Inter Milan will travel to Germany on Thursday night, as they gear up to take on Eintracht Frankfurt in the Round of 16 stages of the UEFA Europa League.

The Round of 16 phase of the 2018-19 UEFA Europa League kickstarts on Thursday, with one of the most interesting matchups coming our way when Bundesliga outfit Eintracht Frankfurt host Serie A giants Inter Milan at the Commerzbank-Arena.

Eintracht finished as the table-toppers in Group H, that also consisted of Serie A outfit Lazio and French Ligue 1 side Marseille, winning all of their six group games comfortably. In the Round of 32 stages, the Bundesliga side got the better of Ukrainian giants Shakhtar Donetsk, beating them 6-3 on aggregate to progress in the competition.

Since their 4-1 win over Shakhtar in the second leg of the last round, Adi Hutter’s side have beaten Hannover 96 and Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga and come into the game on a nine-match unbeaten streak across all competitions (W4 D5). Having won all of their home games in the competition this term, the German outfit will be a hard nut to crack on Thursday night.

Inter, on the other hand, dropped down to the Europa League, having finished third in their UEFA Champions League group, behind Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur. Drawn up against Austrian outfit Rapid Wien in the Round of 32 stages, the Nerazzurri breezed past their opposition, with an aggregate scoreline of 5-0.

Luciano Spalletti’s men, however, go into Thursday’s game having failed to win their last two fixtures, with their latest outing ending in a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Cagliari this past weekend. Inter will be aiming to get back to winning ways and come away with a positive result from the away leg in Germany.

Team News & Tactics

Eintracht Frankfurt

The biggest news coming out of the Eintracht camp is that star attacker Ante Rebic will not be involved on Thursday, after picking up a knock in the weekend game against Hoffenheim. Gelson Fernandes has made a swift recovery from his injury problem and will be available for selection, but Lucas Torro and David Abraham remain doubts.

Hutter is unlikely to tinker with the 3-4-1-2 setup that’s been working very well for his team this season. Kevin Trapp will guard the Eintracht Frankfurt goal on Thursday, with captain Abraham likely to make a return to the starting XI in the three-man backline. The other two slots will be taken up by Martin Hinteregger and Evan N’Dicka.

35-year-old veteran Japanese midfielder Makoto Hasebe will be tasked with shielding the defence for the home. He will be supported by former Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund midfielder Sebastian Rode. The wing-back slots on the right and left sides will be taken up by Danny da Costa and Filip Kostic respectively.

In Rebic’s injury-enforced absence Mijat Gacinovic will slot in as the No.10 for the German outfit and look to pull the strings in the final third and feed the in-form goalscoring duo of Sebastien Haller and Luka Jovic.

Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Trapp; Abraham, Hinterreger, N’Dicka; da Costa, Hasebe, Robe, Kostic; Gacinovic; Haller, Jovic;

Inter Milan

Mauro Icardi remains unavailable for the Nerazzurri as Spalletti continues to overlook the striker for selection, following the fallout in contract negotiations that also saw him getting stripped of captaincy. Keita Balde Diao is ruled out with an injury, as are Radja Nainggolan and Sime Vrsaljko.

Inter will line up in the 4-2-3-1 formation that the manager has preferred throughout the season, with newly-appointed captain Samir Handanovic continuing between the sticks.

A change is on the cards at right-back with January signing Cedric Soares likely to start ahead of Danny D’Ambrosio, while Kwadwo Asamoah will feature on the left. Milan Skriniar and Stefan de Vrij pick themselves at the heart of the defence for the visitors.

Matias Vecino and Marcelo Brozovic will form the two-man midfield pivot for Inter and look to disrupt Eintracht’s rhythm in the middle of the park. In Nainggolan’s absence, Borja Valero is likely to take up the No.10 slot on Thursday night.

Matteo Politano and Ivan Perisic will carry the threat from the wide areas for the Serie A heavyweights and look to create opportunities for young Argentine forward Lautaro Martinez, who is now the first-choice striker in Icardi’s absence.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Handanovic; Cedric, Skriniar, de Vrij, Asamoah; Vecino, Brozovic; Politano, Valero, Perisic; Martinez;

Key Stats

  • This will be the first ever competitive meeting between Eintracht Frankfurt and Inter Milan.
  • Inter are the fifth Italian side that Eintracht will meet in Europe. Only one of the previous four oppositions from Italy have beaten them in Germany (Palermo in October 2006, 1-2).
  • Inter’s last two meetings with German opposition have resulted in elimination; in the quarter-finals of the 2010-11 Champions League vs Schalke (3-7 on aggregate) and in the last 16 of this competition in 2014-15 vs VfL Wolfsburg (2-5 on aggregate).
  • Eintracht Frankfurt have lost just one of their last 21 games in Europe (W14 D6) – a 2-4 defeat against Maccabi Tel Aviv in November 2013.
  • Eintracht strikers Luka Jovic (6 goals, 1 assist) and Sebastien Haller (5 goals, 3 assists) have a combined 15 goal involvements in the Europa League this season.

Player to Watch

Luka Jovic

Casually strolling into the debate of the most potent strikers in Europe. (Picture Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images)

Casually strolling into the debate of the most potent strikers in Europe. (Picture Courtesy – AFP/Getty Images)

The Serbian starlet has taken the entire Europe by storm this season, with his excellent form in front of goal. Jovic has already bagged 21 goals this season in 32 matches across all competitions, while he has also contributed with 7 assists till date.

The 21-year-old has found the back of the net on six times in the Europa League in 8 matches, scoring at a brilliant rate of one goal every 71 minutes. Jovic’s goalscoring exploits have seen him get linked with who’s who of the footballing world, with Barcelona and Chelsea reported to be admirers of the striker.

Jovic has scored just twice in his last five appearances across all competitions. He will need to be firing on all cylinders, for the Eagles to pick up an important win against Inter. A crucial game beckons for the 21-year-old sensation.

Prediction

Eintracht Frankfurt 3-1 Inter Milan

Adi Hutter’s Eintracht Frankfurt are unbeaten in this season in the Europa League and have won all of their four home matches in the continental competition without really having to shift gears. They come into the game having not last even once in nine matches.

Inter Milan, on the other hand, find themselves in a bit of bother. Having not managed to pick up victories in their last two matches, Luciano Spalletti finds himself under pressure to turn things around. And their recent away form – 3 wins in 11 matches – doesn’t make for all that good a reading.

Given the run of form and confidence that the Eagles are enjoying, we at The Hard Tackle expect them to register a comprehensive victory at home on Thursday and put a foot through the door into the quarterfinals.