A 'David vs. Goliath' Champions League final between Inter and Manchester City

Manchester City are chasing their first Champions League trophy and a historic treble, while Inter are chasing an impossible dream against what many consider the best team in the world

Erling Haaland (left) and Lautaro Martinez
Erling Haaland (left) and Lautaro Martinez

Inter and Manchester City face each other on Saturday evening for the Champions League final at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul.

The Italians are the clear underdogs in the clash, facing the team that according to many is the best in the world, with a squad of players worth over a €1 billion.

Manchester City, traditionally overshadowed by their successful neighbours Manchester United, are still chasing their first-ever Champions League trophy.

Facing a financial collapse in 2008, the club was acquired by the Abu Dhabi United Group, bringing with them an injection of funds that led them to seven Premier League titles.

Manchester City have been unsuccessfully chasing the trophy since then, reaching their first final in 2021 but losing 1-0 to Chelsea.

“We have been good in this competition, but we just need to find a way to win the first one,” said their Belgian star Kevin De Bruyne on Friday.

“If we do it, it would obviously be immense for the players, for the club, and for the fans it would be something amazing.”

The Manchester club is banking on their start signing Erling Haaland, who scored 52 in all competitions and set a new Premier League goal record.

Managed by the best coach in the world, Pep Guardiola, Manchester City are considered to be the best club in the world. They are fresh from a thrid consecutive Premier League title and an FA cup against Manchester United.

Inter, on the other hand, return to a final after 13 years, following their 2010 treble under the leadership of José Mourinho. They had previously won two European Champions cups in 1964 and 1965.

Inter have traditionally been one of the biggest clubs in Europe, however, the club has struggled following the departure of the Moratti family ten years ago.

Coach Simone Inzaghi seemed destined to get the sack at the end of a season that saw Inter lose 12 Serie A games, but his cup specialist reputation came to the rescue, and against all odds, the Italians reached the most prestigious club final in the world.

“It will be a very difficult match,” Inzaghi said. “The odds are not in our favour, but that’s what makes football so exciting […] We won’t change our approach. There will be moments during the match where we need to be more attacking and others where we need to be strong defensively.”

Inter's captain on the pitch, the Argentine Lautaro Martinez, won the World Cup in Qatar in 2022 and is irreplaceable for Inzaghi. He has scored 28 goals this season, two less than compatriot Diego Milito in 2010, who had scored two goals in the final with Inter against Bayern Munich.

Milito was instrumental in making the transfer of Martinez from Racing Club to Inter happen in 2018.

The historic Istanbul precedent

The 75,000-seat stadium hosting Saturday’s final, Atatürk Olympic Stadium, is the same one on which the epic 2005 Champions League final between AC Milan and Liverpool was played.

Inter’s neighbours had gone to halftime with a three-goal advantage, only to concede three goals within six minutes in the second half, and eventually losing on penalties.

Saturday’s game is also the first Champions League final since then between an Italian and an English team.

Coincidentally Inter faced AC Milan in the semi-final, winning both legs at the San Siro, the stadium shared by both Milan clubs.

Polish referee Szymon Marciniak, who also took charge of the 2022 FIFA World Cup final in December, will officiate the game.

The match kicks off at 9pm.