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Champions League final: Where Man City vs Inter could be won and lost

From the Haaland factor to Inter's mentality monsters, we put the finer details of the UEFA Champions League final under the microscope.

Manchester City forward Erling Haaland and Inter's Lautaro Martínez
Manchester City forward Erling Haaland and Inter's Lautaro Martínez UEFA.com

UEFA.com draws on the expertise of its expert team reporters in Istanbul to consider the fine margins which may decide Saturday's UEFA Champions League final between Manchester City and Inter.

Champions League final build-up

The Haaland factor

On the rare occasions they aren't at their best, City have a striker in Erling Haaland who is capable of deciding games on his own. Haaland can drift in and out of matches but, when presented with a clear opening, the phenomenal Norwegian rarely misses. The 22-year-old's razor-sharp eye for goal could prove the difference if the contest in Istanbul is a tight, edgy affair – as is often the case in games of this magnitude. So too his ability to attract players, with Inter's three-man back line leaving them slightly vulnerable to width, and the English side aren't lacking there either.

Erling Haaland: Every Champions League goal this season

Barella vs Rodri

Few teams have dominated the midfield battle with City over the past few seasons, so it's vital that Inter's ball winners stick diligently to their task. Important too that, in doing so, they don't neglect their duties in possession. Much rests on Nicolò Barella, an all-action midfielder who buzzes around the middle of the park before seeking to add some sting with his service to Lautaro Martínez, in particular. His opponent? Rodri, the Spaniard enjoying possibly his best season yet and the leader in the competition of just about every metric on a midfielder's report card.

Inter's mentality monsters

City still bear the scars of their disappointing 2021 final performance, when their pre-match favourites tag was ruthlessly torn from them by Chelsea. That could add extra fire in City's bellies and give them the edge; it could also have the opposite effect of dousing the flames, and Inter are well disposed to raining on teams' parades. Simone Inzaghi's side are battle-hardened in knockout competitions, losing just one of their last 20 cup-format games and clinching back-to-back Coppa Italia titles. If they have a sniff, the Nerazzurri will always take their chance.

Every Inter goal on their road to the Champions League final

Settled XI paying dividends

In seasons gone by, some accused Pep Guardiola of 'overthinking' his team selections and tactics for City's biggest games. Not this season. The 52-year-old has been reluctant to tinker with his system in the knockout stage, an approach vindicated by mature away performances and ruthless displays on home soil. If City can combine the two against Inter, they will be very difficult to beat. Inter too have been settled, but Inzaghi has decisions to make because of form and fitness, with Romelu Lukaku and Marcelo Brozović both pushing for starting spots – do the Italian hopefuls stick or twist?

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