10 players who will decide the 2023 Champions League final between Manchester City and Inter Milan
Manchester City and Inter Milan face off in the Champions League final on Saturday.
City made it to the final, beating two of the most historic clubs in the game, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Despite reaching the final two seasons ago, City have yet to win the competition, having been knocked out in memorable fashion by Madrid’s Remontada the previous year.
At the same time, Inter Milan is at a disadvantage. While Manchester City won the Premier League, Inter Milan finished third in Serie A. Simeone Inzaghi looked likely to be sacked during a difficult period but was unable to finish in the top four.
However, Inzaghi persevered and his strategy paid off. Inter won the Coppa Italia and knocked out city rivals AC Milan in the semi-finals to reach the pinnacle of European football. Yes, their path has been easier than City’s, but the Nerazzurri’s success here still deserves the utmost respect.
Before the Champions League final begins, let’s take a look at the 10 players (5 players per team) who will decide the outcome of this match.
Manchester City ST Erling Haaland: See, we really don’t have to spend much time talking about Erling Haaland. If Manchester City also win this game, then Haaland will receive another “man of the match” award, because he scored 12 goals in 10 games.
Of course, the 22-year-old superstar does more than score goals. He has 8 assists in the Premier League and has done just as well in the Champions League despite just 1 assist. Haaland’s movement off the ball freed up a lot of space for the midfielder to shoot from outside the box.
Inter San Lautaro Martinez: Lautaro is on fire. The Argentine star striker is back to his best after recovering from a slump in form that led to Inter’s own slump. He was unavailable at times in the semi-final, doing his best to win possession for his team and making all the right decisions with and without the ball. In world football, you can’t find many strikers who work hard for the team like Lautaro, because he has grown into the leader of Inter Milan.
In this game, Martinez only had 3 goals and 3 assists, but he performed well in averaging 1 key pass and 1 foul per game. There were a few games where he was crucial to wins despite not scoring, and that’s really the hallmark of a top number nine.
Manchester City RW Bernardo Silva: Bernardo Silva was the man who tore Bayern Munich apart, another attacking player who helped the team a lot off the ball. Silva is like a coach on the pitch because he knows exactly which spaces to exploit and is a demon when it comes to pressing defenders.
Inter star centre-back Alessandro Bastoni was supposed to give his full support to Silva, but the Portugal star will not have any specific goals. See, Silva is Pep Guardiola’s favorite pawn and you can bet the legendary manager has something special in store for his tricky left foot.
Inter San Romelu Lukaku: Edin Dzeko usually starts alongside Lautaro for Inter, as Simeone Inzaghi has a wise tendency to substitute his forwards and wide midfielders early on to mix things up. You’d be hard-pressed to think of a more game-changing substitute than the former 2020/21 Serie A MVP, who led Inter Milan to the league title and broke Juventus’ monopoly.
Still, Romelu Lukaku is so good that maybe Inter will finally start him in the Champions League final. Lautaro was on fire, but Lukaku showed a different level in possession. He’s such a brilliant creator and grows stronger, using his body to embarrass any grown man who would dare try to deprive him.
The Belgian is also a lot like Silva because he has a high football IQ and he is like a coach on the pitch. What about his end? Gosh, he’s scored some beautiful goals lately. Some Premier League fans still have fond memories of him, but they could be jolted awake in Istanbul this weekend.
Manchester City DM Rodri: When we talk about City’s ’10’ players this season, we have to make sure Rodri is on that list. When you look at his ability to protect a back four with his reading of the game and screens and near-perfect passing, the defensive midfielder is probably the best in the world at his position.
Rodri’s passing has been accurate and progressive, and he has even provided six assists in the Premier League this season. He also maintains the highest standard of defense in the Champions League, making even the best teams in the world virtually impeccable.
Inter midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu: The former Bayer Leverkusen, Hamburg and Milan star now has a chance at immortality on European football’s biggest stage in his home country. To be honest, his half-time free-kick against Borussia Dortmund during his time with Hamburg is already immortalized, but this is a more important opportunity to go down in history.
Hakan Çalhanoğlu, who is playing the best football of his life in 2023, has moved on to Inzaghi’s “regista” role. The 29-year-old can not only excel from set pieces, but also shoot from outside the box. Calhanoglu has established himself as one of European football’s elite ball-handlers, improving his physicality and defensive efficiency for a white-hot Inter Milan side.
Manchester City CB Rúben Dias: There are so many talented up-and-coming centre-backs in the Premier League, but Ruben Dias may still be the most complete centre-back in the league. Dias has delivered masterclass after masterclass on the Champions League stage, though he has received little recognition, including sending off Karim Benzema against Real Madrid.
The Portuguese standout will face a tougher showdown in the middle of a back three (presumably) with a potential Lula duo this weekend. Facing Lautaro or Roma alone is bad enough, but covering and marking both of them is a difficult task. Dias is a world-class player and honestly more consistent than those two forwards, which is a good thing.
Inter CB Francesco Acerbi: On the other hand, Francisco Acerbi has proven to be a shrewd free addition for Lazio, making Inter fans forget about Milan Skriniar heading to Paris Saint-Germain. However, dealing with Erling Haaland is a whole different equation. There is a reason Inter fans wish him the best of luck.
While Archer is better on the ball and arguably has more stamina than anyone in Serie A, those feel-good things often don’t matter to a machine like Haaland. Much will depend on Acerby’s ability to use all his veteran skills to stay one step ahead of the Premier League’s biggest superstars.
Manchester City CM Kevin De Bruyne: Kevin De Bruyne has been almost as incredible as Erling Haaland this season, showing his game-changing qualities with a stunning equalizer against Real Madrid in the first leg. No stranger to the Champions League stage, KDB knew his legacy would be on the line on Saturday night; he needed to get the job done with a major trophy.
De Bruyne has been at his creative best this year in the Champions League, delivering 2.3 key passes per game and totaling six assists. Inter Milan itself has an elite midfielder, but who can really stop De Bruyne? When this football supercomputer is locked down, no one prays because no one can understand the mental plane he’s on.
Inter Milan LM Federico Dimarco: Simone Inzaghi’s favorite flanking X-factor, Federico Dimarco has been the Nerazzurri’s unsung hero in 2022/23. Of course, Di Marco is no stranger to being underrated as he excelled at Verona before being shrewdly selected by Inter Milan.
DiMarco likes to work with the forwards in tight areas and aggressively rush into the box or advance the pitch to win possession when crosses end. He often set up Denzel Dumfries on the other flank, or scored on the Dutchman’s runs. Di Marco is not the biggest star in this final, but he is likely to shine in a crucial moment for Inter Milan and catch the favourites off guard. He’s done it many times this season.