Darmian, Lautaro and Calhanoglu: "One last step needed. Interisti, we'll put our hearts into it"
Road to Istanbul— Jun 9th 2023
The thoughts of the Nerazzurri players from the Atatürk Olympic Stadium on the eve of Manchester City vs. Inter
Manchester City vs. Inter, the final of the UEFA Champions League, is drawing ever nearer, with kick-off scheduled for 21:00 CEST on Saturday at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul.
On the eve of the showdown, from the venue that will host it, Matteo Darmian, Lautaro Martinez and Hakan Calhanoglu all spoke to the press. This is what they had to say:
You played for Manchester United, perhaps you know City better than anyone else... "I encountered City several times back then. We all know the qualities they possess; they have brilliant individual players. We'll have to be determined and attentive in order to cause them problems."
Are City the big favourites? "As we've always done, we'll try to implement our ideas and combine them with heart and sacrifice in a match where the details will make the difference."
Are you experiencing it like you would a derby? "I played for United, so it'll obviously be special for me. We'll give everything for ourselves, for the Club, for the staff and for the fans. We'd be delighted to bring this very important trophy home."
There's a positive atmosphere within the team... "There are so many emotions within us right now. We're feeling good both physically and mentally."
How have you prepared for the match? "We need to aim to make the right choices. There will be moments where we need to drop back and occasions where we'll have to press them higher up the pitch."
City are the favourites. Do you believe you can win? "That's the objective: to win. We know how strong City are, but we're also aware that we're a strong side and possess the qualities to cause them problems."
How proud are you that the Italian National Team is made up of a good portion of Inter players? "It's nice, important and, obviously, a source of pride. However, we're a great group beyond our nationalities. We get on well together."
A few months ago, you experienced the World Cup final. Now, it's time for the Champions League. How are you experiencing it? "They're the two most important finals a player can play. Only the shirt is different; there are the same special feelings. We've got this far thanks to the work we've done over the entire year and the work of the group. We've reached the final step and need to be ready for ourselves, the team, the fans and the Club."
What will be the approach against a team that controls play and gives very little away? "We know that City are a side full of individual quality, but we're ready because we've prepared really well. We still have two sessions to go over the final details. We'll put everything we've worked for into it when we take to the pitch."
You've won the World Cup, you recently got married and now another very important moment is on the horizon... "It's a very important period for me and my family. In the last six months, I've won the World Cup, plus the Supercoppa and Coppa Italia with Inter. Now, the Champions League final awaits. I'm really happy and hope that things finish on a high."
Have you sorted out the physical problem that you had at the start of the season? "That injury is behind me. I've had a very intense season. Before the World Cup, I had a physical problem that I've since resolved. Now, after the Champions League, Scaloni has given me the opportunity to rest a bit."
What does it mean to be involved in this final as a World Champion? Are you one of the leaders of the group? "This match means a lot not just for me but for everyone. Our group was tough; it contained Bayern and Barcelona. Then, we managed to progress to the final thanks to some fantastic work with the Coach and his staff. I try to learn every day and feel plenty of responsibility. All of the lads will be ready for this vital game."
City have a duty to win. For Inter, meanwhile, it's a dream. Is this a fair way of putting it? "I don't know if this is the case. Of course, we want to bring the trophy back to Milano. It's a dream, and a big one at that. We know it'll be difficult to realise, but we've worked so hard to do it. We're just missing the last step."
What can you promise the fans? "Heart, plus the desire to win and lift trophies. We've won several over the past few years. Now, we've got the chance to bring home the most important one of all. We'll play this final with our chests out and our heads high."
In 2010, Milito decided the final... "I'm fully aware of what Milito did in 2010. I'm proud to be part of this Club, and I hope to play really well and help my teammates. It'd certainly be great to do what Diego did."
We saw how City vs. Real Madrid played out: do you think Inter will have chances to score in the final? "Why not? We hope so! We'll do our best, obviously. You know just as well as I do how strong City are, but we'll have our own opportunities to do well."
You'll be the fifth Turkish player to play in a Champions League final, and it'll be in Istanbul. What kind of motivation does that give you? "I'm happy and proud to be involved in this final in my home country, and I'm sure my fellow Turks will support me. I hope to lift the trophy and, obviously, to score, too. We know that it won't be easy: they're so strong, but, with all the heart we have, we can do it."
Have you told your teammates about Istanbul? "It's a great city and I've tried to tell my teammates all about it. I haven't been able to talk to Gundogan, but it'll be a special match for both of us."
What kind of match are you expecting? "City are a very attacking side, but they're also good defensively. In the Champions League and in general, we've often played very well this season, dominating at times. We'll do all that we can to produce this kind of performance."
Many fans have come from Milano to support Inter. "For me, playing in Istanbul is special, and I'll enjoy this moment. We'll give everything. I know that my fellow Turks will support me because a Turkish player has never won the Champions League. It's my dream."
How does it feel to be in Istanbul? Do you feel a certain kind of pressure? "Ever since we got the better of Barcelona, I've had real confidence in myself and this team. I want to enjoy the match; it's a real source of pride to be here. We'll try to entertain you. I've only been thinking about one thing: lifting this trophy. It's a dream I've had since I was a child."