21 May, 2008 will forever be one of the darkest days in Chelsea’s history. The team had made their first ever Champions League final. The team had been assembled carefully over the years for that very purpose. But at the death, the Blues could not get the job done at the first time of asking.
Nearly a year ago, Thomas Tuchel’s Paris Saint-Germain made their first ever Champions League final. They too, had assembled their team carefully for that purpose. They too could not get the job done the first time of asking.
This will be Manchester City’s first Champions League final. Chelsea has to show there is value in having been there before. Value in being a bit jaded with a chip on the shoulder. Of showing the other side, talent aside, what it takes.
Now, obviously Chelsea is a different team from 2012. Quite literally. There are no players that remain from that time. The closest is Petr Cech, and his status as a player is thin as is. He’ll be a valuable voice, but one from another era. More immediately, the club has Thomas Tuchel and Thiago Silva.
Both Tuchel and Silva got so close only to fall at the end just one season ago. That memory will be fresh in their minds ahead of Manchester City in Istanbul. It will drive them and others closer to the trophy.
Now, none of this is to say City are some new club that stumbled their way to the final. They have been one of the dominant forces in English football for at least four years. Pep Guardiola is seeing a side into their first Champions League final, but it would hardly be his first. His first in some time, yes, but he has been there before.
But there is something to be said about a club that has already reached that summit. Bayern Munich had some players that remained from 2013 in 2020, but not many. United in 2008 had few from 1999 as well. Sometimes, it is just about the club knowing what it takes and listening to those that had gotten the job done before or had nearly gotten it done before.
Chelsea will find Silva and Tuchel’s experience a year ago valuable. They will also lean on Mateo Kovacic and his medals thus far. Cech’s knowledge will be important, as will Ashley Cole’s. It wouldn’t be remiss to reach out to John Terry, Didier Drogba, or even Frank Lampard at this time. Tuchel is a man who absorbs ideas from everywhere and his team should be no different.
City will be doing the same but they won’t have anyone that has been there before for the club. That may be a small distinction, but small distinctions may be all that is needed to get over the line.
Chelsea and Manchester City will have a dress rehearsal this weekend. Manchester City will be aiming to win the title as Chelsea aims to maintain their top four position. But make no mistake; both sides will have half an eye on the match in three week’s time. The prep for the big show starts now and it must be all encompassing to ensure the right result.