Inter Milan will have their Champions League destiny in their own hands if they defeat Ukrainian giants Shakhtar Donetsk at the San Siro.
Italian champions Inter Milan endured a difficult start to their UEFA Champions League campaign, securing just one point from their first two games in the competition.
However, doing the double over Sheriff Tiraspol has put them in a strong position going into the final two matchdays. The Nerazzurri currently have seven points and can take a giant leap in qualifying for the next round should they see off bottom-placed Shakhtar Donetsk at home.
A win at the San Siro coupled with a loss for Sheriff will guarantee Inter’s place in the last 16. At the very least, a win will see the Italians head into the final game week, knowing full well that they control their destiny.
It has been a rather inconsistent season for the Italian champions, who have had a summer to forget. The exit of Antonio Conte, Romelu Lukaku, and Achraf Hakimi has seen them lose the edge in key areas. However, Simone Inzaghi’s side have shown glimpses of what they can do on their day.
Shakhtar, for their part, have already been knocked out but have a slim chance of making it to the Europa League. Whether it counts as enough motivation to challenge Inter on their home turf remains to be seen. While no matches at this level come easy, Inter go into the game as the team with the advantage and something more to play for.
The Nerazzurri go into the game in high spirits after beating table-topping and hitherto unbeaten Napoli at the weekend. Inter put up a real show on the night, and the same will be expected of them on Wednesday. Having not played in the knockout stages of the competition since 2012, this is a chance for them to end that hoodoo finally.
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— Inter 🏆🇮🇹 (@Inter) November 23, 2021
The Nerazzurri will be without the services of Stefan de Vrij, who is nursing hamstring injuries. Despite the setback, the Italian giants go into the game in high spirits. Alexis Sanchez appears to have recovered from his injury and was pictured in training.
Simone Inzaghi’s side looks set to start in a 3-5-2 system that has brought them much success this season. The flexibility of the formation to dovetail to a 5-3-2 while defending helps them get numbers back against the counter.
Samit Handanovic looks set to start in goal. Andrea Ranocchia is likely to take de Vrij’s spot in the back three, alongside Milan Skriniar and Alessandro Bastoni.
The trio of Hakan Calhanoglu, Marcelo Brozovic and Nicolo Barella will give Inter the midfield advantage. The former two will look to attain a foothold in the middle of the park, permitting Barella to push forward on his inquisitive runs.
Inter’s full-back duo of Ivan Perisic and Denzel Dumfries will offer width and if on song, will be a difficult force for Shakhtar to contain. The onus to lead the line will fall on veteran Edin Dzeko and pocket dynamo Lautaro Martinez. All the ingredients are present for Inter to take the game to the opposition. How they will fare on the night will be the question.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, Ranocchia, Bastoni; Dumfries, Barella, Brozovic, Calhanoglu, Perisic; Dzeko, Martinez
This season, the Ukrainian giants have suffered in the Champions League, garnering just one point from the first four games. They are as good as eliminated from Europe and only hold remote chances of making it to the Europa League.
Not only do they have to win both of their remaining games, but they will also need Sheriff to lose their games. It is a tough ask given that both sides will go up against each other in their last match of the group stages. However, a trip to the San Siro is no easy task, especially with Inzaghi’s side having their tail up.
Roberto De Zebri’s side will be without Lassina Traore and Ismaily on the night. Yevhen Konoplyanka too has just recovered from injury, and it remains to be seen if he will be involved from the start. Other players missing for the Ukrainians are Alan Patrick, Georgiy Sudakov and Junior Moraes.
They look set to keep their 4-2-3-1 system that could add numbers in the middle of the park to combat the Inter midfield. Anatoliy Trubin seems set to start in goal behind the centre-back pairing of Mykola Matvienko and Marlon Santos.
🇮🇹 Ciao, Italy! We've landed in Milan!
— FC SHAKHTAR ENGLISH (@FCShakhtar_eng) November 22, 2021
The full-back duo of Viktor Kornienko and Dodo will have their hands full against Perisic and Dumfries. With Ismaily absent, the former has an excellent opportunity to showcase his abilities.
Taras Stepanenko and Maycon will form the double pivot in midfield and hope to better Brozovic and co. Doing so could open the door for Manor Solomon, Pedrinho and Tete to push on forward. Fernando will be tasked with leading the line and taking advantage of de Vrij’s absence.
The distinct Brazilian flavour coursing through the Shakhtar squad will not be lost on Inter. Having had their share of Selecao superstars in the past, the Nerazzurri will hope that the Samba boys have a night off.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Trubin; Kornienko, Matvienko, Marlon, Dodo; Stepanenko, Maycon; Solomon, Pedrinho, Tete; Fernando
- Inter Milan are unbeaten in their last six meetings against Shakhtar Donetsk (W2 D4).
- Inter Milan have kept a clean sheet against Shakhtar in five of their last six meetings.
- Their last three matches have all ended goalless. A similar scoreline on the night will see the sides match Manchester United and Villarreal as the only teams in the competition’s history to play four straight goalless draws.
- Shakhtar Donestsk have lost only two of their last six games away to Italian opposition (W2 D2 L2).
- A win will see Inter win three games on the spin in the Champions League for the first time since 2011/12.
Player to Watch
The Croatian midfielder is unlikely to get his name on the scoresheet or make dazzling assists that capture one’s fancy. He is, however, key for Inter in their efforts to win the midfield battle. Currently, in the final year of his contract, the 29-year-old continues to put up performances that make clear his great quality.
A dominant midfielder adept at winning back the ball, he also has an eye for a pass that can kickstart attacks. The likes of Calhanoglu and Barella will be free to make forays forward should Brozovic hold the fort in the middle of the park. With Ismaily absent, Brozovic could also play through passes for Dumfries on the right. Up against Kornienko, the Dutchman too could be in for a sensational night.
Inter Milan 2-0 Shakhtar Donetsk
Inter are currently in top form, and morale will be high following the 3-2 win over Napoli. With the opportunity to qualify for the knockout stages for the first time in a decade on offer, the Nerazzurri will have a boisterous home crowd to urge them on.
The Italian champions failed to find a way past the Ukrainians in their last three outings. However, this time could be different, and the Nerazzurri’s quality should shine through on the day.