Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City are on the cusp of European glory as they cruised their way through to the UEFA Champions League final with a comprehensive 4-1 aggregate victory over Paris Saint-Germain. They will meet Chelsea in an all-English final, as the Blues showed composure and tactical brilliancy against Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid in both the legs of the fixture.
As the English rivals gear up for the final on May 29th, here’s our look at the top players from the semi-final round of the Champions League:
N’Golo Kanté – Chelsea
Timo Werner and Kai Havertz might be the lead strikers for Chelsea, but it was N’Golo Kante who led the Blues to the Champions League final on Wednesday. The 30-year-old Frenchman was a colossus in the midfield in both legs of the semi-finals. He proved to be a rock-solid defence against attacks from Real Madrid in the first leg, denying them a victory at home. In the second leg, Kante took his game a bit further as he piled upon a hapless Real Madrid’s defences, providing the initiative for both the goals.
Riyad Mahrez – Manchester City
With three goals in two fixtures, Riyad Mahrez has been the star of the show for Manchester City in their dream run towards a European treble. Combining skill with discipline, Mahrez exploited any opportunity that PSG’s solid defence presented. With 43 touches of the ball in the first half of the second leg, Mahrez was ever-present, constantly probing the Parisians, and not allowing them a moment of respite. While his goal off a free-kick in the first leg was sheer brilliance, the two goals on Wednesday were pure team moments – showing an awareness of the game and combining it with his skill.
Edouard Mendy – Chelsea
Chelsea entered the second leg with an away goal advantage over Real Madrid, which meant they needed only to keep a clean sheet at Stamford Bridge to advance to the finals. Eduoard Mendy fulfilled that task superbly along with his defensive unit, denying Karim Benzema and his men any chance at the goal. Two colossal saves early in the second leg saved any chance of their away-goal advantage being taken away, and it was an easy ride for Chelsea’s defence later on. With eight clean sheets in the Champions League, Mendy is just one clean sheet short of making history with the most clean sheets in a Champions League campaign.
Ruben Dias – Manchester City
Manchester City entered the second leg of the semifinals with a 2-1 aggregate lead, and Pep Guardiola’s focus was on keeping a clean sheet rather than fielding an offensive outfit. That task was successfully executed, thanks to a rock-solid defence led by Ruben Dias and supported by Oleksandr Zinchenko, John Stones and Kyle Walker.
Hailed as Premier League signing of the season, Dias has stunned his critics by building up a blue wall for City around him. Against PSG, Dias was present for every attack that the Parisians tried to make, blocking shots and marshalling his teammates. Neither Erling Haaland nor Neymar could breach the Citizens’ defence, and most of the credit goes to Ruben Dias, who is in contention for being one of the best defenders in the world.
Thibaut Courtois – Real Madrid
Abandoned by his defensive unit, Thibaut Courtois made heroic attempts on Wednesday to keep the scoreline down. Chelsea would have won the second-leg 6-0 if not for his valiant dives at Stamford Bridge, taking on the Blues head-on in multiple one-on-one encounters. Although he could not get the job done, the former Chelsea stopper deserves praise for his performance in the semifinals.
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