When Manchester City and Inter Milan square off in the 2022/23 Champions League final on Saturday night, they will be looking to repeat the accomplishments of their Merseyside rivals in the same city, which occurred eighteen years after Liverpool’s miracle of Istanbul.
Ataturk Olympic Stadium will host the first competitive match between the two continental giants due to their disparate domestic fortunes. Pep Guardiola won two more English football medals to his collection, while the Nerazzurri’s Serie A title challenge was at best brief.
The Premier League champions defeated Real Madrid 5-1 over the course of two legs in the semi finals to advance to the final game, while Inter defeated fellow San Siro tenants AC Milan 3-0 overall to claim the local bragging rights.
As both teams attempt to follow up their victories in their respective domestic cups with the biggest trophy in European club football, the UEFA Champions League (UCL) final in Istanbul is the ideal setting for the first ever competitive match between Manchester City and Inter Milan. While Inter, who accomplished that feat in 2010, seeks to win this competition for a record tying fourth time, City, the Premier League champions, are also vying for a treble.
The Cityzens, who have never won the UCL, are considerably more recent visitors to the final as they are here for the second time in three seasons and are hoping to avenge their 1-0 loss to Chelsea in the 2020/21 season. Their lone loss in a competitive game since early February (W21, D5) came against Brentford on the last day of the league season, when the title had already been decided.
There are three UCL knockout wins over RB Leipzig, Bayern Munich, and Real Madrid included in that run, although the away matches haven’t been quite as prolific in terms of goals scored. They haven’t always needed to be, but even so, they drew each of their three knockout games in the away leg at 1-1, and strangely, they’ve drawn their previous five UCL games away from home, suggesting that this match may go the distance.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) June 9, 2023
Guardiola has never advanced Man City past the quarterfinals of Europe’s top competition before the 2020/21 season, and as spectators gradually returned to the stadiums after the untold disruption caused by COVID–19, the recurrent Premier League champions have come near, but not quite.
Man City were defeated by the Real Madrid juggernaut in the 2021/22 semi finals thanks to Kai Havertz’s lone goal for Chelsea, but vengeance was a dish best served with a side of four unanswered goals during their reunion at the same stage this time around.
Many were cautious not to write Carlo Ancelotti’s troops off completely before their reunion in Manchester after two flashes of individual brilliance from Vinicius Junior and Kevin De Bruyne in a cautious first leg. After all, when European silverware is on the line, Los Blancos have often disproved the skeptics.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) June 9, 2023
Man City tore the reigning champions to shreds with goals from Bernardo Silva (2), Manuel Akanji, and Julian Alvarez, making them the heavy favorites to finally break their Champions League hoodoo in Turkey. The 53,000 strong crowd at the Etihad, however, may have witnessed the passing of the continental torch.
After teaching their La Liga rivals a lesson in football, Man City successfully defended their Premier League title with 89 points to fend off the threat of Arsenal, whose challenge was at best a floundering one late in the game. They then defeated vengeful rivals Manchester United to win just their second FA Cup under Guardiola.
Ilkay Gundogan, a specialist in the end of seasons for Man City, shone in the Wembley sunshine. He scored a beautiful goal in the opening minute, the fastest goal ever scored in an FA Cup final, and then let loose with another volley in the second half to make Bruno Fernandes’ penalty pointless and put Man City on the verge of a fantastic treble of trophies.
While the focus of pre game talk may be on Man City’s quest for a domestic and European treble, a similar haul of triumph is on the line for Simone Inzaghi’s knockout wizards. Inter’s attempts to halt Napoli’s Serie A title mission proved fruitless.
That may provide some encouragement for Inter, who defeated Benfica and AC Milan in their quarterfinal and semifinal away legs, respectively, and who have only dropped one UCL match all season abroad (W2, D2). However, losing three of their last five games against English opposition (W2), including at home to Liverpool last season as they were eliminated at the first knockout stage, is cause for concern.
Lautaro Martinez’s second half goal in the second leg on May 16 ended any slim hopes of a Milan comeback after Inter won the first leg 2-0 at San Siro, where they were designated as the ‘away’ team, and allowed them to advance to a European final for the 11th time in their illustrious history.
— Inter (@Inter_en) June 6, 2023
Eight days later, Inter defeated Fiorentina 2-1 in the Coppa Italia final match, giving them a Supercoppa Italiana and Coppa Italia double. This was the first of two final heartbreaks for the Viola, whose hopes of winning the Europa Conference League were crushed by West Ham United. Inter will be looking to avoid suffering the same fate as their Calcio counterparts when they compete in just their second Champions League final.
Inter, who have won the European Cup twice in its previous incarnation, hasn’t won the Champions League in 13 seasons, at least not since Jose Mourinho oversaw a 2-0 victory over Bayern Munich in the 2010 final, where Argentina’s Diego Milito scored twice in Madrid.
Martinez, who along with former Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko should form the two men attack hoping to fire the Nerazzurri to a seventh continental honor, is undoubtedly carrying on the Argentine’s legacy. The Italian powerhouses also have three UEFA Cup victories from the 1990s to brag about.
Man City’s penchant for offensive displays has received a lot of attention, but Inter’s tenacious defense has kept five clean sheets in six Champions League knockout games in 2022/23, with the exception of their 3–3 quarter final second leg draw with Benfica. Only Arsenal’s defeated finalists from 2005/06 have previously recorded six knockout shutouts.
But Inter’s defense, which has preserved five clean sheets over their last six UCL games (W4, D2), may be able to contain an unstoppable Man City. Despite knowing it will be difficult, manager Simone Inzaghi is upbeat, saying “the beauty of football is that the favorites don’t always win.” Making sure crucial times work in our favor will require skill from us.
Inter was unable to stake their claim for a second Scudetto due to a springtime slump, but the Nerazzurri nevertheless board the plane to Istanbul having won 11 of their previous 12 matches in all competitions and having only failed to cause a ruckus in one of their previous 17 games.
Inzaghi’s club, following Milan in 1994/95, Bayern Munich in 1998/99, and Tottenham in the 2018/19 season, will leave the field to the Champions League theme as the fourth team to advance to the final game after losing their first game of the competition. All three of those teams ultimately ended up collecting their runners-up medals while passing the trophy, and Inter will soon join that unwelcome company unless they can figure out how to extend Man City’s European doom.
Manchester City defender Kyle Walker reckons his club has a better chance in the UEFA Champions League final taking place on Saturday. #UEFAChampionsLeague https://t.co/A5CYMqmq0N pic.twitter.com/2oJvdxbJDh
— ShowmaxPro (@ShowmaxPro) June 9, 2023
Prior to Saturday’s champions League final game, Man City’s medical staff has mainly been permitted to relax. However, Guardiola recently acknowledged that Kyle Walker had been having back issues, raising a small concern for the right back.
Walker has subsequently allayed doubts over his fitness, and the England international should be included in the Citizens’ completely healthy contingent. The Citizens’ starting XI will undoubtedly be decided in Istanbul.
The only change should therefore be in goal, where Stefan Ortega will unwillingly pass the gloves back over to Ederson. In the FA Cup final, the same 10 outfield players who started the second leg demolition of Real Madrid were in line to shake Prince William’s hand.
Gundogan may bid Man City farewell on Saturday if a new contract cannot be reached. Ten years after losing the Champions League final with Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich, the 32 years old will don the armband for the Premier League champions.
Yet another objective for the unstoppable Erling The 13th goal for Braut Haaland in the 2022/23 Champions League would surpass Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record of the most single season goals for an English team. Despite missing the net against Real Madrid, the Scandinavian sensation has never gone three straight games without a goal in Europe’s top competition.
🗣️ “I’m fine, I’m doing good and I’m trying to recover as quick as I can. I’m going to try and do my best to join the team.”
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) June 6, 2023
In the Nerazzurri’s semifinal victory over AC Milan, Inter lost former Manchester United midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan to a thigh injury. However, the Armenian playmaker is apparently winning his fight to be fit for the final.
The same may be said for Argentine attacker Joaquin Correa, who suffered a calf injury against Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia final. However, if the 28-year-old is permitted to go, he will be assigned to the bench.
Indeed, Inzaghi seems to have settled on Martinez and Dzeko as his go to strike pairing for crucial matches, which means that Romelu Lukaku, who has struggled while on loan from Chelsea, will try to provide energy from the bench before bidding farewell for a second time. Meanwhile, if Mkhitaryan can demonstrate his fitness, he may force Marcelo Brozovic out of the starting XI.
back to the left Due to muscular exhaustion, Federico Dimarco was not even selected for the squad to play Torino on the final Serie A matchday. However, the Italian is anticipated to start this match, and his battle with Walker on the wing promises to be an enthralling one.
Milan Skriniar and Stefan de Vrij, who were integral parts of the Nerazzurri’s 2020–21 Scudetto–winning squad, are expected to start on the bench as Andre Onana, who needs one more shutout to tie Edouard Mendy’s record of nine from that season, is protected by Alessandro Bastoni, Matteo Darmian, and Francesco Acerbi.
Manchester City possible lineup
Ederson, Walker, Dias, Akanji, Stones, Rodri, Silva, Gundogan, De Bruyne, Grealish and Haaland.
Inter Milan possible starting lineup
Onana, Darmian, Acerbi, Bastoni, Dumfries, Barella, Mkhitaryan, Calhanoglu, Dimarco, Martinez and Dzeko.
We predict: Manchester City 2-1 Inter Milan
A classic attack versus defence matchup might occur in Istanbul as Man City have won the ball back higher up the field than any other Champions League team this season (47.2m from their own net), while Inter have done so closest to their goal (38.4m).
Although the Nerazzurri’s counterattacks may frequently be lethal, and their current run of good form in front of goal could certainly help them, stopping Guardiola’s powerful frontmen will be a whole other challenge.
Guardiola’s men have the attacking ability to ultimately catapult themselves to European prominence and join their formerly boisterous neighbors Man United in the exclusive treble winning club, despite Inter’s historical rearguard solidity in Europe.