Saturday will see Manchester City face Internazionale in the UEFA Champions League final in Istanbul. In what is the 31st showpiece in the competition under its current guise, both teams will be looking to add another trophy to their collection to end their respective campaigns.
The English side will be looking for their maiden triumph in football’s most prestigious club competition, while Inter looks for their fourth. Here is a look at both clubs’ road to the final, their domestic season, past meetings and a prediction for the match.
Previous UC/UEL best: Final (2020/21)
Previous European trophies: UEFA Cup Winners Cup (1969/70)
Record in Europe this season: 7-5-0
Domestic performance (cup finish): 1st (FA Cup winners, lost in quarterfinals of EFL Cup)
Two years on from a defeat to Chelsea in Porto, Manchester City is back in the Champions League final. Having already won the league and cup double, the Cityzens are in pursuit of their first ever triumph in football’s most prestigious club competition. Moreover, they could complete the treble.
It has seemingly been a straightforward run for City in the competition. Kicking off their journey in the group stage, the Premier League side was no match for Borussia Dortmund, Sevilla and FC København. The group was won with a game to spare for City, who went unbeaten across the six games.
In the round of 16, they battled RB Leipzig. Despite drawing 1-1 away, Man City ran rampant in the return leg, cruising to a thumping 7-0 victory. Bayern could not handle City in the quarterfinals either. A 3-0 victory at home did the damage as City moved on. In the most recent round, they started off with another 1-1 draw, this time against Real Madrid.
However, the record champions were well beaten at the Etihad, as City hit their Spanish opponents for four. Still unbeaten in the UCL this season, City is looking to go unbeaten in the competition, as Bayern did back in 2019/20.
A 12-game winning streak in the Premier League saw Guardiola’s side catch and pass Arsenal for the title. Their success in the league was their third on the spin and fifth in their last six seasons. Along with the league title, City also captured the FA Cup last weekend. A 2-1 victory over local rivals Manchester United completed a domestic double. They were denied a treble though, as Southampton topped the Cityzens in the EFL Cup quarterfinals. Fortunately for City, a different treble is still possible.
Saturday’s match will be Manchester City’s third European final. Before their reverse to Chelsea two years ago, City’s last continental final came in the UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1969/70. There, they topped Polish side Górnik Zabrze 2-1 in Vienna. The Sky Blues would become the sixth English club to lift this competition’s trophy should they get the job done (Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa are the others).
Previous EC/UCL titles: 3 (1963/64, 1964/65, 2009/10)
Record in Europe this season: 7-3-2
Domestic performance (cup finish): 3rd (Coppa Italia winners)
For the third season running, Internazionale has won a trophy. Yet, Simone Inzaghi’s side has the chance to clinch the biggest one yet. Thirteen years after their last appearance in a Champions League final, the Nerazzurri is back in the competition’s showpiece.
Commencing their 24th European Cup/Champions League appearance in the group stage, Inter was drawn in what most considered the group of death, facing Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Viktoria Plzen. With a record of 3-1-2, Inter managed to finish second and move on to the knockout round for the second term running.
Porto was the first challenge in knockout play. One goal was enough to eliminate the Portuguese giants. A return to the Iberian country came in the next round against Benfica. Taking a 2-0 lead home, Inter had a more dramatic second game, yet the 3-3 draw saw them progress. In the semifinals, they met their heated rivals AC Milan. Winning both legs, the Nerazzurri progressed at the expense of their biggest foe to make a return to the final.
Inter’s domestic form has impressed of late. Finishing third in the Serie A, they won all but one of their last eight games. A 3-1 reverse to the Scudetto winners Napoli was the one blip. Inconsistency stopped the Milan-based side from a higher finish in the league, as they had a whopping 12 defeats across the campaign. A recent 2-1 defeat of Fiorentina saw Inter reclaim the Coppa Italia trophy.
Inter is just one of three Italian teams to have won a European trophy in this millennium, with Milan and Roma being the others. Before the Giallorossi’s Europa Conference League success last year, the Nerazzurri were the last side to make a European final, where they lost 3-2 to Sevilla in the 2019/20 Europa League showpiece. Saturday will be Inter’s 11th European final and sixth in the European Cup/Champions League.
Other match facts
This will be the 11th European final to be contested between an Italian and an English side. This includes the European Cup/Champions League, Cup Winners Cup, Europa Conference League, and Super Cup (it has never happened in the UEFA Cup/Europa League). Italy has had more success in these occasions, coming out on top in six of the 10 previous occasions.
Remarkably, this is the first Italy vs England EC/UCL final not to involve Liverpool. The Merseyside club took part in all four previous meetings, winning twice. The last Italy vs England Champions League final came in 2006/07, when Inter’s rivals AC Milan won 2-1 in Athens. This came two years after Liverpool came from 3-0 down to beat the same opponents in the 2004/05 final, which also happened to be in Istanbul.
This is the fifth time in the last six campaigns that at least one English club was involved in the Champions League final. This includes City’s 1-0 defeat against Chelsea two years ago. The Blues are England’s most recent UCL champions.
Italy’s last appearance in the competition’s showpiece came in 2016/17 as Juventus fell 4-1 to Real Madrid. The Bianconeri also lost to Barcelona in the final two years prior. Inter’s defeat of Bayern Munich in 2009/10 was the last time an Italian team won the Champions League.
Finally, since both sides qualified for next season’s Champions League group stage domestically, this puts less pressure on the pair. As City also won the Premier League, they have secured a place in Pot 1 of the group stage draw in August. Inter looks to join them.
Prediction: who will win this season’s Champions League?
Two teams who have performed very well in this season’s Champions League are in the final. It is difficult not to justify their place in Istanbul. Yet, there can only be one winner.
While Inter has been defensively resolute on multiple occasions throughout their UCL campaign, their opponents on Saturday are a very different kettle of fish. With 31 goals in 12 matches in the competition this season, City has shown they can score easily.
The one fact Inter can take solace in is they have a better away record than the Cityzens. Guardiola’s men have won just once away from home in the 2022/23 Champions League, all the way back on Matchday 1 against Sevilla. Inter, meanwhile, has three wins in six, keeping a clean sheet in four of their away matches. This could work to their advantage.
That said, City comes into this final as the overwhelming favorite, and justifiably so. They will almost surely score in this game, as they have only failed to find the back of the net twice in the UCL this term. Inter will need to play with the same energy they did in the last round if they are to stand a chance.
Even then, I expect City to take this game. They finally look ready to become Champions League winners. Going with a scoreline, I would go with 3-1 in favor of the Premier League side. Yet, it would be ill-advised to count Inter out.