Taking on heavy favourites for the Champions League in Manchester City, we explore how Inter Milan can cause an upset over Pep Guardiola’s side on Saturday evening.
Coming into their second-ever Champions League final this weekend, Manchester City are widely expected to get their hands on the Champions League trophy for the first time in their history and write their name amongst the European elite.
However, many are overlooking Inter Milan on Saturday night, who will be coming in with a game plan to disrupt City from being at their dominant best and become European champions for the fourth time in their history.
Having won 12 of their last 15 matches in all competitions and turning over rivals AC Milan on four separate occasions this calendar year, Inter are a sturdy and formidable test that will not be broken down and beaten easily by any means.
How Inter can contain City
In an age full of teams that want to be on the front foot and dominate possession, Simeone Inzaghi does not concur, willingly conceding possession of the ball and opting to control the flow of the game through defensive stability.
This means that Manchester City, as they always do, will control possession of the ball in this match, setting up a perfect tactical battle between Guardiola and Inzaghi.Embed from Getty Images
As City will likely come into this game with the same shape and team that started in the 4-0 slaughtering of European goliaths Real Madrid in their last Champions League game, it will be up to Inzaghi to develop a plan to prohibit City’s dazzling forward quality from breaching dangerous areas inside their third of the pitch.
Setting up in a back five, Inzaghi will keep his side as compact as possible, with his midfield three having the mobility to get across the spaces in the middle of the park, not allowing City inside of their shape.
It will be important that Inter’s wingbacks do not get pinned back in this game, as City like to press high and constrain the opposition’s wide defenders, stopping them from contributing to the attacking phase of the game.
Furthermore, with John Stones joining Rodri in the midfield as a double pivot, it is vital that they do not allow them to dictate the tempo of the game, and are not given options or time on the ball, as the rhythm through the base of midfield is crucial for the Sky Blues.
This is where Lautaro Martinez could be crucial in Inter’s game plan, as his presence defensively could help disrupt Stones and Rodri at the heart of the Manchester City midfield.
Due to the quality of the side, they are up against, Inter will need to stay focused as a unit here, as one lapse of concentration could be enough to cost you at this level, but luckily, this is an area of the game where Inzaghi’s side specialise.
What threat can Inter pose offensively?
Although Inzaghi’s side are well equipped on the defensive side of the game, an area of the game that must be explored is how exactly Inter can cause Manchester City issues in the offensive phases of play, with City’s only real vulnerability being in quick transitions.
Unfortunately, the Italian side is not blessed with the breathtaking pace to pose a threat to City in-behind the defensive line or in wide channels, meaning that they must be a little more creative with the ways that they look to harm the Premier League champions.
This could be where former Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko comes into the picture, as the Bosnian striker’s sizeable stature and ability to hold up play provide his side with the option to clip it long to relieve pressure off the backline.
If Dzeko can effectively hold up play against Dias and Stones and bring his side a few yards further up the pitch, it will allow Inter to build possession of their own and ask their own offensive questions of City’s backline.
Andre Onana’s ability to play out from the back gives Inter the option to hit Dzeko long accurately from goal kicks, allowing Inter to move out of a low defensive block and push further up the pitch.
Romelu Lukaku may also play a big role off the bench in this affair, as the Belgian forward will be desperate to make an impact after his recent experiences in English football, likely coming off the bench for Dzeko midway through the second half.
In the midfield, Nicolo Barella will need to be at his best defensively and offensively for his side to stand a chance in this midfield battle.
The Italian box-to-box midfielder is the centrepiece of this Inter side and has the quality to turn in the midfield and pick passes between the lines, as well as popping up with crucial goals himself with late runs into the box.
Can Inter win the Champions League final?
However, even with all the quality that Inter do possess and with the tactical nuances of this tie setting up a tense final, it is still a mammoth task to overcome this Manchester City side.
Even by doing everything right, Inter could just be picked apart by the brilliance of the squad that they are up against, that’s how good Manchester City can be at times.
Whether it is the magic wand of De Bruyne’s passing abilities, the relentless goalscoring machine that is Erling Haaland, or the dancing feet of Bernardo Silva, the tools of weaponry that City possess are lethal and could end the match at any moment.Embed from Getty Images
They are as devastating as previous iterations of City sides in front of goal with Erling Haaland up top, and with the new system that Guardiola has landed upon this campaign, they are more defensively solid than they have ever been.
It is going to be a monumental ask for Inter to get anything here, but they do have the system and players to cause City a headache.
The game will likely turn out to be a war of attrition throughout the opening 60 minutes of the game, being a tight match that will be separated by moments of quality and maybe the odd bit of luck.
City is the clear favourites for obvious reasons but do not write Inter off here, as they do have a chance to upset the odds if they stay disciplined and pick the right moments to counterattack, and who knows, we could see one of the biggest upsets in Champions League final history.