A place in the final of the 2019/20 UEFA Europa League will be on the line when Inter Milan take on Shakhtar Donetsk in Dusseldorf on Monday.
The 2019/20 UEFA Europa League is on the cusp of calling curtain for this season, with just two games remaining in the competition. Inter Milan and Shakhtar Donetsk lock horns in the second semi-final of the competition on Monday, with a place in the final up for grabs.
Inter took the alternate route into the competition, finishing third in their UEFA Champions League group behind Borussia Dortmund and Barcelona. The Nerazzurri have gone from strength to strength since, defeating Ludogorets and then two favourites in the form of Getafe and Bayer Leverkusen in the Round of 16 and the quarter-finals, respectively.
Their game against Leverkusen was essentially all about the first half, with Nicolo Barella and Romelu Lukaku scoring within six minutes of each other to take the game out of the hand of Peter Bosz’s team. Shakhtar, too, finished third in their Champions League group, denied a spot in the next round by an inspired Atalanta.
The Ukrainians were drawn against SL Benfica, and did just enough in their home leg to register a spot in the next round, where they had to overcome VfL Wolfsburg. Shakhtar scored five goals against the Germans over two legs before hitting FC Basel for four in a single game. They now go head-to-head with competition favourites Inter Milan.
Team News & Tactics
Antonio Conte has been handed a significant blow ahead of the semis, which comes in the form of Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean picked up a strain in his hamstring against Bayer Leverkusen and will miss the rest of Inter Milan’s Europa League campaign. Matias Vecino is the only other absentee from their squad.
The Italian manager is likely to mirror his 3-5-2 from the game against Leverkusen, with Samir Handanovic taking responsibility of the captain’s armband in the six-yard box. He will be screened by the back-three of Diego Godin, Stefan de Vrij and Alessandro Bastoni. Milan Skriniar is in contention to start as well, but it looks like he will have to see the game out from the bench.
Danilo D’Ambrosio, Victor Moses and Antonio Candreva will be competing for the right wing-back role, with Moses likely to get the nod ahead of the other two courtesy of his solid 30-minute cameo in the quarters. Ashley Young has been able to turn his career around at Inter, becoming a crucial part of Conte’s system. There is little to no doubt over his spot in the left wing-back position.
Young and Moses will be flanking the midfield trio of Nicolo Barella, Marcelo Brozovic and Roberto Gagliardini. While neither of these three had a stand-out game against Leverkusen, they will retain their spot, with Christian Eriksen coming off the bench to pose a threat on tired legs.
The dynamic duo of Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku will start as the two strikers, with the former often dropping deep to pull opposing defenders out of position which helps create space for the latter. Conte will have to rely on Sebastiano Esposito as an option from the bench in the absence of Sanchez.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Handanovic; Godin, de Vrij, Bastoni; Moses, Barella, Brozovic, Gagliardini, Young; Lautaro, Lukaku
There are no new concerns for Shakhtar Donetsk ahead of their biggest game of the season. Ismaily, Maksym Malyshev, Vladyslav Vakula, and Vyacheslav Tankovskyi are still missing for the Ukrainian outfit and will not participate against Inter Milan. Davit Khocholava returns from his one-game suspension and will begin the game on the bench.
Junior Moraes scored his fourth goal in the Europa League against Basel, and will retain his spot as the sole striker in a 4-2-3-1. He will be aided by Marlos on his right and Taison on his left. 20-year-old Tete will start the game on the bench but is expected to be called on at some point irrespective of the scoreline.
Alan Patrick will occupy the no. 10 slot, playing off of Moraes in a free role. Behind him, Marcos Antonio and Taras Stepanenko will be playing as the double pivot that screens the defence.
Serhiy Kryvtsov and Valeriy Bondar will assume responsibility in the heart of the defence, with Dodo and Mykola Matviyenko providing the width from the back. Dodo capped off his superb performance against Basel with a goal in the 88th minute, and will be looking to do more of the same against Inter. Andriy Pyatov will hold the fort for Shakhtar from between the posts.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Pyatov; Dodo, Kryvstov, Bondar, Matviyenko; Antonio, Stepanenko; Marlos, Patrick, Taison; Moraes
- The last time Inter Milan and Shakhtar Donetsk faced off against each other was in the qualification stages of the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League. Inter won the tie 3-1 over two legs.
- Inter Milan have been winning at both half time and full time in their last three matches in the Europa League.
- Inter Milan are undefeated in their last nine games in all competitions, winning seven and drawing two.
- Shakhtar Donetsk have not faced defeat in any of their last 11 games in all competitions, winning nine of them (D2).
- Shakhtar Donetsk have been an attacking force in the Europa League, scoring 14 goals in five games in the knockouts. No team has scored more in the same period.
Player to Watch
Romelu Lukaku has been in top-notch form since switching Manchester United to Inter Milan. With his goal against Bayer Leverkusen, Lukaku went up to 31 goals for the season in all competitions. That goal also meant that he has scored in nine consecutive games in UEFA competitions, becoming the first-ever player to do so.
There has been little stopping him this season and his tally speaks for itself. He is only the fourth Inter Milan player to reach 30 goals for the season, overtaking Diego Milito’s 30-goal tally from 2009/10. He has two games at best to surpass Samuel Eto’o (34) and Ronaldo Nazario (37) and with him in such menacing form, he is likely to get past at least one of them.
Inter Milan 1-0 Shakhtar Donetsk
Shakhtar Donetsk have been one of the most entertaining teams in Europe this season, scoring goals for fun courtesy of a quick and fluid counter-attacking system laid out by Luis Castro. They are not afraid of going toe-to-toe with their opposition and committing numbers in attack even if that means a considerable threat against them on the counter.
However, Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan are precisely the type of team that could exploit Shakhtar’s aggressive charge. With the help of a three-man backline, endless stamina from the wing-backs and Lautaro Martinez’s willingness to carry the ball through the press, the outfit from Italy may just be able to take them through to the finals.