While most Chelsea fans understandably like to talk about their Champions League triumph in 2012, there was a rather more dismal occasion four years prior, when they lost out to Manchester United on penalties in the final in Moscow. The victory over Bayern Munich in 2012 helped heal the wounds of that defeat, but the memories undoubtedly still rankle among many Chelsea fans.
Now, Chelsea are gearing up for another all-English Champions League final against another team from Manchester, this time Manchester City. Pep Guardiola’s side hold the edge in the Champions League odds ahead of the match, but Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea will be confident of getting their hands on the trophy and denying City a maiden crown.
It’s 13 years since that night in Moscow, but let’s take a look back at that evening and see what parallels or contrasts can be drawn between then and now.
Chelsea were similarly the second favourites back in 2008, as Manchester United had just won the Premier League title for a second successive season. It’s the same scenario that will play out in 2021, as City have just reclaimed the Premier League crown and will be looking to make it an historic double. That is why the Blues aren’t quite as fancied in the Man City v Chelsea betting, although Tuchel has got the better of Guardiola in the club’s last two meetings.
Chelsea beat Manchester City 2-1 in the Premier League earlier this month, but there is an interesting parallel to be drawn between now and 13 years ago. Back then, Chelsea had just beaten Manchester United in the league by that very scoreline, but it was United who emerged triumphant in the European showpiece.
Of course, it’s worth remembering that Chelsea were by no means outplayed in that final. Indeed, once it came down to the lottery of penalties, they had the match in their hands. However, John Terry’s infamous slip and subsequent penalty miss meant United got their hands on the trophy.
A weaker team
It’s fair to say that Chelsea’s starting eleven in 2008 was stronger than their present-day team. You had players like John Terry, Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack and Didier Drogba doing the business for Luiz Felipe Scolari, who was manager at the time. It was about as strong a Chelsea team as we’ve seen, and they had just won the FA Cup days previously, but the challenge of overcoming United in Moscow was ultimately too much.
What Tuchel has done since his arrival is create a team greater than the sum of its parts. There are not as many standout individuals in the current Chelsea team, but that can often be a good thing, particularly when it comes to playing in a major final, where a strong, determined unit can stifle the opposition. That will undoubtedly be the gameplan against City — to stifle their attacking advances and stay in the game as long as possible.
FA Cup fortunes
Chelsea went to Moscow in 2008 on the back of victory in the FA Cup final against Everton, and they were involved in this season’s FA Cup final too. However, they came out on the losing side, with Youri Tielemans’ stunning strike handing Leicester the trophy.
It could well be that Chelsea’s victory in the FA Cup final back in 2008 had left them a touch complacent, and given that United started that Champions League final as the stronger team, it’s not an unfair assertion to suggest that Chelsea were still in celebration mode somewhat.
However, having lost the FA Cup final this year, Tuchel’s team will be doubly motivated to ensure that they end the season with some kind of silverware, and the European Cup is the biggest of all.