Champions League Final: Manchester City v Inter Milan, Saturday, Atatürk Olympic Stadium, Istanbul, 8.0 – Live RTÉ 2 & BT Sport
Pep Guardiola believes a healthy obsession with winning the Champions League can propel Manchester City to beat Internazionale in Saturday’s final at Istanbul’s Ataturk Olympic Stadium.
City are yet to claim Europe’s elite club competition, coming closest when they lost the 2021 final 1-0 to Chelsea. On Friday Kevin De Bruyne had described winning it as maybe both a “dream” and an “obsession” for the club, and the comment was put to Guardiola.
“It’s absolutely a dream. Absolutely,” he said. “To achieve things always you have to have the correct portion of obsession, desire. Obsession is a positive word. It’s a dream for all of us.”
De Bruyne said: “Maybe both [dream and obsession] it depends who you ask. Every professional player wants to win the Champions League and be on top. If you can win the Champions League, you’ve reached one of the biggest things you can.”
City will begin as firm favourites. “I don’t control people’s opinions – just focus on what we have to do,” Guardiola said. “I saw their games and we try to do our game. Everything finishes with a game and the team who performs best over 95 minutes will win.
“Inter Milan is bigger than us, in terms of history, but what’s important is that at 10pm Istanbul time we do the best performance possible and that can make the difference. The most important thing is not to think at 0-0 you are losing – Italian teams can think at 0-0 they are winning and they are not. In both circumstances you have to be stable.”
The manager was asked what he learned from the loss to Chelsea. “I’d like to tell you the lessons but I don’t know,” he said. “It’s a different game, players. If we win [my plan] will be good. I’ve a feeling we are ready, the players will give everything, knowing the opponent, but yeah – go for it.”
City fans often boo the Champions League anthem but Guardiola stated Saturday’s occasion is one for them to celebrate. “Absolutely, I agree, a day to celebrate, Inter and City fans to be happy to be here,” he said. “It’s an incredible competition, we are here to support what Uefa is doing and we are not going to boo any more. Support the team, support the game and try to have fun.”
De Bruyne’s link play with Erling Haaland has been key in the latter’s 52 goals this season, 12 of which have come in the Champions League. The Belgian was asked whether it was “love at first sight” when Haaland joined last summer.
He joked at first, then answered seriously. “No, no. I’m happy with my wife,” he said. “It’s something that I can’t really explain; you just have a feeling with a player. You understand what he wants, he understands what I can do. He started scoring at an incredible rate – it helped him settle. Even in the last games he’s been really important for us in different ways.”
Simone Inzaghi, meanwhile, says Inter have a “huge opportunity” to write a page in the club’s history by beating City.
The head coach is conscious that Guardiola’s side will start as firm favourites but urged his players to seize the chance, the club having last claimed the trophy under José Mourinho in 2010.
“Absolutely, a huge opportunity to write a page of Inter history,” said Inzaghi. “We know how tough it will be and together is the key word. Together we will try to make history.”
Haaland has scored 12 goals in the competition for City in a career total of 35 in 29 games. “We know how strong City are and what a player Haaland is,” Inzaghi said. “We will clearly have a special eye for him. We have set up a strategy, I have prepared a strategy, but it will be the whole of Inter trying to limit not just him but the whole of City.
“We know what kind of match to expect and what we have to do. City right now are probably the best team in the world. They have lost very few times but we are aware of our Champions League campaign and we will do our very best. We must make no mistakes.”
Hakan Calhanoglu, who is expected to start for Inter, was born in Germany but opted to play for Turkey owing to his heritage. Ilkay Gündogan, who was also born in Germany and has Turkish antecedents, plays for Germany. Calhanoglu suggested Turks may prefer him to win the final rather than Gündongan.
“I love Ilkay,” he said. “I respect him so much. I respect his decision to play for Germany. I know it’s very important for two Turks to play in this final. I know Turks will be supporting me. Perhaps for my people it is important that I win.” – Guardian