Champions League: finally time for Manchester City?

Never crowned, the wealthy English club Manchester City, with the ogre Erling Haaland and the brilliant Pep Guardiola, is tutoying his dream of the Champions League in the final, Saturday (19h GMT), but Inter Milan is not "afraid" and hopes for a new "miracle" in Istanbul.

Manchester City will be favourites against Inter Milan in the Champions League final. (illustration). Action Images via Reuters - JASON CAIRNDUFF

Text by: RFI Follow


Read more

The Italians, surprise finalists, advance to the Atatürk Olympic Stadium (72,000 seats) with above them the imposing shadow of the Sky Blues, great favorites with their attacking giant, their successful coach and their wealthy Emirati owner.

In football, as in fairy tales, however, sometimes the Little Thumb triumphs. Manchester City know history and do not intend to repeat the same mistakes as in their first and last final, lost to Chelsea in 2021. "What a privilege to make two finals in three years, it's incredible, but in the end, you have to win the Champions League to prove what you're worth," said Guardiola, weaned from C1 since the 2009 and 2011 titles acquired on the bench of FC Barcelona.

🇹🇷🌅 #UCLfinal

— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) June 9, 2023

Time is becoming long for the Catalan as for Sheikh Mansour, member of the Emirati royal family and buyer of the club in 2008. His Abu Dhabi United Group controls the dominant club in England, winner of seven of the last twelve Premier League and world champions in revenue (731M euros last season according to Deloitte), but he is still waiting to become the first owner-state to lift the Cup with big ears.

It still belongs for a few hours to Real Madrid, the defending champions, which Manchester City methodically crushed in the semi-final return (4-0) at the Etihad Stadium.

Quest for a hat-trick

Three weeks after this collective masterpiece, defender or midfielder John Stones is wary of the label of favorites that sticks to their skin. In the FA Cup, for example, "there are killers of giants, small teams in the third or fourth division that beat champions of the Premier League or others, and that's where the humility, the respect that each team deserves, and the quality of the players it has, manifests."

The Citizens have so far made a clean sweep this season, beating Arsenal to the post in the league and snatching the FA Cup under Manchester United's nose and beard. They are now aiming for the "Treble" that the Red Devils, their neighbors and rivals, achieved in 1999.

They have a formidable ace up their sleeve with Erling Haaland, the scarecrow of defences with his 52 goals scored since his arrival last summer from Dortmund.

Alessandro Bastoni, one of the three central defenders in charge of monitoring the Norwegian giant (1.94m), ensures not to tremble. "We are afraid of murderers, not footballers. It would be a mistake to talk about fear."

>> Read also: Champions League: André Onana, the Indomitable who challenges Manchester City

The Nerazzurri, third in Serie A, are also not without offensive triggers with Edin Dzeko or Romelu Lukaku to accompany the Argentine "Toro" Lautaro Martinez, fresh world champion. They also have dangerous full-backs, a midfield with strong pressing and direct forward play.

The club with three European titles (1964, 1965, 2010) certainly benefited from a more accessible table than its opponent, but it was able to keep its nerves strong in the derby of the semis (victories 2-0 then 1-0) against AC Milan, in particular. "We are a big club and we have a lot of expectations. When Inter find themselves in the final, they have to win. If you look at it that way, we're not the underdog because history speaks for us. We are all great players, we know how to play the finals," said André Onana.

The Cameroonian goalkeeper dreams out loud before entering the Atatürk Olympic Stadium, famous for Liverpool's legendary 2005 final on penalties, after being led 3-0 at half-time by AC Milan. The Reds have shown the way, Inter also want their "miracle of Istanbul".

Polish referee Szymon Marciniak and the meeting that almost cost him his place

With our correspondent in Warsaw, Martin Chabal

A few weeks ago, Szymon Marciniak gave a lecture at a rally organized by a far-right party, which could have cost him his place.

The ideals of the Polish far right would have been stain alongside the traditional message broadcast during Champions League matches: "say no To racism".

Because Sławomir Mentzen, who organized this meeting, is the leader of the far-right New Hope party, eurosceptic and monarchist, and is known for publicly saying that it is "against Jews, homosexuals, abortion, taxation and the European Union."

Far from the message of unity that the competition tries to spread.

So UEFA, the boss of European football, investigated. And without the need to use video refereeing, the Polish referee apologized for this conference. He said he was deceived, that he was not aware that it was organized by the Polish far right. He added that he consistently supports UEFA's values, in particular inclusiveness and respect.

Apologies accepted for the European football authorities. Marciniak does not deserve a red card for his conference. He will therefore whistle well the beginning of the match this Saturday.

On the other hand, it is a failure for the Polish far-right party. He wanted to capitalize on the aura of the one who had already refereed the final of the World Cup last winter to win support a few months before the elections. There is little chance of seeing them side by side.


With AFP


Newsletter Receive all the international news directly in your mailbox

I subscribe

Follow all the international news by downloading the RFI application

Read on on the same topics:

  • UEFA Champions League