The final game of the 2022/23 season is upon us as Manchester City look to seal a stunning treble with victory over Inter Milan in the Champions League final in Istanbul on Saturday night.
It’s already been another memorable campaign for Pep Guardiola’s men as they have secured the domestic double having won the FA Cup and retained the Premier League title. But the very tasty cherry on top would be to add the European Cup to the list of accomplishments. It’s the one trophy that has alluded Guardiola during his time at the Etihad Stadium, and many critics say he should have already won a Champions League for City given the talent he’s had at his disposal. Some feel he can’t go down as one of the all-time greats of British football without lifting the European Cup.
Guardiola insists his legacy doesn’t is already secured and he doesn’t need to prove himself anymore by winning the Champions League. However, deep down the Spaniard will be desperate to silence his critics so this is an opportunity he won’t want to pass up again having lost in the 2021 final to Chelsea.
Man City come into the match as the heavy favourites to beat Inter Milan. They hit formidable form to wrestle the Premier League title away from Arsenal and nobody can deny they are the best team on the planet right now. The Gunners put up a good fight in the league, and at one stage it looked as though they may cause a shock as they held an eight-point lead in March. However, City found their form at the business end of the campaign and the immense pressure they applied to Arsenal made Mikel Arteta’s men buckle at the final hurdle.
A superb winning run spanning over 10 games did the damage, as City overhauled Arsenal’s lead to win the title with three games to spare. With two huge finals on the horizon, Guardiola was afforded the luxury of resting some key players for their last two Premier League games. You could see the drop in quality as City only took one point from their games against Brighton and Brentford, but it didn’t detract from another memorable domestic campaign that saw them win their fifth Premier League title in the last six years.
Man City followed that up with a 2-1 win over Manchester United in the FA Cup final last weekend. Ilkay Gundogan was the hero again as he scored twice, including the quickest ever FA Cup final goal, so secure another trophy. However, the ‘big one’ is still up for grabs as they vie for the Champions League with Inter Milan and this is arguably the biggest game in City’s history.
Victory would not only secure City their first ever Champions League trophy, but they’d emulate rivals Man Utd in winning the treble and they’d go down as one of the best teams in history. So there is a lot riding on this match. The good news is City have looked formidable in Europe this season and determined to end their Champions League hoodoo.
They easily saw off the threat of Bayern Munich over two legs in the quarters before beating Real Madrid in the semi-finals 5-1 on aggregate. A stunning 4-0 second leg win at the Etihad Stadium booked their place in the final. If City play anywhere near that level then Inter don’t stand a chance.
However, we can’t discount the Italians as they know how to win trophies, too. While they may have missed out on the Serie A title to Napoli, Inter have already won two domestic cups this season having lifted the Supercoppa Italiana and Coppa Italia. Simone Inzaghi will be happy with the ‘underdog’ tag and they’ll be quietly confident of causing a shock in Turkey this weekend.
How to watch
The Champions League final is one of the most watched matches of the year and we should see millions worldwide tuning in to watch the action. The game will be broadcast live on BT Sport, kicking off at 8pm.
Around 72,000 will pack into the Ataturk Olympic Stadium to watch the game live. Of that, only 20,000 will be official Man City ticket holders but they could have sold their allocation out several times. It won’t be easy to buy tickets for the game at this late stage as all official channels will have sold out, but you could use a reputable reselling site such as Seatsnet to see if you can get hold of a ticket.
Guardiola has been lucky enough to have virtually a fully fit squad to work with during the closing weeks of the season and no doubt that played a major role in helping Man City win two trophies. However, the Spaniard suffered an injury scare ahead of the Champions League final as Kyle Walker has been unable to train in recent days due to a back injury.
However, the defender has insisted he will be fully fit to start against Inter so he’s expected to pass a late fitness test. Otherwise, Man City have no other fitness concerns so Guardiola has a strong squad to choose from.
The Spanish coach could stick with the same outfield line-up that faced Man Utd in the FA Cup final last weekend. Ruben Dias and Manuel Akanji should partner Walker in defence with John Stones also keeping his spot.
Rodri, Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne should all keep their places with Erling Haaland leading the line up front once again. The Norwegian has scored 52 goals this season but only one in his last seven games, so he’ll be looking to end that ‘dry’ spell.
The one change we will see if Ederson returning in goal meaning Stefan Ortega dropping out despite his impressive display at Wembley.
Inter Milan will need to assess the fitness of former Manchester United midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan as he’s been carrying a thigh injury lately. Joaquin Correa is also a doubt after suffering a calf injury against Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia final.
Full-back Federico DiMarco is also a minor doubt with a muscle injury but he’s expected to recover in time to start.
Man City XI: Ederson; Walker, Dias, Akanji; Stones, Rodri; Silva, Gundogan, De Bruyne, Grealish; Haaland
Inter XI: Onana; Darmian, Acerbi, Bastoni; Dumfries, Barella, Mkhitaryan, Calhanoglu, Dimarco; Martinez, Dzeko
Obviously you can never make any guarantees in European finals as anything can happen in a one-off game, but this is a huge opportunity for Man City. No disrespect to Inter, but City may never get a better chance to win the Champions League.
Having already beaten the likes of Bayern and Madrid, it would be gut-wrenching for Man City to go and lose to Inter in the final. There is no comparison between the two teams on paper, and City should be relatively comfortable winners, but finals are always cagey games.
Unless City score an early goal – which could lead to the floodgates opening – we think this will still be a tight match, but can’t see anything other than a Man City win. Man City 2-1 Inter Milan.
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