Real Madrid will be aiming to kickstart their 2021/22 UEFA Champions League campaign with a win when they face off against Inter Milan this week.

La Liga leaders Real Madrid will be hoping to begin their UEFA Champions League journey for the season on a winning note when they lock horns with Serie A champions Inter Milan at San Siro on Wednesday night in Group D.

Real Madrid are the most successful team in the history of the Champions League. They enjoyed a solid run last season as well, only to exit at the semi-final stages at the hands of eventual champions. There has been a sea of change at the club since then, with Zinedine Zidane replaced by Carlo Ancelotti while the likes of Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos have all moved on.

Even as the Merengues are ushering in a new era, they have made a good start to the season and sit at the top of the La Liga table, following a thumping 5-2 win over Celta Vigo this past weekend. They will be hoping to carry that momentum forward when they make the trip to Italy this week.

Inter Milan, meanwhile, are also in a transitional phase following their title-winning campaign last time out. With Antonio Conte gone, Simone Inzaghi has taken over the team and has made a decent start, winning two and drawing one of his three games in charge, with the latest one ending in a 2-2 stalemate against Sampdoria.

The Nerazzurri did not have the best of seasons in Europe last time out, as they finished at the bottom of the group and crashed out early. Inzaghi & co. will be aiming to change that, although things could get tricky in a group that also has Shakhtar Donetsk.

Real Madrid and Inter Milan squared off against each other in the group stages of the Champions League last term, with Los Blancos winning both ties. Ahead of their latest meeting on Wednesday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at their squads.

Team News & Tactics

Inter Milan

Inter Milan do not have any pressing issues with regard to the roster, although midfielder Stefano Sensi is set to miss out after picking up a knee injury last time out. Alessandro Bastoni, who has recently been linked with Chelsea, has recovered from a thigh problem but might not be rushed back into action ahead of a busy period for the Italian champions.

Simone Inzaghi will set his team up in the usual 3-5-2 formation with goalkeeper and captain Samir Handanovic lining up between the sticks. Milan Skriniar and Stefan de Vrij are both permanent fixtures in the three-man defensive unit but with Bastoni a doubt, Federico Dimarco could find himself starting another game as the left-sided centre-half.

Matteo Darmian ought to keep his spot at right wing-back ahead of summer signing Denzel Dumfries while Ivan Perisic continues on the left, from where the duo will look to push forward and supply crosses for the strikers to attack. Marcelo Brozovic, meanwhile, will hold the fort in the middle of the park and try to keep his team on the front foot.

Nicolo Barella and Hakan Calhanoglu will flank the Croatian from where they will be tasked with providing the forward thrust and creative essence for the hosts. Summer signing Edin Dzeko will operate as the target man, with Lautaro Martinez playing off of him and trying to get the better of the Real Madrid defence with his movement. Joaquin Correa will be an option from the bench.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, de Vrij, Dimarco; Darmian, Barella, Brozovic, Calhanoglu, Perisic; Dzeko, Martinez

Real Madrid

There are a couple of fresh injury concerns for Real Madrid as both Marcelo and Ferland Mendy picking up muscle problems ruling them out of the contest. However, David Alaba and Luka Jovic are back in the squad for the contest, although Toni Kroos, Gareth Bale and Dani Ceballos remain unavailable.

Carlo Ancelotti should stick with his preferred 4-3-3 formation on his return to Italy, with Thibaut Courtois the undisputed starter between the sticks. Eder Militao and Nacho are the primary options at the heart of the defence for Los Blancos while Dani Carvajal and the returning Alaba take up the full-back slots on the right and left sides, respectively.

Casemiro is a certain starter at the base of the Real Madrid midfield. He will be key to curbing the influence of someone like Barella on the night. The Brazilian will be supported by the industrious Federico Valverde while Luka Modric ought to be the creative presence in the centre of the park. New signing Eduardo Camavinga, who scored on his debut last weekend, will again be an option from the bench.

Moving further up, the Real Madrid frontline pretty much picks itself on current form with Karim Benzema, Eden Hazard and Vinicius Junior the preferred starters while Rodrygo Goes and Marco Asensio provide options from the bench.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Nacho, Alaba; Modric, Casemiro, Valverde; Hazard, Benzema, Vinicius

Key Stats

  • This is the second consecutive UEFA Champions League campaign in which Inter Milan and Real Madrid have been drawn in the same group. The Spanish heavyweights won home and away last season against Inter, with an aggregate scoreline of 5-2.
  • Inter Milan have lost four of their last five games against Real Madrid in European competition (W1), as many as they had suffered in their first 12 meetings against the Merengues.
  • Real Madrid have only won one of their previous eight away games against Inter Milan in European competition (D2 L5).
  • Inter Milan boss Simone Inzaghi has faced Carlo Ancelotti on two previous occasions in his managerial career and has lost 2-1 each time.
  • This is set to be Karim Benzema’s 17th consecutive season featuring in the UEFA Champions League. The Frenchman needs one more goal to go past Real Madrid legend Raul Gonzalez as the fourth-highest goalscorer in the competition, with both currently tied on 71.

Player to Watch

Vinicius Junior

While Karim Benzema has been in scintillating form since the start of the season, it is the form of Vinicius Junior that has taken fans by a huge surprise. The Brazilian had endured an underwhelming campaign under Zinedine Zidane last time out but is looking like a champion player ever since Ancelotti took over.

The 21-year-old has already scored four goals in four games in La Liga, while setting up one more. Having played a key role in Real Madrid’s comeback win over Celta Vigo at the weekend, the Brazilian international will be keen on carrying on in the same vein of form and establish himself as an indispensable member of this Real Madrid side.

Prediction

Inter Milan 1-2 Real Madrid

Real Madrid haven’t entirely been solid since the start of the season as they continue to deal with the departures of Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane. That will provide Inter Milan with a chance to score against Los Blancos. However, as was seen in the last game against Sampdoria, the Nerazzurri themselves have shown signs of vulnerability at the back which Carlo Ancelotti’s men are more than capable of exploiting.

So, we can expect a game filled with chances at San Siro on Wednesday night. Ultimately, though, Real Madrid could come out on top, owing to the form that both Benzema and Vinicius Junior have been in. That is why The Hard Tackle is predicting a 2-1 win for the visitors.

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