The FA Cup title win thanks to a 2-1 win vs United would have been a huge shot in the arm for City who are desperate to win that elusive Champions League trophy.
Two former Manchester City players – Mark Seagraves and Terry Phelan were guests recently on the Times of India’s sports podcast – Sportscast. The episode was recorded before the FA cup final and both Mark and Terry predicted a 2-1 scoreline for City, which is what the final outcome was.
Can Inter Milan hold a rampaging Manchester City in the Champions League Final?
The two former footballers, who played over 140 matches for Manchester City between them in the 1980s and 90s also talked about the Champions League final, City’s and Inter’s strategies, Erling Haaland and more.
The way I see it, the final could go one of two ways. Either Manchester City thrash Inter Milan, the way they beat Real Madrid in the second leg (4-0, with a 5-1 aggregate win) or Inzaghi comes up with a strategy to hold City and we see a low scoring match. Your take on that…
Mark Seagraves: I think that Inzaghi, and this has happened with Italian teams over the years as well, they make games scrappy if they have to. And they do that via silly fouls or professional fouls and try to get the opposition out of their tempo. One thing we know about Italian teams over the years is that defensively if they need a clean sheet, they can do it. If you look at the Inter Milan squad, it’s a really good squad. They have got really good players. From back to front. You got Martinez scoring goals, Lukaku on the bench who has been scoring goals, Dzeko is Dzeko – big and strong. But I just don’t think that they are going to get anywhere near the game because it will be their backs to the wall for the majority of this game. When we look at what Guardiola is – we know that tactically he is very good, he doesn’t leave any stone unturned and he has the ammunition as we saw against Real Madrid (in the SF). They (City) have far too many top players playing at the top of their form right now to not at least win the game.
Man for man you would say that Pep has the better team, but this is also a straight-up one match knockout. It’s not a two-legged tie. In that context do you see Inzaghi drawing up plans that can hold Manchester City?
Terry Phelan: I think there will be goals in the game. There will be goals in the first half, whether it’s Inter or City. But this game will not go to penalties, it will not go into extra time. There is just too much quality on the field for there not to be goals in this game. Martinez has been fantastic – won a World Cup. Alvarez – won a World Cup. Martinez sat on the bench for Alvarez to come in (for Argentina in the World Cup) – there’s a little bit of motivation there. You have seen what Haaland has done. Haaland will be a nightmare for Inter Milan’s three centre-backs. He will pull them all over the place. Then you’ve got Dzeko, who has added ambitions – he is playing against his old team, he will want to get on the scoresheet. We know the kind of goals he has been scoring of late, fantastic. Both teams have wonderful individual players, who know how to defend, who know how to attack, who know how to open up a back-door with a through ball. This game is going to be finished in 90+ minutes. Manchester City will have the lion’s share of the ball, but we know what Inter Milan can do when they hit a diagonal or when they have got Dzeko pulling off the back-sticks onto the full-backs, Martinez running behind the centre-back, but they need to get the service. It boils down to that midfield area. Whoever wins that midfield area will win the game.
A word on Erling Haaland now. We know how phenomenal he has been for Manchester City. But he didn’t do anything exceptional as such at the Bernabeu against Real and at the Etihad he missed a couple of chances, which you would have to put down to Courtois’s brilliance. But he is the leading goal-scorer this season and has given City, overall, the spark that was missing….
Terry Phelan: Mark and I played at Manchester City and we have watched them for decades and decades. Especially in the last decade we have watched them grow, of course money has come in now. The last few years they missed that typical Number 9 (centre-forward or primary striker). I think we Haaland they have got somebody different. He has got pace, he’s got power. If they get the ball to him in the right areas he can hurt you. In wide areas, he can hurt you pulling off. It’s up to a team – how do they set up against that? You have to frustrate Haaland. I think for me he has been the focal point for Manchester City. While you are looking at him, you have got De Bruyne coming in behind him. You have Bernardo Silva on one side and obviously Jack Grealish. At the Bernabeu he (Haaland) got man marked by Rudiger. He never gave him an inch. I just can’t see Inter Milan doing that. I think he (Haaland) has been a revelation, I think he has been absolutely fantastic. He’s come in and won a Premiership medal, an FA Cup medal. He has scored a lot of goals, with the help of certain players around him. I think Manchester City are the full package now.
How Erling Haaland has ‘completed’ Manchester City
Mark Seagraves: You have to give praise to Guardiola because in the past he didn’t have strikers and it didn’t work for him. Now he has got a bit of humility about himself, saying – ok maybe that’s not the way forward, I am going to go out and get this player. This player (Haaland) makes Manchester City complete. Back in the day they never really got beyond the defenders, they never really got out wide and crossed the ball into the box. Now they have someone who can get on the end of all of that. That stretches the pitch and makes playing in the midfield easier because there is more space in there and it’s been a masterstroke. He looked at himself Guardiola and said – Ok, maybe I was trying to be a little too complicated, let’s simplify it, let’s get this lad in, who we know scores goals. (Perhaps) didn’t realise that he will score 52 in this season, but at least he has gone there. I don’t think Harry Kane would have had a bigger impact than Haaland because Kane doesn’t have that ability get in behind and as we have seen with Haaland on numerous occasions where he can get in the sides of defenders where he gets in and puts the ball in the back of the net and that was all because Guardiola realised that maybe he was trying to be a little too complicated. Manchester City right now are a complete team.
‘It will be a Manchester City vs Inter Milan final in the UEFA Champions League’
Terry Phelan: If we look at Haaland’s goals, how many goals has he scored from outside the 18 yard box? Not many. Everything has been from the first or second 6 yards box and for a big man of 6 foot 4 to be able to get that little bit of space is very very difficult. How many goals has he scored with his head? Not many. The manager has got to keep everybody happy and I think that Guardiola is the best in the world at doing that, with the teams he has been at
Toughest question, saved till the end – What is your scoreline prediction for the Champions League final?
Mark Seagraves: I will go first and I will be a little bit controversial here. I think Manchester City will win 5-0. Even though it’s a huge game, I just think if there’s an early goal and it’s from Manchester City then Inter Milan will have to come out and if they do that then as we saw with Real Madrid – it was a (potential) 6-0, 7-0 scoreline. I might be totally wrong with this, but I just get the impression that Manchester City are smelling blood here and they are going to go for it. They realised the way to do it, the template was against Real Madrid – they will try and replicate that in the final against Inter.
Terry Phelan: For the Champions League I really hope that happens (Mark’s prediction) because that would be fantastic. But I think it’s going to be a little bit closer than that. I think it will be 3-1 to Manchester City. I do think Inter Milan will score.