Inter Milan will hope to fight for their place in the knockout round of the Champions League when they host Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday.
Group B of this season’s UEFA Champions League has given us quite a spectacle so far. None of the four teams are yet to secure their qualification to the next round as we head into the final matchday this midweek.
Inter Milan, in particular, are currently at the bottom with just five points. However, the Nerazzurri have a realistic chance of making it into the Round of 16 if they do manage to seal a victory against Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday, although they do need the result of the other fixture between Borussia Monchengladbach and Real Madrid to tilt in their favour.
Inter do have a better head to head record against group leaders Gladbach. The Foals are currently at eight points, but could potentially finish third should they lose to Real Madrid, thus allowing Inter Milan to qualify.
Alternatively, the Serie A giants could hope for a Gladbach win that would leave Madrid with just seven points. Inter can then overtake the Spanish giants with a slender one-point advantage. However, a draw between the two sides could be devastating for Antonio Conte’s men as they have lost both matches to Real Madrid this season.
For Shakhtar, the equation is much easier. They simply need to win in order to secure a place in the knockout rounds, although a draw could also suffice should Real Madrid fail to win against Gladbach in the other match.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides as we brace ourselves for an exciting end to the proceedings in Group B in the UEFA Champions League this midweek.
Team News & Tactics
#Inter could reportedly be without Nicolò Barella and Arturo Vidal for the big match against #ShakhtarDonetsk in the #ChampionsLeague. https://t.co/gI71sojwZo#FCIM #InterShakhtar #UCL pic.twitter.com/0BGMzjMo9W
— footballitalia (@footballitalia) December 7, 2020
Inter Milan are coming on the back of a strong 3-1 win over Bologna on the weekend, where Antonio Conte did not make too many changes to his starting eleven.
Arturo Vidal, in particular, was given the nod ahead of Nicolo Barella in central midfield. But it appears that the ex-Barcelona star is in danger of missing the midweek fixture after picking up a knock against Bologna. His likely replacement, Barella also appears to be a doubt after sustaining a knock in training.
It should pave the way for Stefano Sensi to renew his midfield partnership alongside Marcelo Brozovic and Roberto Gagliardini while both Matteo Darmian and Ashley Young could return to the fold after being handed a breather on Saturday. It will be a tough call between Achraf Hakimi and Darmian, however, as the former made a huge impact in the win over Bologna.
Should Hakimi miss out, the onus will be on the attacking combination of Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez to provide more substance going forward. Their contrasting style of play could give Inter a major advantage heading into this encounter, with Conte also having the option of playing Alexis Sanchez.
There should not be any changes made elsewhere, with the hosts likely to persist with the defensive combination of Stefan de Vrij, Alessandro Bastoni and Milan Skriniar. They will be in charge of covering Samir Handanovic in goal.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, de Vrij, Bastoni; Darmian, Sensi, Brozovic, Gagliardini, Young; Martinez, Lukaku
Shakhtar Donetsk manager Luis Castro is missing a host of key players heading into this game including star striker Junior Moraes, who picked up a knock against Real Madrid last week. He joins Yevhen Konoplyanka, Maksym Malyshev, Ismaily and Viktor Kornienko in the list of absentees for the visitors.
Moraes’s replacement Dentinho is a doubt as well, so Castro may have no option but to start with Fernando in the number nine role. The Brazilian could be supported by the creative trifecta of Tete, Marlos and Taison, although Manor Solomon is another option the visitors could consider.
Junior Moraes will no longer be able to benefit Shakhtar in 2020.
— FC SHAKHTAR ENGLISH (@FCShakhtar_eng) December 2, 2020
In midfield, Castro could opt for the Ukrainian duo of Taras Stepanenko and Viktor Kovalenko. Club captain Alan Patrick is another option should the Portuguese tactician prefer more industry in the middle of the park.
Finally in defence, the visitors are unlikely to make any changes from the side that secured a convincing 5-1 win over FC Minaj on the weekend, with Vitao and Valeriy Bondar forming the central defensive partnership.
However, Castro has primarily preferred Dodo in the Champions League fixtures this season, so the Brazilian could once again get the nod ahead of Sergey Bolbat at right-back while Mykola Matvienko remains a surefire starter on the opposite flank. The Ukrainian giants need at least a point this midweek so the main objective will be to provide maximum defensive cover for goalkeeper Anatoli Trubin.
Probable lineup (4-2-3-1): Trubin; Dodo, Vitao, Bondar, Matvienko; Stepanenko, Kovalenko; Tete, Marlos, Taison; Fernando
- Inter Milan are unbeaten across their previous four meetings with Shakhtar Donetsk in European competition, including qualifying games while they have only conceded one goal across these four matches, keeping three clean sheets.
- Shakhtar Donetsk have only played away from home against Inter Milan on one previous occasion in European competition, with that coming in the second leg of the Champions League qualifying tie back in 2005/06 campaign. That game finished 1-1, however, Inter Milan progressed after winning the first leg 2-0 away from home.
- This will be the third time Inter Milan and Shakhtar Donetsk have faced each other in 2020, with the first of those meetings being a 5-0 win for Antonio Conte’s side in the semi-final of last season’s UEFA Europa League.
- A draw or defeat will see Inter Milan bow out of the Champions League at the group stage for a third consecutive season – before this run, they had progressed from 11 of their 12 group stages in the competition.
- Shakhtar Donetsk could qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League for a fifth time, last doing so in the 2017/18 campaign. Shakhtar’s goal difference after five games in -7, with only two sides progressing with as poor a goal difference after five group stage games: Galatasaray in 2013/14 and Atalanta in 2019/20 (both-7).
Player to Watch
If there is anyone who can fire Inter Milan into the knockout stages of this edition’s UEFA Champions League this week, it is Romelu Lukaku.
The star striker from Belgium has picked up from where he had left off last season, having scored 12 goals in 13 competitive matches so far. His most recent goal came in the 3-1 win over Bologna while his brace helped the Serie A giants secure a vital 3-2 over Borussia Monchengladbach in last week’s Champions League encounter.
Stopping Lukaku should, therefore, remain the number one priority for Shaktar Donetsk as he has the physical and aerial prowess that could seriously trouble the backline. In addition, his work-rate and combination play with Lautaro Martinez must be prevented if the Ukrainians are to have any hopes of salvaging anything from this game.
Inter Milan 2-1 Shakhtar Donetsk
Inter Milan have an excellent record against Shakhtar Donetsk and are coming on the back of a three-game winning run in all competitions. But, they have lacked solidity at the back, especially on the flanks, which appears to be Shaktar’s strength. So it won’t be surprising to see this game going down to the wire, although we do expect the Nerazzurri to prevail by the narrowest of margins.