Istanbul is all set to crown the new kings of Europe.
The historic Turkish metropolis is hosting Saturday’s Champions League showdown between Manchester City and Inter Milan, the first time the English and Italian clubs are meeting in the final of the continent’s top club football competition.
The Champions League final is returning to Istanbul’s Ataturk Olympic Stadium, a sprawling venue that can host 72,000 fans, after nearly two decades.
Fans would be yearning for a repeat of the 2005 thriller dubbed the “Miracle of Istanbul,” a final that also featured English and Italian clubs.
Liverpool, led by Steven Gerrard, overturned a three-goal half-time deficit in just six minutes to take AC Milan to a penalty shootout, where the Reds eventually prevailed to complete a remarkable comeback that lives on in footballing folklore.
That was the highest-scoring European final since 1960, when Real Madrid thrashed Frankfurt 7-3 in Glasgow.
Both of this year’s finalists have a lot riding on the game.
For Manchester City, a win would complete a historic treble and finally give them the one title still missing from a glittering trophy cabinet.
Inter Milan, on the other hand, are gunning for a first European title since 2010, when Jose Mourinho guided them to Champions League glory.
- City’s road to Istanbul
City have been in every Champions League competition since the 2011-12 season, but are yet to lift the coveted cup.
Saturday’s clash is their second final in three seasons, following the 2021 defeat to English rivals Chelsea in Porto.
Pep Guardiola’s side has been in imperious form this season and will take the field as firm favorites.
City won Group G and then blew away RB Leipzig in the Round of 16, courtesy of a thumping 7-0 win in the home leg that saw Erling Haaland net five times.
Next up came German powerhouse Bayern Munich. The first leg in Germany ended all-square as Haaland’s goal was canceled out by a late Joshua Kimmich penalty.
In the home game, City turned on the style and romped to a comfortable 3-0 win on the night.
Their biggest challenge, at least on paper, was the semifinal against defending champions Real Madrid.
Things turned out quite differently, though, as the Premier League champions hammered Madrid 4-0 in the first leg at home, while the away leg ended 1-1 and City booked their spot in Istanbul with a 5-1 aggregate victory.
- Inter’s road to Istanbul
Inter Milan have a strong European pedigree, boasting back-to-back titles in 1964 and 1965, and won their last Champions League title in 2010.
That final was at Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, where a brace from striker Diego Milito fired Inter to a 2-0 win over Bayern Munich.
This season, Simone Inzaghi’s team finished Group C as runners-up, before defeating Portuguese sides Porto and Benfica in the Round of 16 and quarterfinals, respectively.
Their semifinal was an all-Milan affair. Inter faced off with archrivals AC Milan for a spot in the final and triumphed 3-0 over two legs.
Inter finished third in Serie A this season, but won the Coppa Italia in May and will be raring to add Europe’s top crown to their season’s trophy haul.
- Goals galore for City
Manchester City lead this season’s Champions League scoring charts with 31 goals, miles ahead of Inter’s tally of 19.
Haaland is the top scorer with 12 strikes and will be the English club’s main goal threat in the final.
For Inter, Bosnian forward Edin Dzeko has scored four goals in Europe this season.