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Soccer-Inter won’t just defend, says Man City’s Guardiola

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By Martyn Herman

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Manchester City must overcome more than just a formidable Inter Milan defence as they seek to win the Champions League for the first time on Saturday, according to manager Pep Guardiola.

Guardiola’s side will start hot favourites in the Ataturk Olympic Stadium, not only to finally get their hands on a trophy that has proved elusive, but also to complete a treble.

The talk around the bars alongside the Bosphorous in the sprawling old city is that Inter’s only hope of halting a City side with goal machine Erling Haaland as its spearhead, it to defend, then defend some more, and hope to get lucky.

But Guardiola, bidding to become the first manager to win two trebles — having claimed the LaLiga title, Copa del Rey and Champions League with Barcelona in 2009 — was having none of that, insisting Inter have many more facets.

“There are many. Inter are a team used not only to defend. There is a belief that Italian teams only know how to defend, but Inter can do many other things,” a relaxed Guardiola told reporters on Friday.

“(Francesco) Acerbi, (Matteo) Darmian, (Alessandro) Bastoni and (Andre) Onana are very effective in the re-starts. And all the forwards, from Lautaro (Martinez) to (Joaquin) Correa, know how to be dangerous.

“Inter have the ability to keep the ball and finish, they know how to attack from the centre and from the flanks. We will try to defend as well as possible, both high how low.”

City’s playmaker Kevin De Bruyne described City’s pursuit of the Champions League as ‘part dream, part obsession’ having fallen in the final to Chelsea in 2021 and to Real Madrid in the semi-final last season in heart-breaking fashion.

Guardiola said the right proportion of obsession and desire is healthy but will also be preaching patience if the scoreline remains 0-0 for longer than expected on Saturday.

“You have to be stable in finals. Defend well, attack and have control. You have to be patient. The most important thing is thinking it is 0-0 and we are not losing. Italian teams at 0-0 can think they are winning but they are not,” he said.

“Over the whole game, it’s important to know what you have to do and do it well. But there are moments when the games get crazy and then there are moments where you don’t think about tactics, but about what your heart tells you.

“But we will have a plan, an idea and communicate that to the players. If it goes well, the day will be good.”

Norwegian striker Haaland has scored 52 goals in 52 games in his first season with City, but one goal in his last seven matches represents a relative drought.

Guardiola was reminded by one reporter of Haaland’s lean spell but was quick to dismiss any concerns.

“I am not here to talk about Erling Haaland’s average numbers for scoring goals. If you have doubts about Erling Haaland scoring goals, you are a lonely person,” he said.

“Tomorrow he’ll be ready to help us win the Champions League.”

A City victory would match Manchester United’s Premier League/FA Cup/Champions League treble of 1999 while Inter are bidding to win the European prize for a fourth time.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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