Sterling a surprising inclusion
Pep Guardiola made some bold team selections for the Champions League final against Chelsea.
It is the first Champions League final in Manchester City’s history as a club, and Pep Guardiola’s first appearance in the fixture since 2011/12, where he lifted the trophy with Barcelona.
Here we go 😅
XI | Ederson, Walker, Dias, Stones, Zinchenko, Gundogan, De Bruyne (C), Bernardo, Mahrez, Sterling, Foden
SUBS | Steffen, Carson, Ake, Jesus, Aguero, Laporte, Rodrigo, Torres, Mendy, Fernandinho, Cancelo, Garcia
— Manchester City (@ManCity) May 29, 2021
For his return to the biggest stage in World club football, Guardiola opted to leave out a recognised defensive midfielder, with Ilkay Gundogan the most defensive in his midfield.
There was also a return to the side for Raheem Sterling, who has undergone a period of poor form which has seen him in and out of the Manchester City side.
Inconsistent Sterling’s chance to redeem himself
The Englishman was left out of the starting XI for both legs of the quarter and semi-final wins, playing just ten minutes across all four games.
However, the winger has been included in an attacking side for the Citizens and Guardiola explained his decision in a pre-match interview to BT sport, saying that:
“If we want a chance to win we have to attack. Of course, you have to defend but our way is to attack. We need everyone, the second half I’m sure will be pretty different to the beginning.”
Asked whether Sterling’s inclusion was a risk due to his lack of football or a wildcard selection, the City boss replied:
“No, absolutely not, they play a system five at the back, we need specific players and in that area and we decide for Raheem.”
This was a sentiment shared by fans across social media and in Portugal.
Speaking to BT Sport, Manchester City fan and Oasis band-member Noel Gallagher said:
“I’ll be honest, I’m surprised to see Sterling starting”
Some brave decision from Pep Guardiola to bring Raheem Sterling in from the cold for the Champions League final. 40 minutes to find out if it works… pic.twitter.com/iYeJsdTxIV
— Jonathan Smith (@jonnysmiffy) May 29, 2021
Only time will tell if the decision proves to be a masterstroke from the Spaniard, but he could be rewarded by a first Champions League trophy with Manchester City if it pays off.