Nicolo Barella key to Inter’s Champions League final game plan
Only Inter stand between Manchester City and an historic Treble. Pep Guardiola’s team have already clinched the Premier League title and swept aside Manchester United to win the FA Cup last weekend. Now, they have a Champions League final to plan for and few believe City will be stopped from getting their hands on a third piece of silverware this season.
Amid the focus on City, it can be easy to miss that Inter are on the brink of making their own history. It’s 13 years since the Nerazzurri last won the Champions League and no Italian team has been crowned European champions in the time since. Inter’s run to the final has been exhilarating and they still have one last step to take.
Nicolo Barella will be key to Simone Inzaghi’s game plan against Manchester City. If Inter are to stand any chance of winning Saturday’s Champions League final, they will need the 26-year-old to be in top form. Barella has been exceptional in Europe this season, but City will present him with his toughest test so far.
City’s midfield is arguably the strongest in the sport right now. Rodri and John Stones have forged an unlikely partnership in the centre of the pitch this season while Kevin de Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan have been allowed to push further up the pitch to pose a greater threat to the opposition goal. They are a formidable force as a unit.
It’s likely Manchester City will control the majority of possession on Saturday, but that could suit Inter who have demonstrated several times this season they are most effective when they play in quick transition. Barella is frequently the one who conducts those transitional moments as Inter’s midfield valve.
Inzaghi has a decision to make in terms of who will lead the line for Inter against City. Edin Dzeko did serious damage against AC Milan in the Champions League semi-finals, but Romelu Lukaku is fitter now than at any other stage of the season and has an inherent understanding with Lautaro Martinez who has found the back of the net 27 times this term.
A defensive back three will give Inter a decent chance of crowding out Erling Haaland with Federico Dimarco and Denzel Dumfries positioned high up the pitch to provide width and a funnel into the final third. In midfield, though, is where Saturday’s Champions League final will most likely be won and lost and Barella is Inter’s best midfielder.
With Marcelo Brozovic as the anchor at the base of the midfield unit and Henrikh Mkhitayran the creator, Barella’s energy and drive makes him different. He covers the ground of two players, and Inter will need him to cover a lot of ground against Manchester City who will move the ball quickly in Istanbul.
Barella has reached new heights in his career of late with the 26-year-old reportedly interesting a number of Premier League clubs. Liverpool are believed to see Barella as a target while Barcelona have registered their interest in the Italian international in the past. He could play at the elite level of the sport for a long time to come.
If Inter don’t win the Champions League this season, they might not have another opportunity to win it for a long time. The San Siro outfit have spent beyond their means and might have to sell some of their best players this summer to keep the club afloat. Barella, along with Alessandro Bastoni and Martinez, is one of Inter’s most valuable assets. He could prove it on European club football’s biggest stage.