with constant control over proceedings, plenty of attacking players fielded in new positions and very few shots afforded to opposing teams.
From Frank Lampard’s dismissal in January to the end of the Premier League campaign, no team scored more goals than City’s 52, and no team conceded fewer goals than Chelsea’s 13.
They both impose governing playing styles, with Tuchel recently stating: “We spend very few minutes and moments in training isolated on defence or attack. We don’t try to divide the situations in an artificial way. Everybody needs to attack and everybody needs to defend.”
The approach is very Cruyffian in many ways with a Dutch total football perspective on the game, with Johan Cruyff described by Guardiola as ‘the most influential person in European football of the last 40 years’ while also stating: “He was the most important person in my life, professionally.”
Tuchel was coaching Mainz when he first fought against Guardiola – who was at Bayern Munich – and the two clashed further once the Chelsea boss stepped up to manage Borussia Dortmund after Jurgen Klopp’s departure.
When they met in the FA Cup semi-final last month, Tuchel ended up the victor – winning 1-0 – and he won 2-1 in the Premier League weeks later after the two sides were heavily rotated due to European outings.
Saturday’s meeting will be very different with both sides set to be at full-strength.
It is about time Guardiola reclaimed the Champions League crown that he’s been without for around a decade, but the comparable credentials of the man who he inspired all those years ago – who is attempting to win his first European title – shouldn’t be overlooked.