Men's Team

Gundogan: We have to be ‘wide awake’ against Inter!

Ilkay Gundogan says Inter will be formidable opponents in the Champions League final and insists City will have to be ‘wide awake’ against them.

Gundogan offered his verdict on ‘aggressive’ Inter, three-time winners of the competition, as he looked ahead to the prestigious final on Saturday, kick-off 20:00 (UK time).

The captain expects City to dominate the ball this weekend but stresses that the sky blues must be alive to the counter-attacking threat of the Italians.

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He said: “Inter didn’t get to the final for nothing. They have great qualities even though it wasn't enough for them to win their league this year. But they did win the National Cup [Coppa Italia].

“They are a team that knows how to win titles. They are very aggressive in their way of playing. Maybe they are more focussed on the defensive side but they also have amazing qualities going forward. They are a very stable team.

“They usually don’t concede too many goals, so it won’t be easy. We know they will probably be happy to let us have the ball, and it will be up to us to make the most of that.

“We will need to watch out for counter attacks. We have to be wide awake. Especially in a final, anything can happen. So we have to be fully focused.”

Gundogan, as you can see, is expecting Inter to rely on their defensive resilience in the 67th edition of the prestigious European competition.

But he knows that City have a formidable striker in Erling Haaland, who will be eager for goals to see off the Nerazzurri.

Haaland has hit a remarkable 52 in all competitions across 2022/23, including 12 in the Champions League so far this season – putting him top of the scoring charts.

In fact, one more goal would make him the Premier League player with the most Champions League goals in a single campaign ever, one ahead of Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Match preview | City v Inter

Gundogan knows City have a special player on their hands and one, he hopes, will be firing in the final.

He continued: “Right now, he might be the best striker in the world. He brings so much to our team.

“Especially in comparison to the last few years, he gives us a different quality, with his physical strength, with his mentality, with his speed, and at the end of the day, with his goals too, of course.

“The last couple of years, we didn’t have a classic number nine in the team. Therefore, we needed to play a bit more flexibly, a bit differently.

“Now, we know that we have someone in the box that can control the ball, including high aerial balls.

“He is very good with his head, and can win battles against tall, strong central backs. I think this adds a whole new dimension to our game. It gives us a new dynamic. And in addition, he brings a great mentality and character. 

“That combination’s extremely good for us. He has helped us a lot already this season. Let’s hope he can also help us in the final and contribute with a goal.”

But it’s not just Haaland that gives Gundogan belief that we can earn our first trophy in this competition.

It's the ‘amazing players and amazing manager’ that gives him confidence that 2023 could just be our year.

He continued: “On the one hand, we have incredible quality within the team. We have amazing players. We also have an amazing manager who tactically challenges us again and again, and keeps bringing us to a new level, and also has solutions to our problems.

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“If it perhaps doesn’t work out so well in one particular game, there are always alternatives that we can fall back on. I believe that this mix of things is extremely good, and if we are mentally strong and have the same attitude as we have had in recent weeks, then I don’t see many teams that can beat us.”

Gundogan is hoping to lift the trophy on Saturday in the Ataturk Stadium in Turkey, the homeland of his parents.

The location, close to his heart, makes the occasion even sweeter for him.

He added: “In the homeland of my parents, in my homeland, and then to also be able to play in this final, it naturally makes me unbelievably proud.

“So, my family are looking forward to it, my friends are looking forward to it, and, of course, I am also looking forward to it very much.

“So, yes, it will be a very special final for me.”