‘This is the dream’ – all you need to know about Champions League final

Manchester City will look to win the Champions League for the first time and complete the Treble when they play Inter Milan in the final at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul.

Pep Guardiola’s side have already won the Premier League and FA Cup.

It is the second time in three years City have reached the Champions League final, losing to Chelsea in 2020-21.

“We just need to find a way to win the first one,” City playmaker Kevin de Bruyne told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“If we could do that, it would be immense for the players, the club and the fans.”

Manchester United are the only English side to have won the Treble – Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League – achieving the feat in 1998-99.

City head into Saturday’s final in ideal form having lost just one of their past 26 games in all competitions and also going unbeaten in Europe this season, winning seven of 12 matches.

Guardiola is chasing European success for the first time since winning the competition in 2011 with Barcelona, with whom he also secured a treble two years earlier.

On paper, his City side appear even more formidable than that of Barcelona in 2008-09 – Barca, who lost once en route to the final, scored 32 goals and conceded 13 that season while City, with one game still to play, have scored 31 goals so far and conceded just five.

Asked about his success, Guardiola said: “I had [Lionel] Messi in the past and [Erling] Haaland now. This is my success. I am not joking, this is the truth.”

Inter, under Jose Mourinho, knocked Guardiola’s Barcelona out in the semi-finals on the way to winning a treble of their own in 2010, but this will be the Italians’ first meeting with City.

“This is the finish. The Champions League is an incredible competition,” added Guardiola. “It’s absolutely a dream, yes.

“To achieve things you always have to have the correct proportion of obsession and desire. It’s a positive word, willingness to try to do it, of course.”

Inter aim for fourth European title

Manchester City are the overwhelming favourites against three-time European champions Inter, who finished third in Serie A and won the Coppa Italia for a second successive season.

Inter are, however, not to be underestimated, having kept a tournament-high eight clean sheets in 12 matches so far, with goalkeeper Andre Onana their standout performer.

Simone Inzaghi’s side also possesses a potent strike force. Led by Lautaro Martinez, who has 28 goals and 11 assists from 58 games this season, the Italians also have former Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko and Romelu Lukaku – who has not started a game in Europe this season – to call upon.

“It’s my most important ever match, but I believe that’s also the case for my players, because we have players like Dzeko and Onana who have played in semi-finals,” Inzaghi said.

“It repays all our effort as it’s been a long, hard year.”

Argentina forward Martinez added: “I hope we can turn in a great performance, get a result and take the trophy to Milan. It’s a huge dream for us. It’s a very difficult one to fulfil but we are one step away.

“Personality is paramount. You must put all your heart into it, you have to have the will. We’ve brought that kind of spirit back to Inter, it had been missing for a while. I ask for personality and courage from us.”

Haaland looks to emulate United’s Ole

Manchester City striker Erling Haaland has had a stunning first season in English football since joining from Borussia Dortmund last summer.

He has broken the Premier League record for most goals in a season with 36 and has scored 52 times in all competitions at a rate of a goal every 78 minutes.

The Norway international has been named the Football Writers’ Association (FWA) men’s footballer of the year and is the first player to win the Premier League player and young player of the year awards in the same season.

Haaland is desperate to add the Champions League to his trophy haul and his minutes per goal ratio in the competition stands at an incredible 63 minutes, throughout spells with City, Dortmund and Red Bull Salzburg.

He failed to score in the semi-finals, making this his longest drought at two games, but his 12 goals are the joint most in a Champions League season for an English club alongside Ruud van Nistelrooy for Manchester United in 2002-03.

Asked whether he was worried about Haaland’s supposed drought, Guardiola responded: “If you have doubts about Erling Haaland scoring goals, you are a lonely person.

“I don’t have any doubts. He will be ready to help us win the Champions League.”

Haaland is looking to become the first Norwegian to score in the final since Ole Gunnar Solskjær, whose goal secured United the Treble in 1999.

“This is why they bought me of course, to get this, we don’t have to hide that,” Haaland told BBC sports editor Dan Roan.

“It would mean everything. I will do everything I possibly can to try to make it happen. It’s my biggest dream and hopefully dreams do come true.”

Pressure on Guardiola and City?

According to Simon Gleave, head of sports analysis at Nielsen’s Gracenote, Manchester City’s chance of winning is 74.5% and they are ranked top of Nielsen Gracenote’s Euro Club Index, while Inter are eighth.

“I was in Milan on Monday and the players were very relaxed,” said Italian football expert James Horncastle on the Euro Leagues podcast.

“The main question is, are you being underestimated? It seems the final has already been won. They didn’t expect to be here and there is a lot less pressure on them.

“For Inter, they were laughing, joking. [It’s] maybe not a free hit but they go into it in a really good frame of mind.”

However, European football expert Guillem Balague insists City are taking nothing for granted.

“This idea that Manchester City believe this is a done deal comes more from the pundits and fans,” he added. “But Manchester City have a bunch of fears relating to this game.

“Inter don’t need to have the ball and defend much better than Manchester United. The word that has been repeated the most in the camp is ‘patience’ and just keep trying.

“It is going to be a very hard game, that is how it has been analysed. They are being very respectful.”

Manchester City’s route to the final

Manchester City breezed through the group stage, finishing unbeaten at the top of Group G and five points clear of second-place Borussia Dortmund.

Guardiola’s side won all their games at Etihad Stadium, while beating Sevilla home and away en route to the knockout stages.

In the last 16 they met German side RB Leipzig, once again highlighting their strength at home with a 7-1 thrashing – in which Haaland helped himself to five goals – to progress 8-1 on aggregate.

The quarter-finals saw Manchester City draw Guardiola’s former side Bayern Munich. A 3-0 win in the first leg ensured City had one foot in the semi-finals. They then secured a 1-1 draw in Germany to ensure progression.

The semi-final saw City face their toughest test so far as they played 14-times champions Real Madrid. The first leg in Spain finished 1-1 before City’s excellent home form came to the fore again as they won 4-0 to reach the final.

Inter Milan’s route to the final

Two defeats from their six group games saw Inter Milan finish second in Group C behind Bayern Munich but they finished ahead of Barcelona after beating them 1-0 at home and then drawing 3-3 in Spain.

The knockout stage saw them overcome Porto and Benfica to set up a semi-final meeting with city rivals AC Milan.

Two goals in the first 11 minutes saw them race into a 2-0 lead in the first leg and they then won the second leg 1-0 to progress 3-0 on aggregate.

Since the Champions League era began in 1992-93, they are only the fourth team to reach the final after losing their opening game – following AC Milan in 1994-95, Bayern Munich in 1998-99 and Tottenham in 2018-19, who were all beaten in the final.

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