A place in the semi-finals of the 2019/20 UEFA Europa League will be on the line when Inter Milan take on Bayer Leverkusen in Dusseldorf on Monday.
Games continue to come thick and fast in the European competitions as we enter the final phase of the elongated 2019/20 campaign. The quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League kick off on Monday night in Germany with two games, one of which sees Serie A giants Inter Milan clash with Bayer Leverkusen at the Merkur Spiel-Arena.
Inter Milan made it to the final-eight stages of the competition by beating Spanish outfit Getafe 2-0 in a one-legged Round of 16 tie last week, after having dropped down from the Champions League and defeated Ludogorets in the previous round. Currently on a nine-game unbeaten run in all competitions, Antonio Conte’s men will fancy themselves to make it through to the next round.
Bayer Leverkusen got past Scottish giants Rangers with a 4-1 aggregate scoreline in the previous round, having eased past FC Porto in the Round of 32. Having missed out on Champions League qualification through Bundesliga, Peter Bosz & co. will be aiming to go all the way in the Europa League. Die Werkself come into the game having lost two of their last seven in all competitions.
Ahead of this enticing match-up coming our way from Dusseldorf on Monday night, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.
Team News & Tactics
Conte doesn’t have a whole lot of injury issues to deal with heading into the one-legged quarter-final against Leverkusen. The Inter Milan boss will just be without the services of midfielders Matias Vecino and Stefano Sensi. There are unlikely to be a whole lot of changes made to the side that beat Getafe last time out.
Captain Samir Handanovic is a certainty between the posts for the Nerazzurri. With Milan Skriniar’s future far from certain, he is unlikely to feature again, meaning the three-man backline ought to comprise of Stefan de Vrij flanked by seasoned campaigner Diego Godin and youngster Alessandro Bastoni.
Danilo D’Ambrosio started as the right wing-back last time out, but could make way for Antonio Candreva, while Ashley Young should hold on to his place on the opposite flank. Marcelo Brozovic is a certain starter in the centre of the park. He will hold the fort down, while partner Nicolo Barella will look to provide support going forward.
Christian Eriksen, who was on target last time out, should replace Roberto Gagliardini in the lineup and slot in as the No. 10. Upfront, Romelu Lukaku is a certain starter, but may be in for a change of partners, with Alexis Sanchez, who has completed a permanent transfer to Inter, likely to come in for Lautaro Martinez.
Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Handanovic; Godin, de Vrij, Bastoni; Candreva, Barella, Brozovic, Young; Eriksen, Lukaku, Sanchez
Much like his counterpart, Bayer Leverkusen boss Peter Bosz, too, does not have a lot of roster issues to contend with ahead of the quarter-finals. However, the Bundesliga heavyweights will just be without the services of Paulinho. Charles Aranguiz is also set to miss out due to suspension.
Kerem Demirbay will be back after serving out his suspension, while Nadiem Amiri should also be available, after having missed the last game as he was placed in a one-week quarantine. There are unlikely to be a lot of changes made by Bosz either, with Leverkusen expected to line up in a 4-2-3-1 in front of goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky.
The Bender brothers, Lars and Sven, ought to line up as the right-back and centre-back, respectively. The latter will have Edmond Tapsoba as his partner at the heart of the Leverkusen defence, while Daley Sinkgraven is expected to slot in as the left-back.
With Demirbay back, he could return to the starting XI at the expense of Exequiel Palacios, who did impress in the previous game. And with Aranguiz unavailable, his place is likely to be taken up by Julian Baumgartlinger, who will provide added bite in midfield.
Moussa Diaby, who scored in the last game, ought to start on the right flank, while Leon Bailey is expected to replace teenager Florian Wirtz on the left. This would mean superstar Kai Havertz slots in a more central role, playing off of the striker Kevin Volland.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Hradecky; Lars Bender, Sven Bender, Tapsoba, Sinkgraven; Baumgartlinger, Demirbay; Diaby, Havertz, Bailey; Volland
- This will be only the third competitive meeting between Inter Milan and Bayer Leverkusen. The previous two contests, both of which came in the 2002/03 UEFA Champions League, were won by the Germans.
- Inter Milan have only won one of their last eight meetings against German opponents in major European competitions. Leverkusen, on the other hand, have lost each of their last three such matches against Italian clubs.
- This is Inter Milan’s first UEFA European quarter-finals appearance since the 2010/11 Champions League, when they were eliminated by FC Schalke 04. The Nerazzurri last reached a European semi-final back in 2009/10, when they went on to win the Champions League under Jose Mourinho.
- Bayer Leverkusen have reached the quarter-finals of a major European competition for the first time since 2007/08 UEFA Cup. They haven’t reached a semi-final since way back in 2001/02, when they made it to the finals of the Champions League.
- Inter striker Romelu Lukaku has scored in each of his last eight appearances in the UEFA Europa League (11 goals). He is only the second player to score in eight consecutive appearances in the UEFA Cup/Europa League after Alan Shearer (2004/05). No player has ever scored in nine in a row in the competition.
Player to Watch
The 31-year-old Sanchez has been one of the most in-form players in the post-lockdown period. In 30 appearances across all competitions, he has scored four goals and set up ten more. However, he is yet to make a mark in the European competitions this term.
Sanchez made his loan move to Inter Milan from Manchester United permanent this past week. Having done so, he will now be looking to repay the faith shown in him by the club with a match-winning performance against Bayer Leverkusen.
Inter Milan 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen
Inter Milan head into the game on the back of an impressive run of form, that saw them finish second in the Serie A, just a point shy of champions Juventus. Solid at the back, the Nerazzurri have kept a clean sheet in their previous five outings in all competitions, while the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez are in good touch going forward.
Leverkusen, on the other hand, returned to winning ways against Rangers after their capitulation against Bayern Munich in the DFB Pokal final. They have been one of the most exciting teams to watch in Europe this season, but do tend to leak goals due to their all-out attacking approach.
Monday night’s encounter should be a keenly-contested one between two teams with contrasting styles on display. Inter’s current form, though, should give them the slightest edge heading into the game, which is why The Hard Tackle is predicting a 2-1 win for the Nerazzurri, earning them a spot in the semi-finals.