·8 June 2023
·8 June 2023
As the Champions League final approaches, there seems to be an air of inevitability that Manchester City will be crowned winners.
Coupled with their domestic successes in the Premier League and FA Cup, City have knocked out Bayern and Real Madrid convincingly, leaving many questioning if anyone can stop them.
While it’s difficult to dispute that City are the best side in Europe, Inter Milan are more capable of lifting the Champions League than they are being given credit for. Here are five reasons why they could triumph on Saturday…
Inter go into the final in impressive form. They won seven of their final ten games of the season to make them the most in-form team in Italy. It also ranks them as the highest performing side in Europe’s top five leagues from the final 15 games of the campaign across all competitions.
Furthermore, Inter boast an impressive cup record under the management of Simone Inzaghi, winning both the Italian Super Cup and the Coppa Italia for two consecutive seasons.
To get to the final in Istanbul, they came second in a group containing Barcelona and Bayern Munich. They then kept clean sheets in five of their six knockout games. Having translated their domestic cup success into the Champions League, they are on course for their own treble.
Just as Manchester City are characterised by their ability to dominate possession within their opposition’s half, Inter are instead known for allowing their opponents to see significantly more of the ball through a low-block technique.
Utilising a 3-5-2 formation where the wing backs drop into the final line of defence with the midfielders acting as an additional layer of cover, the Italian side will be well equipped to extinguish City’s distribution from midfield while being able to match Erling Haaland’s physical dominance within the box.
City have historically struggled against teams who have successfully employed these defensive tactics. Brentford utilising this low-block approach when they beat City 2-1 at the Etihad this season, citing their desire to prevent Kevin De Bruyne from being able to play the ball to Haaland.
Finishing the season as Serie A’s second highest scoring team on 71 goals (six fewer than champions Napoli’s 77), Inter are effective in transitioning from their defensive style of play into successful attacking sequences.
They have a goalkeeper known for his distribution abilities in Andre Onana surrounded by ball playing centre-backs such as Alessandro Bastoni, who sit behind creative midfielders like Nicolo Barella and Hakan Çalhanoğlu. Inter are able to begin counter-attacks from deep within their own half
With the majority of City players likely to be occupying Inter’s half, they may struggle to track back against their opposition’s pacy wing-backs Federico Dimarco and Denzel Dumfries – or find their defence stretched by the dual strike partnership of Edin Džeko and Lautaro Martínez.
This proved to be City’s downfall in the 2021 Champions League final, where Chelsea were able to consolidate their 1-0 victory through a counter-attacking approach.
Manchester City’s impressive end to their campaign can be partly attributed to their absence of injuries during their run-in. Likewise, Inter’s first team is near full fitness (bar the absence of Joaquin Correa) with Henrikh Mkhitaryan recovering in time from a minor thigh problem as well as the long-awaited return of centre-back Milan Škriniar from a back injury suffered in February.
Having the first half of his season affected by injuries and subsequently losing his starting spot, a now fit Marcelo Brozović remains one of Europe’s most complete defensive midfielders at Inter’s disposal on their bench. Likewise, Romelu Lukaku has found his previous form in the closing end of the season, offering ample back-up to an ageing Edin Džeko.
Finally, an advantage Inter hold is the fact that they have already won the Champions League in their recent history – back in 2010. It should not be underestimated that this competition remains the final hurdle for City and with this may come an increased level of pressure.
Manager Pep Guardiola has been known to over-scrutinise in this competition, with examples including his omission of defensive midfielders in the 2021 final or his decision to not start De Bruyne when they were knocked out by Spurs in 2019. Contrastingly, Inzaghi is known for stubbornly adhering to his tactics even against adverse circumstances.
Thus, with Inter entering the match with a clear tactical ideology it remains to be seen whether Guardiola’s desire to adapt could yet again be his side’s downfall. Could it be that Inzaghi’s rigid approach will lead Inter to another Champions League victory?
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