The 2022/23 Champions League final is the most one-sided the bookmakers have seen for at least 20 years, probably longer. The favourite in European club football’s showpiece occasion tends to go off at a shade under even money, but Manchester City will be a lot shorter than that.
Saturday, June 10 – 8pm: Manchester City v Inter Milan
Champions League Final – Atatürk Stadium, Istanbul (Turkey)
TV: BT Sport 1, BT Sport Ultimate, BT Sport App and BT Sport YouTube
This isn’t to say that Inter have no chance of a shock. If Nathan Jones can end City’s quadruple hopes, anything is possible. It’s not easy to find value for such a potentially lopsided match with so much on the line, though, so before putting your money where your mouth is, give some consideration to some of these nuggets of wisdom.
The head-to-head record
The headline news here is that these sides are meeting competitively for the first time ever. However, we can extend our head-to-head search. City have faced Italian opposition four times under Pep Guardiola, winning three matches and drawing the other.
In the same period, Inter have faced three sides from the Premier League, winning and losing a game against each. Two opponents were in Group Stages, one was Southampton (!) and Inter went out every time.
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Doesn’t bode well for them, does it? There is a head-to-head element they can use to their advantage though. Manager Simone Inzaghi favours a 3-5-2 formation. There has been one exception this season and Inter played 3-1-4-2. It’s not exactly Pep Roulette on the tactics, is it?
But look at City’s record this season. They lost five times in the 2022/23 Premier League and three of them were against sides who started with a back three or five. These results were no fluke either. City averaged 2.0 expected goals per league match this season, but 2.2 against back fours and 1.7 when faced with three centre-backs.
Something in that region should still be more than enough to win. But 7 of City’s 12 worst attacking outputs occurred against back threes so the final could be closer than you assume.
City’s road to Istanbul began with a 4-0 win at Sevilla, a fixture and score line which may well be repeated in the Super Cup in Greece in August. They’ve played five away matches in the competition since then and do you know how many goals they’ve scored? Just three, each bagged by a different player (Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez and You Know Who).
While a final isn’t a home or away game in the traditional sense, Inter have scored more goals on the road than City have in the 2022/23 Champions League. Both Nicolo Barella and former City man Edin Dzeko each only have one fewer away European goal than Erling Haaland this season.
The Norwegian is the obvious choice in the goal scorer market but it would be a mistake to assume he is nailed-on to score. If Inter are going to focus on stopping one player it will likely be him so there may be better value options.
History of finals
The last three Champions League finals all ended 1-0 and the one prior only saw it’s second goal in the 87th minute. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the finals before that which featured more goals and both teams scoring were those with a less strong favourite. With Inter such an underdog, they will do everything they can to keep City at bay and won’t take any risks, looking to hit them on the break.
While they didn’t face anyone as strong as Guardiola’s guys, the Italian side also kept five clean sheets in their six knockout phase games. Even when they did concede – against Benfica – two of the three goals occurred after Inter were already 5-1 up on aggregate and the tie was dead. It would not be surprising if this played out in similar fashion to the previous few finals.
Leaving aside the 2020 final between Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain, as there were eight yellow cards, the last four Champions League finals have seen just five bookings between them. There could be more here though. The appointment of referee Szymon Marciniak is fascinating and not just thanks to what he gets up to in his spare time.
He took charge of Inter’s 3-3 draw with Barcelona in the group stage, sending off Inzaghi for dissent. Marciniak also booked Francesco Acerbi for time wasting in their last 16 draw at Porto, while Mike Maignan got a yellow card from the same ref for the same offence when AC Milan drew 1-1 with Napoli in the quarter-finals.
Inter may have to resort to any tricks they can to get over the line and a ref who averages 3.9 cards per game in the Champions League has shown he’s happy to book players for the sort of infractions we might see. If Inzaghi’s side manage to go in front, Marciniak could end up taking down a lot of names.
He might point to the spot too, having awarded 19 penalties in his 34 games in this competition over the last seven seasons. If you think that will be a factor, note that Erling Haaland has taken nine spot kicks in 2022/23, with Riyad Mahrez (six) City’s clear deputy.
Having had seven in total, Inter would love to have players with those sort of numbers. As it is, Romelu Lukaku has taken four, Lautaro Martinez two and Hakan Calhanoglu one.
*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change.
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