It is the clash of the heavyweights in the UEFA Champions League this Wednesday as Inter Milan play hosts to Real Madrid at San Siro.
Real Madrid will be looking to bounce back to winning ways when they face off against Inter Milan in a Group B encounter of the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League this midweek.
Inter Milan have had a mixed start to the new season as they struggle to hit the heights of last season. While Antonio Conte’s men are fifth in Serie A, they have fared much worse in Europe, as they are rooted to the bottom of Group B, with just two points from their three games so far.
However, having snapped their four-game winless streak in all competitions this past weekend against Torino with a 4-2 win, the Nerazzurri will be aiming to carry forward that momentum and revive their Champions League campaign.
Real Madrid, too, have been well below their best both in domestic and continental competitions. Zinedine Zidane’s side are currently third in the group, level on four points with second-placed Shakhtar Donetsk and one below leaders Borussia Monchengladbach.
The Merengues head into the game on the back of two disappointing results – a 4-1 defeat to Valencia, which was followed by a 1-1 draw against Villarreal this past weekend. And they will be hoping to quickly bring an end to that run and move upwards in the Champions League standings.
The reverse fixture played earlier this month saw Real Madrid beat Inter Milan 3-2 courtesy a late Rodrygo winner after Lautaro Martinez and Ivan Perisic had cancelled out early strikes from Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos. And ahead of this blockbuster clash at San Siro, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.
Team News & Tactics
There are no fresh injury concerns for Antonio Conte to contend with heading into Wednesday’s game. However, the Inter Milan manager will continue to be without Marcelo Brozovic and Aleksandar Kolarov, both of whom tested positive for coronavirus recently. Matias Vecino, Stefano Sensi and Andrea Pinamonti are out with injuries.
We should see some key changes made to the starting XI that took the field against Torino at the weekend. Two alterations are certain to happen in the three-man defence, with Milan Skriniar and Stefan de Vrij set to start in place of Danilo D’Ambrosio and Andrea Ranocchia, while Alessandro Bastoni holds on to his spot in the side.
This defensive trifecta will shield Inter Milan skipper Samir Handanovic in goal. Ashley Young endured a poor game at the weekend and should make way for Ivan Perisic at left wing-back, while former Real Madrid man Achraf Hakimi should feature ahead of Matteo Darmian on the right once again.
Nicolo Barella and Arturo Vidal are certain to feature in the centre of the park. However, with no Brozovic or Sensi, Roberto Gagliardini should once again get the nod ahead of the likes of Christian Eriksen and Radja Nainggolan.
Alexis Sanchez played a key role in the comeback win against Torino at the weekend. However, the Chilean is set to drop to the bench on Wednesday, with Lautaro Martinez replacing him in the lineup. Partnering the Argentine should be in-form superstar Romelu Lukaku.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, de Vrij, Bastoni; Hakimi, Barella, Gagliardini, Vidal, Perisic; Lukaku, Martinez
Real Madrid are in a very bad shape with respect to their roster issues, as captain Sergio Ramos and key striker Karim Benzema are both ruled out for the clash. Apart from the duo, Luka Jovic and Eder Militao also miss out after having tested positive for coronavirus recently, while Federico Valverde and Alvaro Odriozola are out injured as well.
There is some positive news for Zidane, though, as Brazilian enforcer Casemiro is back in contention after serving his isolation period and has been included in the 21-man travelling squad. There is also a place for Castilla players Victor Chust and Hugo Duro in the roster for the Inter Milan clash.
Considering the number of absentees, changes to the lineup that featured against Villarreal at the weekend are likely to be minimal. No alterations are expected in the backline, with Dani Carvajal, Raphael Varane, Nacho and Ferland Mendy all starting in front of first-choice goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Casemiro’s return will serve as a timely boost for the Madrid side that has lacked a solid presence in the centre of late. The Brazilian should start at the base of the three-man midfield, with Luka Modric and Toni Kroos occupying the remaining two slots. This would mean Martin Odegaard will have to drop to the bench.
Eden Hazard struggled at the weekend against Villarreal but is likely to be given a go at San Siro on Wednesday. The Belgian ought to occupy the left flank, while Lucas Vazquez could make way for Rodrygo on the right. With no Benzema and Jovic, Mariano Diaz, who scored in the previous game, should once again start as the centre-forward.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Nacho, Mendy; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Rodrygo, Mariano, Hazard
- This will be Real Madrid’s first away game against Inter Milan since November 1998, when they lost 3-1 in the UEFA Champions League under Guus Hiddink.
- Inter Milan have lost three of their last four meetings with Real Madrid in European competitions (D1), including their latest encounter earlier this month.
- Real Madrid have won seven of their eight Champions League fixtures against Italian opposition under Zinedine Zidane (L1). The lone defeat in this run came against Juventus in 2017/18.
- Inter Milan have never lost at home to Real Madrid in any European competition (W5 D2). The Nerazzurri have won each of their previous three such fixtures.
- Real Madrid have conceded at least two goals in each of their last five matches in the Champions League.
Player to Watch
From London royalty to Madrid mediocrity, Eden Hazard has endured quite a fall from grace since leaving Chelsea for Real Madrid over a year ago. Persistent injuries and fitness problems have played a role in the Belgian’s struggles in Spain. But in truth, there have been very few glimpses of the best version of Hazard in the whites of Real Madrid.
However, with Real Madrid missing their two best players in Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos, it is high time for the Belgian wing-wizard to step it up a notch. After a performance devoid of any spark at the weekend, the 29-year-old will need to take up the responsibility of leading this side to a victory in Italy. If Hazard gets going, chances are Real Madrid will end up bagging three points.
Inter Milan 2-1 Real Madrid
This is a very tough one to call. Neither team has been anywhere close to their best to be tagged the favourites heading into the game. However, the fact that Real Madrid will be without both Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos will be a huge blow for Zinedine Zidane’s side.
That, coupled with the form that Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez are in, does give Inter Milan a slight edge, more so considering how porous Los Blancos have been at the back of late. And, that is why we, at The Hard Tackle, are predicting Antonio Conte & co. to pick up a much-needed victory in the Champions League on Wednesday.