. Haaland and Martinez, show and cold
For Inter, the number one threat is Haaland, a cold monster who has rattled the net 52 times since his arrival last summer. The 22-year-old Norwegian has scored 36 goals in the Premier League, a record for a season (with eight assists), and already 12 in 10 European matches.
The blond giant with multiple nicknames - "Viking", "Cyborg" or "Terminator", his favorite - has already justified the 60 million euros paid, according to the reference site Transfermarkt, to Dortmund and reduced to ashes his supposed incompatibility with the licked game of Pep Guardiola's Sky Blues.
Beware of the blow of the breakdown, however. The No.9 has scored only once in his last seven games. His current streak of four goalless games is unprecedented with the Citizens.
The dynamic is opposite for Lautaro Martinez. "Toro", Inter's Argentine world champions, have planted 11 banderilles in his last 13 appearances in all competitions after an eight-match drought at the end of the winter.
Inter Milan's Argentine striker Lautaro Martinez training at Ataturk Stadium on June 9, 2023 in Istanbul © FRANCK FIFE / AFP
Up front, the shady 25-year-old striker tortures defenses with dean Edin Dzeko (37, formerly of City) or the powerful Romelu Lukaku.
. Ederson and Onana, quiet forces
Andre Onana, the Inter goalkeeper, does not have a nightmare before facing Haaland. "In this life, I am only afraid of God, and I do not see him on the ground," he told reporters on Monday.
"Why wouldn't I be relaxed? I really have no pressure," added the Cameroonian, joining the smiles to the word. "We know it won't be easy but we'll be there. They have more pressure than us, so I'm happy."
At 27, the former Ajax Amsterdam goalkeeper is playing in his first Champions League final, unlike his Brazilian counterpart Ederson, beaten by Chelsea in 2021.
Cameroonian goalkeeper Andre Onana, of Inter Milan, at training at the Ataturk Stadium on June 9, 2023 in Istanbul © FRANCK FIFE / AFP
"The players who have been there for five or six years have experienced these kinds of defeats, we have learned from them and it has helped us grow as a team," the Citizen said.
The 29-year-old tattooed also plays casual before the final bouquet. "City's goalkeepers have to stay calm in these situations and show personality."
Renowned for his excellent footwork, he does not intend to renounce his principles, even if it means taking risks. "We know that opponents come to press us, try to recover the ball higher, but I am happy to have several options also to try and succeed in finding passes."
. De Bruyne vs. Mkhitaryan, the battle in the middle
Manchester City's Brazilian goalkeeper Ederson at training at Ataturk Stadium on Jun 9, 2023 in Istanbul © Paul ELLIS / AFP
"Score more goals, defend better" is the key to beating Inter according to Kevin De Bruyne, centerpiece of the Mancunian midfield since 2015.
A tireless stalker, expert in passing, the 31-year-old midfielder provides valuable ammunition to Haaland and other gunners, when he is not himself finishing.
The new captain of the Belgian Red Devils distinguished himself with a double of assists against Real Madrid (4-0) in the semi-final return of the Champions League, in mid-May, then in the final of the FA Cup last weekend against Manchester United (2-1).
To neutralize "KDB" and his gang, Inter are betting on a three-man midfield where Armenian Henrikh Mkhitaryan will have a central role, if he is however recovered in time from his thigh injury.
"City are the best team in Europe, also in midfield," said the former Manchester United player. But we also have a very strong midfield with Barella, Çalhanoglu and Brozovic, players who can take the ball from City and keep it."
Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan training at Ataturk Stadium on June 9, 2023 in Istanbul © FRANCK FIFE / AFP
. Gündogan and Çalhanoglu in Istanbul
The final in Istanbul has a symbolic dimension for midfielders Hakan Çalhanoglu (Inter) and Ilkay Gündogan (City), born in Germany and of Turkish origin.
The first defends the colors of Turkey, the second has chosen to represent the Mannschaft.
"I am very happy and proud to play this final in my country, it is a great pride and a lot of emotions," said Friday Çalhanoglu who, if successful, would become the first Turk to win the C1.
For Gündogan, lifting the cup with City would be like a swan song. After seven seasons in Manchester, the captain at the end of his contract could take off, perhaps in Barcelona if we believe the Spanish press.
Inter Milan's Turkish midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu against AC Milan in the C1 semi-final second leg on May 16, 2023 in Milan © GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP/Archives
The 32-year-old midfielder arrives in Istanbul after scoring six times in six games. His doubles proved invaluable in the final sprint in the Premier League, against Leeds (2-1) and Everton (3-0), and in the FA Cup final against the Red Devils.
© 2023 AFP