Manchester City faces Inter Milan in European club football’s biggest game.
Pep Guardiola’s team has already won the Premier League title and FA Cup this season and is bidding to win the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history.
“It’s absolutely a dream,” the City manager said. “To achieve things you always have to have the correct proportion of obsession and desire. It’s a positive word for the desire and will to win it. It is of course a dream for us.”
Inter is the underdog, but has a more storied history in Europe than City, having won the trophy three times previously.
It is in its first final since winning the competition in 2010 under Jose Mourinho.
“We know Manchester City is now probably the best team in the world,” said Inter coach Simone Inzaghi. “They have proved that because have been defeated very few times. We are also aware of our Champions League campaign. We are proud of what we did and will do our very best to play the final.”
City will emulate Manchester United’s feat from 1999 if it wins the three biggest trophies in one season.
While Erling Haaland is feeling the weight of expectations ahead of Saturday’s Champions League final, Lautaro Martinez is aiming to complete a spectacular double, six months after winning the World Cup with Argentina.
They are the players who could make the difference when Manchester City faces Inter Milan at Istanbul’s Ataturk Olimpiyat Stadium.
“Of course I feel pressure,” said Haaland, the prolific City striker. “I would lie if I said I didn’t. You say it yourself and it’s true — they (City) won the Premier League without me, they won every trophy without me. So I’m here to try to do a thing that the club has never done before and I’ll do my best.”
Haaland’s frank admission is a measure of what is at stake in European club soccer’s biggest game.
He has appeared to have ice in his veins in his first season at City in which he has scored 52 goals, won two trophies and is now on the brink of leading the club to its first Champions League title.
The prospect of conquering Europe, however, has been playing on his mind as the final approaches.
Martinez may not be as celebrated as Haaland, but he is one of Inter’s few stars in a team that features a number of veteran players and is an unlikely finalist.
The Italian club is in its first final since winning the competition in 2010 under Jose Mourinho, having done little in the Champions League in the intervening years.
In Martinez, it has a player who lifted soccer’s biggest prize when Argentina won the World Cup in Qatar in December.
“I think these are the two major finals a footballer can play. The only thing that changes is the shirt,” he said Friday. “You know you’ve made it to the very end thanks to all the work you’ve done and how hard you’ve worked throughout the year. If you want to really achieve that goal, the very last step you must be ready to take.”
Should Inter upset the odds and win the Champions League, Martinez would emulate another Argentine striker, Diego Militao, who was part of that team from 2010.
“I do feel responsibility. I have been at Inter for five years. We are all ready for the final,” he added. “You have got to have the will to win and lift that trophy. We’ve brought that spirit that has been missing for a while. We have the opportunity to win a trophy that has been missing for several years.”
Haaland represents the biggest threat to Inter after establishing himself as probably the most lethal striker in the world this season.
His 36 Premier League goals have set a new benchmark in England’s top division.
He became the fastest and youngest player to reach 30 Champions League goals and equaled Lionel Messi and Luiz Adriano’s feat of scoring five times in one match in the competition.
Then there have been the trophies — winning the league title and FA Cup to leave City one game away from a treble that would emulate Manchester United’s achievement in 1999.
Inter may be the underdog, but it is looking to win its fourth European Cup.
It has also tasted very recent success having won the Italian league in 2021, back-to-back Italian Cups in 2022 and 2023, and the Italian Super Cup this season.