The 2022/23 Champions League final is here, and as we all expected (not), Inter is in it. The Nerazzurri are on a collision curse with England’s Manchester City this Saturday at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul for a shot at European glory.
Manchester City is aiming for more than just a Champions League, however. Pep Guardiola’s side is on the hunt for a treble after claiming the Premier League and FA Cup to its name in May. City’s 89-point domestic campaign (28W-5D-5L) won it a fifth EPL in six years, edging out Arsenal by five points. City also beat Manchester United 2-1 for its second FA Cup title in 5 years last weekend, continuing its almost unstopped domestic dominance. Nonetheless, the one obstacle City hasn’t been able to hurdle has been the Champions League. After making the semi-finals just once from 2011 to 2020, City has gotten closer and closer to its number 1 target in recent seasons. It made the 20/21 final only to lose 1-0 to Chelsea and went out to Real Madrid thanks to a stoppage time collapse in last year’s semis. This season, though, City has been almost impeccable in Europe. Manchester eased out of its group as winners with 15 points, beat RB Leipzig 8-1 on aggregate in the Round of 16, took down Bayern 4-1, and then sliced apart Real Madrid 5-1 in the semis.
The biggest reason for the change in City’s European fortunes is obviously the arrival of Erling Haaland last summer. The Norwegian has an incredible 52 goals and 9 assists, including 12 in 10 UCL outings. He didn't even score in the 4-0 drubbing of Real, however, showing the might of City’s attack as a whole beyond their point man. Kevin De Bruyne (10g, 28a), Riyad Mahrez (15g, 13a), and super-subs Phil Foden (15g, 9a) and Julian Alvarez (17g, 4a) mean City will have countless attacking tools to use come Saturday. City also has utilized quite the unorthodox formation in recent months, switching from a 4-3-3 to a 3-2-4-1 with 4 centrebacks (one in the midfield two), 3 midfielders, 2 wingers, and a striker. While Guardiola’s possession-based play remains the go-to, the new formation has taken City to another level on both sides of the ball.
Inter also has a treble to play for, albeit of cups rather than a domestic title. The Nerazzurri’s Serie A season earned a passing grade with top-four qualification, but only barely. Instead, Inter thrived in the Supercoppa, Coppa Italia (it’s back-to-back champions in both), and of course the Champions League. Since his arrival, Simone Inzaghi has proved himself to be a cup expert, winning 4 trophies and every cup tournament except last season’s UCL. While beating City is a mammoth task, if anyone can do it, it’s Inzaghi. To get here, he led Inter out of a group featuring Bayern Munich and Barcelona before knocking out Porto, Benfica, and then Milan in the elimination stages. While City is in a tier above all of those sides, Inter has a few reasons for not quite optimism, but definitely hope. For one, all of the pressure is on City, whose entire project has been built up for a UCL title. Inter, on the other hand, was barely expected to get out of its group, let alone reach the finals. For two, the Nerazzurri are in their best form of the season at the perfect time with 11 wins in 12, spearheaded by a boatload of goals and assists from Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez. Inter will need at least a couple from its strike pair but if they’re at their best, anything is possible.
This is the first-ever competitive meeting between these sides and will be Inter’s sixth (3 titles) and City’s second (0 titles) UCL final.
Predicted Starting XIs
Prediction: Inter Milan 2-1 Manchester City
The status of the underdog will suit Inter, who won’t give City an inch and when the English side does break through the defense, Andre Onana will be there to save the day. Lukaku and Lautaro, meanwhile, will be lethal on the counter and earn the Nerazzurri a famous victory.