The pivotal changes helped Man City become champions of the Champions League.

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Pep is no longer overthinking. In the 2020/21 Champions League final, the Spanish coach excluded Rodri from the starting lineup when facing Chelsea. Ilkay Gundogan couldn’t handle the defensive duties alone against Chelsea’s two attacking midfielders, Mason Mount and Kai Havertz. This opened up an opportunity for Havertz to score the only goal that helped Chelsea become champions.

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In the match against Inter Milan in Istanbul on the morning of June 11th, Pep didn’t make any unexpected changes. He maintained the 3-2-4-1 formation with John Stones playing as a defensive midfielder alongside Rodri. Man City secured victory thanks to the sole goal scored by Rodri.

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The positional change of John Stones has been a key factor in Man City’s recent outstanding performance. The English player helped Man City suffocate Real Madrid in the semifinals before continuing to overshadow Inter’s midfielders in the Champions League final.

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Stones is praised as the “magical rock” of Man City. Not only does he excel in his role as a defender, but the English player also quickly adapts when pushed up to play in a higher position. Stones showcases excellent coordination, evades pressing, and holds the ball like a true midfielder. Alongside Rodri, he becomes a key anchor in Man City’s midfield.

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Excluding Kyle Walker from the starting lineup in the final was also an important decision. Explaining this choice, Pep stated, “The defensive and offensive approach of Man City in this match will be different. We also need a player with a different profile than Kyle.”

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Pep doesn’t require Walker’s speed. Instead, the former Barcelona coach opted for the duo of Nathan Ake – Manuel Akanji, combining with Ruben Dias to form a defensive trio in front of Ederson’s goal. With all three being center-backs and possessing ideal physical attributes, this trio helped Man City seal off the goal threats from Inter’s physically-oriented attackers such as Edin Dzeko, Romelu Lukaku, and Lautaro Martinez.

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Replacing Kevin de Bruyne with Phil Foden was also a reasonable decision by Pep against Inter. De Bruyne had to leave the field in the middle of the first half due to injury. Foden, being physically robust and versatile, was better suited to the attacking role compared to players like Riyad Mahrez or Julian Alvarez.

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In nearly an hour on the field, Foden played with energy and actively supported the defense. The English midfielder successfully won 5 challenges, made 2 accurate interceptions, and delivered 3 precise passes into the opponent’s final third.

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