Champions League final: How can Inter Milan break Manchester City's defence and extend Pep Guardiola's UCL drought
If City does beat Inter, which many believe will be the case, the Spaniard will become the first manager in history to lead them to a UCL crown.
Despite dominating the footballing scene in England and Europe, Pep Guardiola's Manchester City have always crumbled at the biggest stage of the UEFA Champions League (UCL), which are the knockouts. It has either been the VAR – the epic quarterfinal between City and Tottenham Hotspur in 2019. Or a failed experiment – the UCL final against Chelsea in 2021 when Guardiola surprisingly dropped then skipper Fernandinho and Rodri from the base of his midfield, a big reason behind their 1-0 defeat.
This was not it, City then squandered an absolutely certain victory against Real Madrid last year, which saw the 14-time UCL winners bang three goals – two in injury time, and one in extra time – to extend Guardiola's agonising wait for a UCL title since his departure from Barcelona.
Guardiola now has a golden chance to end his UCL drought as City face Inter Milan in the final at Istanbul on Saturday. If City does beat Inter, which many believe will be the case, the Spaniard will become the first manager in history to lead them to a UCL crown, a trophy which has eluded the English giants for years. However, considering the occasion, even a mistake by the barest margin can spell another year of doom.
Discussing the same with Ashley Westwood, a Sony Sports panelist for the UCL final, he feels the past record will “give them (Inter) hope”, but predicted City as the runaway winners.
When asked how Inter can break the City defence, with probably Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte or Nathan Ake at the heart, Westwood admitted counter-attacking to be the best mechanism. “It's certainly going to be that (counterattacking) because Man City will dominate possession," Westwood told hindustantimes.com over a zoom call.
However, he also suggested other ways on how Inter can penetrate through City's defence. And in order to do so Westwood handpicked a few names, who he thinks will have to do the job for the Serie A side.
"The problem they (Inter) have is they play five defenders. (Denzel) Dumfries, (Federico) Dimarco as the wingbacks, who will be asked to defend deep and they have to get forward very quickly because they are the ones who are going to provide the crosses for (Edin) Dzeko to get on the end of. And maybe (Lautaro) Martinez is to pick up pieces around it.
"The only other way you can possibly see them getting a goal is if they could quickly get the ball into Martinez so they can get turn. Maybe (Nicolò) Barella can spring from defense to attack, show his athleticism and get into the box, slip through for Dzeko down the side of central defender. But they have to be fast in transition. Because once Manchester City retreat to their shape, they are very hard to break down.”