Despite an unprecedented run of success for their club over the past decade, fatalism still comes easily to a large section of Manchester City’s fanbase.

Prior to the era of Sheikh Mansour’s ownership, City’s penchant for tragicomic farce readied supporters to expect the worst. A run of six Premier League titles in the past 11 seasons and 14 major honours overall since the start of 2011 has done little to rewire that collective emotional muscle memory.

The Champions League is the new grand stage for what former manager Joe Royle once dubbed “Cityitis”, with a tendency to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in Europe’s top competition the lingering frustration of Pep Guardiola’s otherwise trophy-laden reign.

Bayern Munich visit the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday for the first leg of a mouth-watering quarterfinal. Since the draw, the Bundesliga giants have replaced Julian Nagelsmann with Thomas Tuchel as head coach.

Tuchel’s presence, even more so than former City winger Leroy Sane and on-loan full-back Joao Cancelo featuring in the Bayern squad, has done plenty to cause consternation on the blue side of Manchester. The Sporting News has a look at why…

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Has Pep Guardiola ever beaten Thomas Tuchel?

Yes, lots of times. In fact, when they were both in the Bundesliga, the rivalry fell in Guardiola’s favour, with Tuchel winless in five attempts against Pep’s Bayern.

The first two of those games were defeats during his reputation-forging stint in charge of Mainz — not exactly a fair fight. Still, Guardiola took note of Tuchel’s proactive approach in games that Bayern won 4-1 and 2-0 during the 2013/14 season.

Tuchel left Mainz at the end of that campaign and, during his downtime, he spent a couple of evenings in Munich in Guardiola’s company, eating and drinking well and talking football in forensic detail (as per the Athletic).

Guardiola’s final season in Germany in 2015/16 brought them into direct competition as Tuchel took over at Borussia Dortmund. 

Bayern hammered their rivals 5-1 in the first meeting of the season at the Allianz Arena, with Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller each scoring braces. 

The return encounter at Signal Iduna Park finished 0-0 and was most notable for Guardiola giving Joshua Kimmich a remarkably animated pep talk on the field after fulltime.

The tight nature of that encounter and the subsequent DFB-Pokal final — which also finished goalless before Bayern prevailed on penalties — gave an indication of what might unfold during three meetings over the course of six weeks in 2021, which still do much to colour overall perceptions of this rivalry.

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April 17, 2021 — Chelsea 1-0 Man City (FA Cup semifinal)

In January 2021, Tuchel replaced current caretaker Chelsea manager Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge. He masterminded a recovery from a mid-season slump that put the Blues in contention for honours at home and abroad.

City were on their way to the Premier League title but had just lost 2-1 at home to 10-man Leeds United as Guardiola made wholesale changes for a match that fell in between the two legs of the Champions League quarterfinal against Dortmund.

A 2-1 win at Signal Iduna Park came three days before this Wembley semifinal date, which preceded a midweek league trip to Aston Villa. Something had to give and Guardiola shuffled his deck, making eight changes.

Chelsea were comfortably the better team against understandably disjointed opponents. Hakim Ziyech had already had a goal ruled out for offside before his 55th-minute winner.

May 8, 2021 — Man City 1-2 Chelsea (Premier League)

City dispatched Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League semifinals during the preceding midweek and needed a victory to mathematically seal the Premier League crown.

Chelsea had booked a place in the opposite corner for the final in Porto after overcoming Real Madrid and it felt like there was some kidology in the teamsheets, with neither man wanting to show their hand.

It is often said Guardiola would happily select a team of midfielders. For this game, he barely picked any. Rodri was stationed in the holding role in front of a back three, with Joao Cancelo and Benjamin Mendy as wing-backs. Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus and Ferran Torres formed a four-pronged attack.

Sterling put City ahead in a stuttering contest. Aguero, very much on the lap of honour in his record-breaking City career, duffed a Panenka penalty into Edouard Mendy’s gloves and Chelsea made him pay, as Ziyech levelled after the hour and Marcos Alonso won the phoney war in the final minute.

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May 29, 2021 — Man City 0-1 Chelsea (Champions League final)

Clearly, Tuchel had not faced the best City available in the two showdowns prior to the Champions League final. Many would say that remained the case after Kai Havertz scored the only goal at Estadio do Dragao.

In the hours before kickoff, rumours began to swirl that Guardiola had done something… funky. It remains arguably his most infamous team-sheet gamble. In the 2020/21 season, when City won the Premier League and the Carabao Cup, one of Rodri or Fernandinho started 59 of the club’s 60 games in all competitions prior to Porto. For the final, they were both on the bench.

Guardiola reasoned that he wanted lots of quick passing options to move a deep-lying Chelsea defence around. It was a solid strategy, but with Rodri out of form (playing in a bizarre formation against Chelsea three weeks earlier probably hadn’t helped) and the ageing Fernandinho having been given the runaround by Mason Mount in the Wembley semifinal, the City boss opted to play Ilkay Gundogan at the base of the midfield.

Gundogan operated superbly in that role during the run-in of the 2018/19 season, when Fernandinho was sidelined through injury, although he was a little out of practice. He also happened to be the top scorer for a team that generally played with false nines for the second half of a successful campaign, so the switch robbed City of a major goal threat.

In the end, moving around all the other pieces to accommodate Gundogan as the holder undermined City just as much as that selection itself. The room for an extra attacking player was taken by Raheem Sterling, who had been largely out of favour since March. The England forward played in his favoured left-wing position, where Phil Foden had excelled during a breakout campaign.

So, Foden moved inside and rotated with Kevin De Bruyne in the central attacking role. Bernardo Silva had done that job effectively but was otherwise occupied trying to put out fires around Gundogan. During the opening half-hour, you were thankful Guardiola had selected Riyad Mahrez on the right wing. It was sometimes hard to work out where everyone else was supposed to be playing.

The opening goal, from a quick and clinical transition, had been in the post before it arrived. City huffed and puffed after halftime. Guardiola sent on Fernandinho in a clear acknowledgement of a mistake that showed Tuchel had caused his illustrious rival to malfunction at the key moment — a classic example of Pep “overthink”.

Almost two years on, having also witnessed their share of interesting Guardiola team sheets, Bayern fans will be hoping for a repeat. But the wounds need not feel so fresh for the City boss and his supporters.

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Has Pep Guardiola beaten Thomas Tuchel since the 2021 Champions League final?

There was a sense that Tuchel’s 3-4-3 was akin to kryptonite for Guardiola by the time a September 2021 Premier League meeting at Stamford Bridge rolled around. Chelsea and City had each added record signings in the form of Romelu Lukaku and Jack Grealish, but these were essentially the same teams that jousted in Porto.

A key difference was Guardiola picking Rodri, who turned in a commanding “let’s have a look at what you could have won” performance. City’s dominance was not reflected in a 1-0 scoreline, secured via a deflected Gabriel Jesus strike.

During the Champions League final, Guardiola’s insistence that City’s fullbacks pressed Chelsea’s wingbacks looked close to kamikaze and left his side repeatedly exposed. Somewhat surprisingly, the instruction was the same in West London.

Kyle Walker and Cancelo simply did the job much better, the centre-backs had Rodri to screen them, and a first-half injury to right wingback Reece James curtailed the ambition of a Chelsea team that also badly missed Mount.

By the time the clubs reconvened in Manchester in January, City were running away with the league. Sterling got Alonso on his heels as City drove Chelsea back from kickoff and, although they had to wait until well into the second half for a fabulous Kevin De Bruyne winner, it was another authoritative 1-0 win.

So, Guardiola has sussed Tuchel out, has he? Well, it’s not quite that simple. As a quick fix to the problems he inherited at Chelsea, the German tactician adopted a 3-4-3 he had scarcely used during his career. It just so happened that it fitted that squad like a glove and they rode a wave all the way to Champions League glory.

Unsuccessful attempts to bolt extra parts onto the Chelsea machine, from Lukaku’s botched return to flimsy flirtations with a back four, ultimately led to Tuchel’s demise at Todd Boehly’s erratic hand.

In his three games in charge of Bayern — a customary home win over Dortmund and a 1-0 revenge victory over a Freiburg side that stunned them in the DFB-Pokal — he has fielded variations on 4-2-3-1. This is a very different squad to the one he led in London.

Do not expect City vs Tuchel’s Bayern to look too much like City vs Tuchel’s Chelsea. History should not weigh heavily on this latest meeting of two of the finest tactical minds of their generation, especially given Guardiola will definitely pick a defensive midfielder this time.

He will, won’t he?

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