Man City’s holy grail and Pep’s tactics – Champions League final talking points

By Sports Desk June 08, 2023

Manchester City face Inter Milan in the Champions League final in Istanbul on Saturday.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some talking points ahead of the game.

City’s holy grail

Winning the Champions League has been City’s top objective since their takeover by Sheikh Mansour in 2008 and, after a number of near-misses, it now feels tantalisingly within reach. Beating Inter Milan would complete a mission for the club’s hierarchy, as it would for Pep Guardiola, the man they hired to deliver it. Despite City’s near-dominance of the domestic scene in recent years, and the regularity with which they have reached the Champions League’s latter stages, Guardiola has admitted the club need to win it to truly underline their greatness. On a personal level too, Guardiola has been the greatest coach of his generation but it has now been 12 years since the second of his two triumphs with a Lionel Messi-inspired Barcelona and it is an itch he needs to scratch.

Treble bid

Victory would not only fulfil a long-held ambition for City, but complete a glorious treble, earning them a place in the history books alongside arch-rivals Manchester United as only the second side to win the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League in the same season. United achieved the feat in 1999, at a time when City were fighting for promotion from the third tier. How their fans are enjoying the change in circumstances 24 years on.

Tactics and form

City will head into this game against the side that finished third in Serie A as overwhelming favourites. After an inconsistent spell either side of the World Cup, they hit form in the spring to reel in Arsenal at the top of the Premier League and power into two major finals. Their level of performance has arguably been better than anything they have produced before under Guardiola, with some particularly outstanding displays in key games against the Gunners, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. Guardiola has often been accused of overthinking and getting things wrong tactically in the key matches, but there seems little reason to deviate now from what has worked well this season.

No injury worries

City would appear to have a clean bill of health. There were concerns when Kyle Walker did not appear at an open training session on Tuesday, having been substituted late in the FA Cup final on Saturday, but the player allayed any worries, saying he would not miss the Champions League final “for anything”. Guardiola is therefore unlikely to stray much from the side which started against Arsenal and both legs against Madrid, which was: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Dias, Akanji, Rodri, Gundogan, Grealish, Silva, De Bruyne, Haaland.

Inter’s plan

Inter will be determined not to make up the numbers but manager Simone Inzaghi probably recognises City are likely to dominate possession, putting his side’s notably tough defence to the test. The Italians will hope to soak up the pressure and catch City on the counter, looking to the likes of Lautaro Martinez, Edin Dzeko and Romelu Lukaku to take any chances that come their way.

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