Who shall claim the magic of Istanbul?

The magic of Istanbul will be something Manchester City and Inter Milan need to clinch their ultimate silverware this season.

The world is counting down days until the 2022/23 UEFA Champions League final. Istanbul will be hosting the summit again this year should it not be moved again due to the concern over the probable political disorder after the Turkish presidential election.

The European football governing body is not so keen on it as the city has been postponed from holding the final twice in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s final somehow reminds us of the 2005 final edition, which has been famous for its unbelievable drama.

It is rare to see a more established team like AC Milan, who were the UCL champions two seasons before, suffer an unimaginable defeat against the shaky Liverpool. They had a three-goal lead before the interval. However, Rafael Benitez’s men managed to find the equalizer and were forced to end the duel on penalties, which they won. Steven Gerrard and Co.’s victory was even more dramatic than Manchester United’s glory in 1999.

There are parallels between the 2005 final and this year’s final. Both will take place at the same stadium, Atarturk Olympic Istanbul, the home of Fatih Karagumuk’s Turkish Super Lig team. Second, both will feature a clash of English and Italian clubs. The last time the teams from both countries squared off was in 2007. Last but not least, it is the meeting of the 2005 finalists’ domestic rivals. Manchester City has been Liverpool’s EPL main contender in the past few years, whereas Inter Milan were involved in a title race twice against the Rossonerri in 2020 and 2021. Such could signify the magic of Istanbul. Who shall claim it and become the victor?                                                                                      

Will Manchester City or Inter Claim The Magic of Istanbul?

The favorite: Manchester City

Manchester City is undeniably the favorite to lift their coveted trophy this year. Pep Guardiola has been considered the right person to lead them to their first ever European triumph. However, in the Champions League, it is not always that easy.

The Catalan boss understands how difficult it is to win The Big Ear and he came close in the 2020/21 season. His team was also the favorite, with Chelsea’s Thomas Tuchel as his opponent.

Despite knocking on the door almost the entire game, the Citizens were left frustrated to break the deadlock and eventually conceded through a swift counter attack with Kai Havertz as the winning goal scorer in the first half. Things did not get better in the second half. They even had to replace their key figure, Kevin De Bruyne due to an injury.

Many would think this season has to be Guardiola’s time. His team eased past Bayern Munich and Real Madrid in a convincing win, 4-1 and 5-1 on aggregate, respectively. Yet, one seems to forget that a team without a tradition or no history of winning the championship will require more than just experience and excellent performance on the pitch. In the end, fortune or lady luck can be just as important. Normally, Munich’s magic would be the deciding factor in the victory for such team. Can Istanbul’s magic be described in the same way? Nobody dares to tell since the 2004/05 final was between two teams which already have tradition on their side.

The dark horse: Inter Milan

Inter Milan, on the other hand, might be in favor of the magic of Istanbul. Their campaign in the Champions League this year does remind us of The Reds’ that was 18 years ago.

La Beniamata finished in second at the group stage. Then, they had to struggle almost in every stage at the knockout round. Simone Inzaghi’s side thumped FC Porto only 1-0 on aggregate and eliminated Benfica with 5-3 after winning 2-0 on the road, but held in a 3-3 draw at home. Inter did better in the semifinals after crushing their local rival, AC Milan, 3-0.

Liverpool’s way to the top in 2004/05 season was tough and tricky too. Following a 6-2 win on aggregate over Bayer Leverkusen in the round of 16, The Reds strived to knock out Juventus in the quarterfinals and Chelsea in the semifinals with a narrow win at home. They even had to rely on a ‘ghost goal’ by Luis Garcia when Liverpool saw off the Blues at the first leg.

Whether Inter finally capture the magic and win the title for the fourth time or Manchester City win their first trophy, the final should feature more goals and thrills. That exactly is something that has been lacking for quite some time in the UCL final.

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