Champions League Final Best Bets, Saturday, June 10
Manchester City vs. Inter Milan
Saturday, 3:00 p.m ET
The football world will focus on the Ataturk Olympic Stadium on Saturday as the biggest club tournament on the planet reaches its conclusion, bringing the curtain down on a fantastic 2022/23 season.
Istanbul was the scene of one of football’s greatest-ever finals in 2005 when Liverpool famously overcame a 3-0 deficit against AC Milan to eventually lift the trophy after triumphing in a nerve-wracking penalty shootout. If Saturday’s game is anywhere close to that in terms of excitement, then we are in for a real treat.
With both Manchester City and Internazionale being the form teams of recent months in Europe in their own domestic leagues, the potential is most definitely there.
For Manchester City’s coach Pep Guardiola, who will be only the fourth manager in history to lift Europe’s crown jewel three times if the Citizens win on Saturday, it has been yet another overwhelming successful season in England.
Last weekend, he oversaw The Citizens lift the FA Cup against city rivals Manchester United after capturing another Premier League title, and will now be looking to replicate Manchester United’s iconic win against Bayern Munich at the Barcelona Nou Camp in 1999, the last time an English club won the famous treble.
In my eyes, this Manchester City team is the best English club side we have ever seen. A completion of the major trophy treble on Saturday night will mark them as arguably one of the best club teams the world has ever seen, and there’s no doubt they have all the weapons available to start that discussion if they are victorious against Inter.
The addition of Erling Haaland to Pep’s team has undoubtedly been a revelation, as the big Norwegian 22-year-old has gone on to smash the record books in his first season in England.
It’s not all about Haaland though. As was demonstrated at Wembley Stadium last week, City have attacking outlets all over the field when opposing defenses are drawn towards him.
Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin De Bruyne and Jack Grealish are always on hand to contribute if the Viking has two central defenders assigned to him.
Much has obviously been said about City’s attacking force, but when out of possession, contributions by every player have invariably kept the opposing side very quiet, and I feel they don’t get enough credit for their defensive actions.
Against the powerhouses of Europe, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, their out-of-possession organizational play was exemplary, and City have only conceded five goals in their run to the final.
Domestically, their defensive form has also been robust, not conceding more than one goal in a game since a 4-2 win against Tottenham Hotspur in mid-January.
Interestingly, Pep’s opposite number at Inter Milan, Simone Inzaghi, will have noticed that Tottenham’s tactical formation with two sole attackers, is quite a similar set-up to which he deploys for his Nerazzurri team.
The Inter coach will no doubt be examining potential weaknesses and ways his own two strikers, ex-Man City forward Edin Dzeko, and World Cup winner Lautaro Martinez, can cause confusion and disruption in threatening the City defense.
It does seem a tough job for Simone Inzaghi, whose brother Pippo, contributed to AC Milan’s run before being injured for the famous Turkish final back in 2005. It still rankles the Inzaghi family, and Simone will be looking to make amends.
Inter have been the best Serie A team in the last three months, with most of that spark coming from their desire to convert their overall superiority in the Italian league into goals.
The strong engine room in midfield of Nicolo Barella and Marcelo Brozovic is complimented well, with the runs of Denzel Dumfries and Federico Dimarco looking to supply Dzeko and Martinez, in a 3-5-2 formation to which Manchester City will have not been used to playing against this season.
Pep’s attention to detail in preparation on the training ground is second to none though, and he will have had his side well-drilled against Inter’s expected unfamiliar set-up. Their intricate automated passing play will no doubt be adapted and should nullify Inter’s best chances of an upset on Saturday.
The first 20 minutes will be all-important in a game of this magnitude, and it would be sensible and expected for both teams to sound each other out with an element of caution. As the game progresses and the pace increases, I expect Manchester City to wear down the midfield and breach the compact backline of the Nerazzurri.
The strength in every area Guardiola has at his disposal will eventually simply be too much, and I expect the crowning of his team as one of the very best club sides ever to be confirmed at the end of 90 minutes.
With the expectation of a cautious opening period, I’ll be looking at the Under 3 total goal line which is available at -150 and is a push if there are exactly 3 goals scored, but my main play will be on Manchester City to win to nil which is available at +150, and I would go down to +136 with a 1-0 or 2-0 City win both at +600 worthy of some pizza money.