Pep Guardiola was too smart for his own good when Manchester City lost to Chelsea

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The really unfathomable part at the end of it all was why Pep Guardiola intended to kiss his medal in second place.

Others, like tearful Oleksandr Zinchenko, tore theirs around their necks and trudged off to contemplate the utter misery of it all.

Guardiola even joked about the Losers Medal when he received his.

Pep Guardiola makes the painful walk past the Champions League trophy after the loss

The Manchester City manager looked disappointed after losing to Chelsea in Porto

The Manchester City manager looked disappointed after losing to Chelsea in Porto

When it comes to Guardiola and crucial moments in the Champions League, it really doesn’t make any sense at all.

He knew from bitter experience that major structural changes in the team can bite you right now.

His Manchester City side were eliminated by Lyon in the quarter-finals last season when, for reasons known only to him, he changed the team structure and placed five in the back.

His attack remained light, his defense stunned, and City lost 3-1.

This time, he took out all the muscles in midfield, leaving Ilkay Gundogan the lone midfielder and exposing his team to the fluid offensive punches of a Chelsea side that looked the faster, freer team all night long.

Guardiola's plan deprived City of all midfield power and they paid a heavy price

Guardiola’s plan deprived City of all midfield power and they paid a heavy price

Ilkay Gundogan (left) had to do the work of two or three players in defensive midfield

Ilkay Gundogan (left) had to do the work of two or three players in defensive midfield

“When I meet Pep, I go home and write down what he says, so as not to forget,” Thomas Tuchel said in his pre-match interview. No notes were needed on Saturday evening.

Sometimes Guardiola just seems to have too much creative talent for his own good.

That line he likes to use about wanting ’11 midfielders’ clouds all judgments about the basic, old-fashioned requirement to marry offense and defense that applies even to beautiful football teams like his. Such prosaic considerations seem to lie beneath his brilliant mind.

On this occasion, City suffered desperately for it. The hole that Guardiola blew into his own ranks, by leaving out Fernandinho, was exposed from the start of the match.

Fernandinho (right) was eventually called in when Guardiola saw his selection folly

Fernandinho (right) was eventually called in when Guardiola saw his selection folly

Chelsea stuttered the briefest during the initial exchanges, but then they took advantage of City’s inability to stop their raids at will.

The flanks were the victim. Timo Werner was twice behind Oleksandr Zinchenko in the first three minutes, which made it difficult for John Stones to take cover and Ruben Dias had to intervene.

But across the field, City were so determined to interweave attacking patterns that they didn’t seem to have thought Chelsea had any ambitions for the final third.

As it turned out, Guardiola’s trump card, Raheem Sterling, for whom Fernandinho was dropped, couldn’t put a gauntlet on Chelsea.

Reece James’ ranking of him was a huge statement of what the 21-year-old can bring. James overshadowed both Mount and Phil Foden, the young English who had dominated the story before the game.

Raheem Sterling was unable to damage Chelsea, despite Guardiola's encouragement

Raheem Sterling was unable to damage Chelsea, despite Guardiola’s encouragement

An animated Guardiola makes a point to Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva as City chases the game

An animated Guardiola makes a point to Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva as City chases the game

Guardiola seems so confident in his powers that he also rejects the idea of ​​his players getting confused.

Only once all season had City started a game without one of the two holdings, Fernandinho and Rodri.

Sterling had not started a Champions League game since February. This didn’t seem like the ideal time for a grand experiment.

The management’s body language gave the impression that Tuchel was the manager with the better attitude.

He radiated enthusiasm in the pre-game interviews and joked about selling all the Chelsea tickets to supporters who liked him while standing top in his rather flashy, Chelsea edition Champions League final tracksuit.

Guardiola tries to comfort the distraught Kevin De Bruyne while being forced out with a head injury

Guardiola tries to comfort the distraught Kevin De Bruyne while being forced out with a head injury

Guardiola, spiky in his interviews, wouldn’t be seen dead in such an outfit. While charting a myriad of complexities, Tuchel simply made pragmatic decisions about how best to use his players.

“We wanted to be the rock in their shoe,” he said when it was all over. “The stone in the town clock.”

It could only have made matters worse for Guardiola that N’Golo Kante – the heartbeat of Tuchel’s team – was alive, breathing proof of what a tenacious midfielder could actually bring.

Kante was barely distinguishable when the trophy was hoisted. His 5ft 6in frame was lost in the fight. But when Kevin de Bruyne and Phil Foden tried to move the ball between the lines, he simply didn’t let them breathe.

It has now been ten years since Guardiola last won the Champions League - with Barcelona

It has now been ten years since Guardiola last won the Champions League – with Barcelona

The game was just past the hour when Fernandinho arrived in Bernardo Silva’s place to put things in order, in which was a frank admission that the offensive lineup he had started with just hadn’t worked. But by then the game was gone.

Buoyed by Havertz’s attack, prosaic Chelsea players that no one seemed to have talked about – Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger – as well as James and Ben Chilwell, were determined to keep City out.

It was difficult to read the body language when city president Khaldoon al-Mubarak shook Guardiola’s hand in the aftermath.

The owners of City in Abu Dhabi have waited the better part of 15 years for it, but when it came to the crisis, the manager was just too smart for his own good.

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