Inter Milan reach Champions League final: Can underdogs complete ‘miracle’?
When Inter Milan line up for their “dream” first Champions League final in 13 years, they will expect to do so as significant underdogs.
After completing a 3-0 aggregate win over fierce rivals AC Milan, Inter vice-president Javier Zanetti was quick to state his preference of avoiding record 14-time champions Real.
“I would like to avoid Real Madrid because the competition seems made for them,” former captain Zanetti said.
But, regardless of what happens in the final, football journalist Guillem Balague believes it is “a miracle” that three-time winners Inter have made it this far.
The Nerazzurri finished second to Bayern Munich in a group which also contained Barcelona, before going on to beat Portuguese clubs Porto and Benfica and prevailing in the first Milan derby in European competition for 20 years.
“In the next few days we will realise what we did,” manager Simone Inzaghi said.
“For us it was a dream but we have always believed in it.
“It was an extraordinary path and winning a derby in the semi-final like this brings great satisfaction.
“Madrid and City are two of the best teams in Europe.”
World Cup winner Lautaro Martinez, who scored the only goal in Tuesday’s second leg to begin the celebrations among the Inter supporters, echoed his manager’s sentiments.
“It is an incredible joy, I am delighted. I thank my family. This sport is the most beautiful thing in the world,” Martinez said.
“Playing in the Champions League final is a dream.”
‘Manchester City or Real Madrid will be heavy favourites’
Inter’s most recent Champions League triumph came in their last final in 2010, when Jose Mourinho masterminded victory over favourites Bayern Munich.
They will require an upset of perhaps greater magnitude to overcome Real Madrid or Manchester City – tied at 1-1 after the first leg in Spain.
“Real or City would be heavy favourites but Inter are a well-balanced side,” Owen Hargreaves, a Champions League winner with Manchester United, told BT Sport.
“They are going to come up against a super team,” he added. “But they will want to finish the job now. They will be a problem in the final for whoever they play.”
Inter failed to compete for the Serie A title this season and sit 17 points adrift of formidable champions Napoli.
But the Coppa Italia finalists have thrived in the cup competitions, and in Europe Inzaghi’s organised side have kept a competition-leading eight clean sheets.
“In the important moments, Inter have always come through,” European football expert Mina Rzouki told BBC Radio 5 live.
“I know people think that whoever wins the other tie will overcome this Inter side, but I wouldn’t be all that confident.”
Former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, who won the trophy in 2005, said on BT Sport: “They are in with a chance, they deserve this chance.
“They are tough to beat, they carry a threat. Whoever they face, they are in with a shout.”
While keen not to face serial-winners Real, Zanetti, part of Inter’s 2010 Champions League-winning team, did not lose sight of what the club had achieved.
“It is a great emotion. The group deserved to play in a Champions League final after 13 years,” Zanetti told Sky Italia.
“We are waiting to know the name of our opponents, but what this group has done is very important.
“The most important thing is to get there; it was a difficult path.”