By Tim Stannard
Does another Pep-xit await Manchester City in first Champions League final against Chelsea?
It must sting a little bit for Pep Guardiola when contemplating that Roberto di Matteo has been a more successful Champions League manager since the Manchester City coach last won the trophy. Maybe not a lot, but just a little.
Pep Guardiola's last participation in a Champions League final was a decade ago in 2011 when Barcelona defeated Manchester United. A year later, di Matteo was dropped into the head coach job at Chelsea after a(nother) crisis and subsequently won the Champions League for the team.
History could repeat on Saturday with another emergency Chelsea manager, Thomas Tuchel, on the brink of winning a previously unlikely prize and continuing what has been a troubling block for Guardiola.
Since leaving Barcelona in 2012, Pep has spent eight seasons managing either Bayern Munich or Manchester City - two enormous clubs with resources to match - but has yet to even reach a Champions League final, never mind win one. Di Matteo, Jupp Heynkes, Carlo Ancelotti, Luis Enrique, Zinedine Zidane (three times), Jurgen Klopp and Hansi Flick have all achieved that in the same period.
The two English teams - and their supporters - have relocated to Portugal for Saturday's final and as to be expected, Manchester City is the firm favorite to win on paper - better form, better players, better defence and better strikers. However, Pep Guardiola would have been a firm favorite as well to have at least been in the Champions League final since his last visit when Lionel Messi was 23.
While Guardiola's compatriot, Unai Emery, proved this week that no matter the team, he can roll up to a European final and usually win it, the Champions League remains Guardiola ultimate nemesis.
New coach put Inter position, as Allegri hovers above Juve
Might as well stay on the topic of coaches and the enormous tangled mess of vacant positions at big clubs this week, especially in Italy one of those looks like being closed at least with Simone Inzaghi leaving Lazio to take over Antonio Conte's freshly vacated job at Serie A champions, Inter.
However, in Serie A whack-a-mole, Andrea Pirlo is seemingly seconds away from being fired as Juventus coach with the club abandoning a brave, new world concept and going back to Massimiliano Allegri who left two years ago.
The problem there is that Allegri was expected to be eased into the open spot at Real Madrid. However, that gap might now be filled by Antonio Conte to set up the most enthused Madrid Derby in terms of furious coaching hand gestures in history.
No progress with Messi says Joan Laporta
Joan Laporta, President of Barcelona and the man with quite the to-do list has been talking on Friday about the state of the Camp Nou nation. On the topic of a new contract for Lionel Messi, nothing much to report. "It's going well, but it's not done," said Laporta.
However, while Messi is very much wanted by Barcelona, it doesn't seem to be the same case with Ronald Koeman and Laporta warning that "there are no transition seasons at Barcelona" and that the pair would talk again about the future next week.
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