Inter Milan face Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League final in Istanbul on Saturday. The Nerazzurri finished third in Serie A this season, but a first European title since 2010 will make their season an astounding success.
Manchester City are quite possibly the best club team in the world and demolished Real Madrid in the semifinal. They will start as the favorites next Saturday but Simone Inzaghi’s Inter will be no pushovers either.
Inter last won the Champions League with Jose Mourinho in charge. Inzaghi might not yet have the same pedigree as a manager, but will take heart from the fact that a less-experienced manager like Roberto Di Matteo has actually won the title with his team.
Inter Milan have been under-achievers in Europe
Inter have been crowned the champions of Europe three times, with two of those titles coming in consecutive years in the 1960s, when the likes of Sandro Mazzola, Giacinto Facchetti and Luis Suarez Miramontes were the star players of the club.
Mourinho then built a solid team in the late 2000s with the likes of Walter Samuel, Lucio, Maicon, Fabio Grosso, Diego Milito, Wesley Sneijder, Javier Zanetti, Christian Chivu et al that won the biggest prize in European football.
However, Inter’s record in Europe’s biggest competition pales in front of that of their city-rivals AC Milan, who have won the title seven times and have been the runners-up four times. There is a great chance in front of Simone Inzaghi’s men to improve the record this time around.
The task against Pep Guardiola’s side will not be easy, but Inter will take inspiration of the last Champions League final played in Istanbul in 2005 that saw a less-fancied Liverpool bounce back from a 0-3 deficit to beat the mighty AC Milan on a crazy night.
Inter have the right mix of experience and youth
The Nerazzurri boast the correct mix of experience and youth in their squad. While they have seasoned veterans like Edin Dzeko, Henrik Mkhitaryan, Matteo Darmian and Romelu Lukaku, they also have exciting youngsters like Nicola Barella, Alessandro Bastoni, Lautaro Martinez and Denzel Dumfries.
The triumvirate of Dzeko, Martinez and Lukaku form a potent attack that has the capacity to hurt the opposition through their aerial prowess as well as on the ground. Dzeko does not have too many years of top-flight football left in him and will want to score against his former club.
Either Dzeko or Lukaku will partner Martinez in Inter’s 3-5-2 formation in the final. Both Lukaku and Martinez have exceptional ball-skills and they will be aided by the talented Barella, who has the tendency to venture into the opposition penalty box quite often.
However, for Inter to win on Saturday, their defense will have to fare well against the feared attacking unit of Manchester City. The likes of Bastoni, Stefan De Vrij and Dumfries will have the unenviable task of containing City’s lethal attack. It remains to be seen whether Inter’s defenders can pass the litmus test that is going to be thrown at them this weekend.