Manchester City appears to be the most likely candidate to win the Champions League in football for the first time in its history, when it meets Inter Milan tonight in the Istanbul final, and the “Citizens” dream of a historic triple.
And after several attempts since the arrival of his outstanding coach Pep Guardiola 7 years ago, most notably reaching the 2021 final, the heavenly team appears close to a title that its Emirati owners have wanted since their acquisition of the club in 2008.
City became the striking force in England, winning the league title 3 times in a row and 5 times in the last 6 seasons, and adding to it the local cup title at the expense of its arch-neighbor Manchester United, the only English team to win the Champions League treble and the domestic league and cup in 1999.
This coincides with the announcement by Deloitte analysts that City has become the highest revenue earner among football clubs, with $788 million last season.
Question marks are raised about the team’s successes and unlimited financial support from Abu Dhabi, especially after the club was exposed last February to 115 accusations of violating the financial rules between 2009 and 2018.
In Europe, City was subjected to a two-year ban from participating in continental competitions in February 2020, due to “serious breaches of the rules of fair financial play,” but the Court of Arbitration for Sport (TAS) overturned that sentence.
And at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium, which can accommodate more than 70,000 spectators, Guardiola’s men will be able to follow in the footsteps of United, who scored the famous treble in 1999 under the guidance of Scottish Sir Alex Ferguson.
And after losing the 2021 final against his compatriot Chelsea with a goal, when he was ahead of him by a large margin in the local league, City came out last season with difficulty and in a dramatic semi-final scenario against Real Madrid, who later crowned the title.
City did not lose this season in Europe, and achieved resounding victories over German Leipzig (7-0) in the first leg of the final price, and Bayern Munich, Germany, 3-0 in the first leg of the quarter-finals, and Real Madrid, 4-0, in the second leg of the semi-finals.
So there will be nothing to fear from the third Italian league standings, except for the ghosts that haunted him in the last knockout stages of the Champions League.
Therefore, City playmaker and one of its most prominent stars, Belgian Kevin De Bruyne, warned, “We haven’t won anything yet.”
“I’ve been here for 8 years and it’s been great. We haven’t won this thing yet and we have to do it. Hopefully it will happen on Saturday.”
While Guardiola is looking for his third title as a coach in the cup with big ears (after 2009 and 2011), the danger of Inter qualifying from the group stage at the expense of Barcelona cannot be ruled out, before Porto and Benfica overcame the Portuguese and then their arch-rival Milan in the semi-finals.
In turn, Englishman John Stones warned the “City” player that the Italian team “qualified for the final for a reason.”
“They have great players, and this is clear. It was not easy how they played the semi-finals in the Derby match. We know exactly what awaits us.”
“No fear” in the Inter camp
On the other hand, Inter knows what awaits him, especially his Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko (37 years old), who carried the colors of City between 2011 and 2016.
He scored 14 goals this season and was an effective offensive assistant to Argentine star Lautaro Martinez.
Coach Simone Inzaghi – who is in his first final in the main continental championship – may not include many stars in his squad, with the exception of world champion Martinez and Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku, but his defense is solid and he has dangerous wings and a fighting midfield led by Niccolo Barella.
“We are talking about a football match, we are not afraid,” Inzaghi, appointed in 2021, said after winning the league title under the supervision of Antonio Conte.
“Killers should be feared, not footballers,” said defender Alessandro Bastoni. “It would be wrong to talk about fear.”
Inter is in the first final in the first continental competition since Portuguese Jose Mourinho led him to his third title in 2010, which is the last coronation of an Italian team.
“Nerazzurri” lifted the cup 3 times before (1964 and 1965 as well), while City has an orphan title in Europe after winning the defunct European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1970.