So the Champions League is approaching and Manchester City is one game away from a historic treble. If Manchester City wins, it will only be the 10th treble that we’ve ever seen in Europe. They are already close to this after beating rivals Manchester United in last weekend’s FA Cup final and of course, snatching the EPL title away from Arsenal to attain the domestic double. The treble is now just one game away and what stands in their way? A very tricky Inter Milan.
One of the biggest criticisms of Pep Guardiola’s City team is that the Champions League has been the one trophy that has eluded City ever since the massive financial takeover in 2008. The loss to Chelsea the last time they appeared in the final in 2021 definitely did not help this argument that haunts Pep that he cannot win UEFA Champions League without a certain Lionel Messi in his squad. Pep Guardiola has been here before, winning the trophy in 2009 and 2011 with that amazing Barcelona team but as stated previously in 2021 he slipped up. Many have criticized Guardiola for overthinking in these big matches but it seems by his own words admittedly to have learned from this and his team looks like very strong favourites to attain the elusive trophy that they so greatly desire.
Inter Milan is a totally different story, with tremendously inconsistent form throughout the season ended up finishing third in Serie A. However the end-of-season form is what is quite interesting. Inzaghi and his men ended the season with 11 wins from 12 games in all competitions, this included hard fought win over Fiorentina to win the Coppa Italia. Make no mistake they will have a monumental task to attempt to beat City here. A notable fact is they are only the fourth team to reach the Champions League final having lost their first game of the season in the competition, along with Milan in 1994-95, Bayern Munich in 1998-99 and Tottenham in 2018- 19, and all of those teams lost their finals.
Both teams have very different tactical styles. Manchester City has the high pressing and proactive style of play versus an Inter Milan team that tends to sit deep and favour the counterattack. For the neutral, this will make the game quite intriguing to try to analyze. It is highly likely that Guardiola’s men will dominate possession while Inter sits back and try to exploit gaps in the counter-attack.
Pep Guardiola made some tactical tweaks has made a difference. Often times the possession style has been criticized because in the attacking third City did not always have the option of the direct approach but would pass around and try to work through. The use of the 3-2-4-1 formation has been very effective in getting the best out of a very talented attacking squad. One of the most noticeable tactical tweaks is the use of John Stones when the team is in possession of the ball, John Stones and Rodri operated in the middle of the pitch by staying closely together. Both players act like a double pivot with both players rotating who advances higher up the pitch. This creates more passing lanes and triangles that often make it difficult for the opposition to contain. Guardiola has no reason to change anything in terms of his expected lineup. Ederson in goal while Manuel Akanji, Rúben Dias, and Kyle Walker will form a versatile defensive backline. The midfield duo will consist of Rodri and John Stones with Kevin De Bruyne, and İlkay Gündoğan further up front with Jack Grealish and Bernardo Silva will be on the wings, with Erling Haaland playing as the central forward. With the young exciting Argentina Julien Alvarez coming on as a substitute later on.
Simone Inzaghi has used the 3-5-2 formation. This system is quite flexible and provides a solid defensive structure while allowing for fluidity in attack. In the semi-finals against Milan, Inzaghi used the same line-up in both legs, and barring a huge surprise it’s hot to see him doing otherwise. Inzaghi’s lineups and substitutions have been very consistent throughout the season and will more than likely keep the same eleven for the final in Istanbul. Onana will be in the goal. The back three were Matteo Darmian, Francesco Acerbi and Alessandro Bastoni. The two wing-backs will be Denzel Dumfries and Federico Dimarco. The midfield trio will be Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Hakan Çalhanoğlu, and Barella, however, it is possible Marcelo Brozovic can start as well. For the positions of the two center-forwards, Martínez will be the one with Džeko and Lukaku to fight for the player next to him. If we take into consideration the games against Milan, Džeko will most probably be his partner. There is a rumour the PSG-bound Milan Škriniar who has not played may possibly have a part to play.
Man City: Erling Haaland
City has a star-studded squad but one player definitely stands out and it’s Erling Haaland. He has scored an incredible 12 Champions League goals for the season, which puts him level with Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2002-03 for most goals in a single season for an English club. It must be noted however Haaland has failed to score in his last two Champions League games and amazingly has never gone three games without a goal in the competition. He will definitely have a challenge against Inter Milan’s defense who will have to be at their very best if they are to try and contain Haaland.
Inter Milan: Lautaro martinezThe Argentine has grown to become such a fundamental player in this team since he arrived from Racing. Even though he did not have a great World Cup in terms of goal scoring Lautaro has been critical in Inter regaining form and ending the season on a high. A very interesting statistic is, either he or City’s Julián Álvarez could become the 10th player to win the World Cup and the European Cup in the same season having featured in both finals. Lautaro’s ability to hold up, dribble and link up with Dzeko and Lukaku will be essential against a Manchester City team that will definitely try to dominate possession.
Based on the squads and comparing both teams it would not be unreasonable to say that Manchester City are overwhelming favourites with massive attacking options. The way Pep Guardiola’s team dismantled Real Madrid to get to the final gives this further validity. With that being said Simone Inzaghi’s men are very good at cup competitions and being the underdogs in this particular tie can work in their favour. The clash of styles makes this very mouth-watering game hard to predict. Our final conclusion is that Inter Milan will need to contain the dynamic attacking and passing of City and could definitely cause problems for Pep Guardiola’s men but based on what we have seen in the FA Cup it seems individually City has that little extra that may give them the edge and turn the game in their favour. It is very easy to see this game going one way where City runs away with this but in the end, it will more than likely be a tight affair with City edging Inter in the end very much like the FA Cup. However with that being said Inter can pull off a counter-attacking master class and lock things up in the back and spoil the party for City.
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