Chelsea v Man City: What will Pep Guardiola try next against Thomas Tuchel?

Pep Guardiola is the only manager to beat him in three matches. How telling will it be for Thomas Tuchel to win four consecutive wins when Chelsea hosts Manchester City?
Guardiola was the Chelsea boss, but he never beat Guardiola in Germany. Jurgen Klopp followed his footsteps at Stamford Bridge soon after he arrived. He won three competitions in six weeks.

The Champions League final was Tuchel's most important victory. It came after his counterpart tried to overthink the tactics that had just won him his Premier League title.

Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea boss celebrates the Champions League win with his family

What has Guardiola's secret weapon been this time? Guardiola is currently at the top of the table with Chelsea and looking fantastic. How important is it that he does this right for Manchester City?

"It's all City is talking about," said Michael Brown, their former midfielder. He will be at Stamford Bridge to broadcast Radio 5 live.

"I was at their Carabao Cup victory over Wycombe at Etihad Stadium Wednesday, and everyone was asking me 'what will Pep do at weekend?'

"It shows where the club and he are at. Pep's loss to the club is a way for everyone to be judged.

"He is the only manager where, if he's beaten, everybody looks into every possible explanation."

"The two best tactical operators in the game"

Although Tuchel may not be as big as the Spaniard's, his approach to Saturday will be closely watched. He has not done anything wrong since his arrival in England in January, and his team is currently at the top of their domestic table after conquering Europe.

His adaptability, like Guardiola's, is the key to his continued success.

"The most fascinating thing about Tuchel this year is that I think that he is abandoning the 3-4-3 system which got Chelsea to the Champions League final, and won him that match," says Pat Nevin, former Chelsea winger and BBC pundit.

They have become more of a 3-5-2 shape with Kai Havertz and Timo Werner becoming closer to Romelu Lupaku. It works well with Mateo Kovacic, Jorginho, and N'Golo Kane in the midfield.

"Of course Tuchel is free to go back to his old formation at any time, even during matches. I have the good fortune to be there Saturday. I will be closely following the technical changes as well as the pitches.

Guardiola and Tuchel are the two best tactical operators currently in the game when it comes reading games, reacting to it and affecting it.

"At the moment Tuchel's decision making is fantastic and seems to make a big difference. N'Golo Kane's arrival at half-time against Spurs completely transformed the game.

Tuchel is determined to see Chelsea improve, even though Spurs won.

"But he's up against Pep again now, and that's a game of Chess more than any other." Guardiola won the last one, but to be fair, Guardiola knocked over his queen at the beginning with his team selection that day.

"So, Tuchel may not have his number, but I don’t think he is afraid of Pep. I think that a lot other people are afraid because of his football intelligence."

Guardiola still leads Tuchel 4-3 in head to head meetings, but his recent run is just one reason the fear factor may have decreased - he also has some inside information.

Brown explained that Pep met Tuchel in Munich in 2014. He was a young manager who had just left Mainz.

Tuchel said that they discussed how to play a false 9 in big games.

"Tuchel took all that information in, and he was like an sponge. Is it possible that Pep has shown Tuchel how he does this? Is it possible to change the plan if Tuchel knows about it? Or is it just easier for him to do it differently?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Manchester United's manager, is the only one to have more than three matches with Guardiola. He has also beaten Guardiola more times (44) than he has lost to him (3). After his trio of wins in 2018, Klopp was on top and led 9-7 in head to heads as recently as November 2019. However, they are now level after losing two of their three previous meetings

What will Guardiola do next, exactly?

Guardiola has the option of a false nine on Saturday, but he did something completely different every time he faced Tuchel last season. He didn't find a winning formula.

He rested players during the FA Cup semi-finals and changed his formation to 4-3-2-3 to 3-5-2 when they met in league. But his most famous tweak was in Porto, which took place on the largest stage of all.

Guardiola chose not to use a holding player in the Champions League final, as he was trying to find a way of breaking down a Chelsea team like now.

Raheem sterling played on the left in the Manchester City team's Champions League final win against Chelsea, while Kevin de Bruyne was a false nine. Phil Foden moved back to midfield. This was the second time that Rodri nor Fernandinho had started a match in midfield in 61 matches.

It was bold, but it didn't work out. Nevin said that Chelsea was soon at checkmate in the particular game of chess. But what is Guardiola's next move, now that they are back on the board?

Brown says that Pep was brave in Portugal, and wanted to control possession and get his midfielders high up on the pitch."

"That's why the holding role was emptied, because he believed Ilkay Gundogan could also get higher, but it didn’t work out. The counter-attack by Chelsea was too strong.

"Being away on Saturday, however, he will certainly be considering a holding Midfielder, regardless of whether it is Rodri or Fernandinho.

"Further up, he could use Ferran Turres as a traditional centre-forward to play on the shoulder of Chelsea’s centre-backs.

"In terms of his form, he might have been tempted again to go with three centre backs because they were the superior team against Tuchel's Chelsea in league. But availability will determine Pep's selections and formations this time.

"Look at the middle-back and John Stones, Aymeric Laporte and Aymeric Laporte are both injured. It is possible to play either one of them, but it might be risky. So we recommend sticking with the back four.

"He also knows City has three big games this week, they are at Paris St-Germain Tuesday and then head to Liverpool Sunday.

He could be affected by that, but his focus will be on the game. He is aware it will be difficult, but he will not fear Chelsea. City will do everything to beat Chelsea on Saturday and then adapt.