UEFA ranking: 3
European Cup best: final (2021)
Last season: quarter-finals (L vs Lyon)
Why they can win it
England’s champions-elect have the bit between their teeth in Europe this season. Their attacking brilliance is long established, but they’ve added greater defensive solidity, with only four goals conceded in their 12 games played so far. If overcoming their quarter-final hoodoo was a boost to their self-belief, the manner of their semi-final triumph against Paris has surely banished any doubts about City’s ability to go all the way.
Campaign so far
The most telling point about City’s group-stage campaign was that it ended with the competition’s best defensive record, with just one goal shipped following Rúben Dias’ arrival to join a revitalised John Stones in central defence. After winning Group C, they posted home and away wins against both Gladbach and Dortmund, before sealing their place in the final with two magnificent victories over 2020 finalists Paris.
Josep Guardiola has used a false-nine system to great effect this season, with Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and even Ilkay Gündoğan all taking turns as the spearhead of City’s attack. Having suffocated opponents thus far with their relentless pressing and clockwork passing, the Citizens are unlikely to change their approach in Istanbul. As Guardiola said: “We are used to playing a certain way. We cannot do it differently.”
City have an embarrassment of riches but De Bruyne remains their creator-in-chief. His elegance, vision and immaculate passing range – not to mention his driving runs and spectacular finishing – make him one of the most enjoyable players to watch in world football.
Who’s in charge?
In 11 seasons as a first-team boss, Guardiola has lifted eight league titles, but the last of his two managerial UEFA Champions League winners’ medals came in 2011. Now he has his sights set on becoming just the sixth coach to win the European Cup with two different clubs.
Matthew Howarth, Man. City reporter