Manchester City are just one day from their chance to claim their place among Europe’s elite football clubs. The Manc Blues face 3-time European Cup winners Inter Milan in the UEFA Champions League Final in Istanbul tomorrow. Sky Blue News is here with one final helping of headlines before the biggest match in the history of Manchester City Football Club.
The Champions League journey that began for City in season 2011/12 and has featured heartbreak for Manchester City in the 2021 Champions League final loss against Chelsea, last season’s semi-final heartbreaking collapse to Real Madrid, the famous quarter-final loss against Spurs away in a season where Manchester City secured the domestic treble.
It now feels that all of those moments have led to this Saturday’s final in Istanbul against Inter Milan.
This team feels more complete and ready to seize the moment that awaits them on Saturday night against Inter. Pep Guardiola’s starting lineup has been settled in the quarter-final win against Bayern Munich, and again in the famous semi-final demolishing of Real Madrid.
For this Saturday’s final it doesn’t feel that we will see Pep Guardiola tinker with the line-up and team set-up like in the 2021 final loss to Chelsea. The starting 11 that conquered the massive hurdles in Bayern and Real Madrid, and started the FA Cup win over Manchester United last Saturday should start against Inter.
The starting lineup gives Guardiola the control of the game his tactics require. The settled 11 has bought the best out of John Stones in his hybrid centre-back/central midfield role. The security in midfield with the Rodri/Stones central pivot has allowed Kevin De Bruyne to be at his creative best. It’s also allowed Jack Grealish to have the best spell of his City career and flourish out wide on the left since the World Cup.
Two Things Manchester City Must do to Win the UCL Final vs Inter Milan - Saul Garcia - Bitter and Blue
Watching some of Inter, I do see a scenario where City start the ‘control’ lineup as they have with Bernardo and Grealish acting as wingers, but we could see our fast wingers lineup.
Either way, City must take the match to the back three Inter use and really stretch the pitch to make space for our midfielders and/or Erling Haaland to create good goal scoring opportunities.
Adding that Inter will more than likely bunker down, this is imperative as the Inter defense is not the fastest and sCity must control the pace and demands. Thus, they can create chances with a wider field where finding Haaland on a 1v1 is much easier.
Two Things Manchester City Must do to Win the UCL Final vs Inter Milan https://t.co/yhqzWj3v3b— Bitter and Blue (@BitterandBlue1) June 8, 2023
Pep Guardiola’s ‘overthinking’ no longer a worry for Man City as they seek to wrap up treble against Inter Milan - Nick Wright - Sky Sports
Such is the narrative that has built up around Pep Guardiola overthinking his tactics in big games. Manchester City head into the Champions League final having already won a domestic double but, in this competition, they - and their manager - have baggage.
Much of it comes from their last appearance in the final. City were strong favourites to beat Chelsea in 2021, just as they are against Inter Milan now, but instead suffered a loss which felt self-inflicted as Guardiola opted to start without a natural holding midfielder.
It was just the latest in a long line of surprising tactical changes by Guardiola on the European stage and fed into a reputation for over-elaborating which at once amuses and frustrates him. “I love to overthink and create stupid tactics,” he said sarcastically last year.
Man City get Kyle Walker fitness boost as 23-man Champions League final squad confirmed - Joe Bray - Manchester Evening News
The Blues left the City Football Academy earlier on Thursday, with club staff lining the road out of the training complex and waving flags as the squad took a coach to Manchester Airport. After arriving in Istanbul, they will train at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium on Friday, and Pep Guardiola will provide a more detailed fitness update on his squad.
Walker had been the only player missing when City trained in front of the media on Tuesday, but later reassured reporters he was working individually inside and was not concerned over his fitness for Saturday’s final. Now, he has been named in the travelling squad which has no major absentees.
Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva had picked up knocks in Saturday’s FA Cup final, but both had offered their own reassurances that they were fine for the Champions League final and both were part of the squad.
Youngsters Rico Lewis and Cole Palmer were also on the plane, having been part of City’s Champions League campaign in the group stages and knockout rounds. January signing Maximo Perrone is also in the group having returned from the U20 World Cup after Argentina’s exit.
Champions League final: Pep Guardiola has already confirmed one Man City starter vs Inter Milan - Michael Plant - Manchester World
Pep Guardiola has already confirmed Ederson will start for Manchester City in the Champions League final against Inter Milan.
The goalkeeper has played 10 of City’s 12 matches in Europe this season, with Stefan Ortega deputising for the other two matches. It was the German who played on Saturday as City beat United 2-1 at Wembley in the FA Cup final, with Guardiola opting to play his second-choice stopper in the domestic cup competitions this season.
But the City boss isn’t tempted to do the same against Inter on Saturday, and explained last week that his first-choice goalkeeper will start in Istanbul. “Eddie is going to play the final of the Champions League,” Guardiola said ahead of the FA Cup final.
Ederson has played 47 times this season and has kept 18 clean sheets, and like the rest of the City squad, is aiming to win the Champions League for the first time. The Brazilian played in the 2021 final in Porto as City lost 1-0 to Chelsea, and he said the squad have learnt a lot from that bruising encounter.
Strength and power of Manchester City can reinforce Premier League dominance - Karen Carney - The Guardian
There are numerous reasons why the English game is enjoying a glorious spell. It is no coincidence the biggest clubs can attract the best managers. Pep Guardiola, Jürgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel have taken English teams into the Champions League with knowledge gained elsewhere of how to beat the best in Europe. They arrived with experience of different leagues. Managers learn from one another, too. Mikel Arteta and Erik ten Hag worked with Guardiola at City and Bayern Munich respectively and they are pushing one another to be at their best.
Guardiola keeps evolving, changing things tactically each season to maintain City’s challenge for trophies. Klopp brought his pressing style to Liverpool and has taken them to three Champions League finals. Those styles and philosophies have added to the English culture of technical play and fandom, aided by players wanting to be with those managers.
Guardiola knows what worked for him in the past will not necessarily work now. At Barcelona, he, in essence, invented the false 9 for Lionel Messi; at Bayern he did the inverted full-back with Philipp Lahm; this season we have seen him create John Stones’s hybrid role, which was carefully thought out and planned, and it has paid dividends in the biggest matches.
Top managers’ tactics only work if they have the right players and the Premier League can attract the best in the world. Almost every team in Europe would like Erling Haaland but City were able to snare him because they have a coach everyone wants to work with. If we look at the clamour to sign Ilkay Gündogan it shows what incredible players City have. Players under Guardiola will be more desirable to bring in because of their skillset.
Strength and power of Manchester City can reinforce Premier League dominance https://t.co/6j97dYV9cq— The Guardian (@guardian) June 8, 2023
And finally... Should they stay, or should they go?
Keep, loan or sell: The players Man City should allow to leave in the 2023 summer transfer window - Richard Martin - Goal
The Premier League champions have had a dream season, but it will be the last hurrah for several players, even if City are reluctant to let some leave
Manchester City face a smaller rebuilding job than any other team in the Premier League this summer. They are on the brink of winning the treble and their substitutes bench is better than the starting XI of many other clubs in the division.
But Pep Guardiola has not achieved everything in his career by standing still, and he is already planning for the future. The likes of Kalvin Phillips and Sergio Gomez have little prospect of staying in the team, while City face a battle to keep Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva at the club.
Who could leave Manchester City after a potentially historic season?— GOAL News (@GoalNews) June 8, 2023
There it is Cityzens. Stay with Bitter and Blue for all the buildup to the UCL Final. Follow along with @BitterandBlue1 on Twitter for reactions and banter.