Football fans are looking forward to arguably the biggest event of 2023. Manchester City are set to clash with Inter Milan in the final of the UEFA Champions League at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul on 10 June.
Pep Guardiola’s wards have recently become Premier League champions for the third year running, a record in the tournament’s history. However, City have not tasted title success in Europe since making the European Cup Winners’ Cup their own in the 1969/70 season.
In 2020/21, the Etihad squad suffered a heart-breaking 1-0 loss to Chelsea in the final of the Champions League. This time around, the Manchester club are determined to justify bookies’ odds to win their first UCL title. With four Premier League title wins in five years, City have become a dominant force under Guardiola in English football.
If City manage to beat Inter on 10 June, Guardiola will become the first manager to lead two different clubs to the UCL trophy. Pep has won the UCL twice — in 2009 and 2011 — both times at the helm of Barcelona. Man City’s success against Inter would help their coach join an exclusive three-time winners’ club. In the process, City would become only the second English club — after Man United who achieved it in 1999 — to taste treble success.
City have won 20 of their last 26 matches. However, they have fallen victim to complacency to go winless in their last two fixtures. That said, Guardiola’s wards have won the Premier League and the FA Cup this season. The Nerazzurri stand firmly between Guardiola’s men and a maiden UCL title.
Inter have accomplished a sixth successive top-four finish in Serie A. They are set to play in a Champions League final for the first time since 2010. Three-time European champions Inter last won the coveted trophy 13 years ago, on the watch of Jose Mourinho. However, since that last success, the Italian club have not been as impressive. Apart from a solitary run up to the UCL quarter-finals, the Nerazzurri have failed to get past the group stage on three occasions.
Inter Coach Simone Inzaghi is looking forward to his first-ever UCL final. Interestingly, Inzaghi has never lost any title-deciding fixture he has been involved in. While managing Inter and Lazio, he has featured in seven finals, all of which he has won.
With 10 wins in 11 games across competitions, Inter have been in prime form. That lone loss came on 21 May when they lost 3-1 to Serie A champions Napoli. While the Nerazzurri won the Coppa Italia, they ended in third place on the Serie A table.
Major Challenge for City
Inter coach Simone Inzaghi could continue to attack with two outright forwards, Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku or Edin Dzeko. City’s backline will have their task cut out. They would have to contend with the speed and mobility of Martinez. They would also need to cope with the physical threat that Lukaku/ Dzeko bring to the table.
Major Challenge for Inter
At 35, Inter’s centre-back Acerbi will have to deal with City’s goal-scoring machine Haaland, who’s 13 years younger than him.
Possible Strategy for Inter
City are expected to dominate possession. It would be in Inter’s interest to keep the ball or force tactical fouls by stretching City with long passes. Overall, they would need to slow down the game.
City could find the collective Inter unit hard to break down. Inter would prefer to play deep and resort to aggressive play. Inzaghi’s wards would rely on set pieces. The form and ability of such players as Lukaku, Nicolo Barella and Martinez could make a difference. Tuchel guided a similar side, Chelsea, in 2021 to success against the same rivals, Man City. Inzaghi could borrow a page from Tuchel’s tactical playbook.
Guardiola must guard against complacency
Guardiola has a tendency to overthink tactics against perceptibly weaker rivals. That tendency caused the Man City coach to start the UCL final versus Chelsea in 2021 without a holding midfielder.
Probable Starting Line-ups
Manchester City: Ederson; Walker, Dias, Ake; Stones, Rodri; Silva, De Bruyne, Gundoğan, Grealish; Haaland.
Inter: Onana; Darmian, Acerbi, Bastoni; Dumfries, Barella, Calhanoglu, Mkhitaryan, Dimarco; Martínez, Lukaku.
Man City have a date with destiny. They came close in 2021. But for a tactical error by Pep Guardiola, they should have become European champions then. City are not likely to let this opportunity go. They are arguably the world’s best football team. Furthermore, they are on the threshold of a treble, last achieved by an English side in 1999. We predict that Man City will rout Inter 3-0.