Lautaro Martinez is almost guaranteed to start the 2023 Champions League final for Inter when they face Manchester City in Istanbul, Turkey, but there is uncertainty surrounding who will partner the Argentine in the Nerazzurri attack between Romelu Lukaku and Edin Dzeko.
Biscione coach Simone Inzaghi will have to decide between Dzeko and Lukaku to play beside Lautaro on Saturday evening. Not only do they both have compelling cases to justify inclusion in the starting line-up, they have their own reasons to be motivated on a personal level to perform well against the Citizens.
La Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Dzeko is likely to start ahead of Lukaku and the Belgian will feature in the latter stages of the match from the bench.
Dzeko could potentially set Champions League final record
Dzeko will make his debut in a Champions League final at the age of 37 years and 85 days. Having missed out in 2017/18 with AS Roma, who were eliminated by Liverpool in the semi-finals, he is certainly enjoying the moment.
“It is my first final, and maybe my last. I want to enjoy it,” the Bosnian veteran told BT Sport.
If Dzeko does score against Manchester City, he will break Paolo Maldini’s record set in 2005, when he scored against the Reds at the age of 36 years and 333 days.
A Man City player from 2011 until 2015, Dzeko has enough form to start against his former club. Like Lukaku, he has scored 14 goals in all competitions throughout 2022/23, and he has started a lot more in the Champions League.
However, Lukaku has a good case to start as well. He has been involved in goals in every round of the knockout stages despite playing for just 144 minutes of the whole European campaign. He has had 15 goal involvements in all competitions – nine goals and six assists – since the start of April.
Lukaku chasing redemption for 2020 Europa League final and revenge on Guardiola
During Lukaku‘s first stint at Inter, he was instrumental in helping the Nerazzurri win the 2020/21 Serie A title. He was, though, one of the main reasons why the Italian giants lost the 2020 Europa League final to Sevilla.
The Belgian striker opened the scoring early in the match, but he also scored an own goal, which secured a 3-2 victory for the Spanish club. If he can play an important role in a victorious Inter side against Manchester City, it would more than atone for his error from three years ago.
Lukaku would also like to get revenge on Man City coach Pep Guardiola for a couple of reasons. Not only did they face each other in Manchester derbies when the Belgian played for Manchester United, the Catalan tactician coached Bayern Munich to victory in the 2013 European Super Cup and the striker missed a crucial penalty for Chelsea in the penalty shootout.
After years of losing to Guardiola, Lukaku has an opportunity to emerge victorious against the lauded tactician.