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Guardiola believes City can win the historic treble

Make no mistake, the Champions League trophy is the one Pep Guardiola and Manchester City want more than any other. Preparation...

Make no mistake, the Champions League trophy is the one Pep Guardiola and Manchester City want more than any other. Preparation for the match at Istanbul’s Ataturk Stadium has been low-key. Once again, as before the FA Cup final, Pep Guardiola gave his players time off and started training on Tuesday. Cool, calm and collected. That is Pep’s way of preparing for this epic match.

It is likely the same eleven players will again take the field in Istanbul.

Training was relaxed and there was a special moment when Arsenal legend Thierry Henry visited the players. He talked with Guardiola and greeted everyone when they finished training. ­­

The Premier League champions and FA Cup holders face their biggest challenge on Saturday evening when they take on Inter Milan.

Inter finished third in Serie A this season and won the Coppa Italia. They beat Porto, Benfica and AC Milan to reach the Champions League final. In training this week both Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Milan Skriniar, who was on the bench at the weekend against Torino, came through tough sessions and are expected to be fit. Forward Joaquin Correa will probably miss the match after picking up a leg calf injury in the Coppa final over Fiorentina on May 24th.

Likely team is Onana, Skriniar Acerbi, Bastoni, Dumfries, Barella, Calhanoglu, Brozovic, Dimarco, Dzeko (or Lukaku) and Martinez. Despite reaching 37 years-of age Edin Dzeko is a danger man up front alongside Lautaro Martinez.

City will start as favourites but Inter’s strategy will be to slow the game down, be difficult to break down and play deep, very aggressively and playing long balls, trying to draw fouls from City’s midfield. We must not forget that Inter came through a group which included both Bayern Munich and Barcelona.

Inter have their free kick specialists in Hakan Calhanoglou, Dzeko and Lautaro. Corner kicks will provide their big players Acerbi, Bastoni, Dzeko and Lukaku with opportunities in the box.

Midfielder Rodri says City are more mature than their losing side to Chelsea two years ago and head to Istanbul brimming with confidence.

Inter Milan coach Simone Inzaghi said this week, “Saturday’s match will be our 57th of the season and the most important. We head to Istanbul with a few defeats behind us which maybe hurt us at the moment but which made us grow and improve. We’ll need to suffer together and play football well, because we have to take possession of the ball off them. We have to attack with balance and we have prepared for it this week.”

Pep confirmed that Kevin De Bruyne and Jack Grealish have come through training and are available to play. Kyle Walker missed the first day of training with a back problem. Pep said that the midweek news was not good but Kyle was improving and he would have to make a late decision. He was involved in media duties whilst not training and that is a good sign that all might be okay for him to play.

Kante takes the Saudi cash 

Mauricio Pochettino will have to begin his Chelsea reign without one of the world’s best midfielders. N’Golo Kante has been whisped away from Stamford bridge after agreeing a staggering salary of £86million per season on a two-year contract. He will be 36 years-of-age when it expires. Al Ittihad is one of four clubs bought this week by the country’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) who also own Newcastle United. Kante is following in the footsteps of Karim Benzema who joined the club this week after leaving a trophy laden career at Real Madrid. Kante has not yet informed Chelsea but it looks like a done deal.

They are just wild about Harry

Spurs are preparing to fight to hold on to Harry Kane as Real Madrid prepare a mouth-watering bid for the striker. Real want him to replace Karim Benzema who after 14-year a distinguished career in Spain is moving to Saudi Arabia on a free transfer because Real agreed to tear up his contract with one year remaining to help him as a 35-year-old. Karim will receive a two-year contract worth £84 million.

Kane has a dilemma and needs to decide what he wants next. We know he wants to start putting medals and trophies into his football cabinet and at Tottenham he has won nothing whilst being acclaimed as one of the world’s top strikers. He would be interested in a move to Real Madrid but he also wants to break Alan Shearer’s 260 goal Premier League record as the leading scorer in the top level. So that rules out a Spanish move unless he changes his ambitions. Tottenham boss Daniel Levy has already said he will not sell his striker to a leading opposition club in the Premier League.

Four weeks to keep Gundogan

Following his Man of the Match performance in the Cup Final, Manchester City have been forced to consider extending Ilkay Gundogan’s contract which expires next month. The 32-year-old club captain is a free agent in four weeks and his representatives are allowed to talk to interested clubs. No agreements have been reached but both Barcelona, Arsenal and AC Milan have been linked with the German international. Barca are putting together a 3-year deal which will help them financially to spread the cost instead of a big one-off payment. Pep Guardiola said that City’s director of football Txiki Bergiristain is hoping to persuade Ilkay to stay at Maine Road and the coach said, “He has a special mentality. He knows what I think of him and he plays big games like they are friendlies. He copes with the highest pressures. Nothing is decided yet and we will have to see what happens.”

Zaha wanted by Diego Simeoni at Atletico

Atletico Madrid have enquired about signing Wilfried Zaha from Crystal Palace. Wilfried has until the end of June to decide whether or not to accept the latest Palace offer as his contract expires in three weeks. The Ivory Coast international has long been admired by Diego Simeone the Atletico coach and he tried to sign the winger in 2020. Palace have offered £200k a week which would make Zaha the highest paid player in the history of the club. Saudi champions Al Ittihad have offered a mouth watering £9million a year deal after tax. He is known to favour a move to La Liga and Atletico have also qualified for next year’s Champions League which is a large carrot.

*Atletico will also sign relegated Leicester’s defender Caglar Soyuncu who is a free agent now his contract has expired.

Farewell Zlatan a true star

He lit up the world football stage and it will be a great loss to say goodbye to Zlatan Ibrahimovich who has announced his retirement. His skill, arrogance, ego and presence on the pitch might never be seen again. The extrovert 41-year-old always came across as selfish and self-absorbed but if you met him you soon realised that he was loyal, giving and very, very amusing. His fellow players both respected and liked him. One person he disliked intensely is, believe it or not, Pep Guardiola. He said of him after Inter beat Barcelona in 2010, “There is my enemy, scratching his bald head.” He scored a fantastic overhead kick goal from 30 yards against England playing for Sweden in 2012 and when he won the FIFA Puskas Award he said in typical Ibra fashion, “I’ve scored better goals.”

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