How Inter Milan Got To The Champions League Final
In this post we look at how Inter Milan reached the Champions League Final, their recent record in the competition, key players and tactics.
Inter Milan came into the 22/23 season following being the bridesmaid in the Serie A coming second to their dreaded Milan rivals AC losing out by a point, Coppa Italia and Suppercoppa Italiana Champions and a disappointing Round of 16 exit in the Champions League.
Inter Milan’s Recent Champions League Finishes
Inter Milan have largely underperformed in Europe, since their Champions League success under Jose Mourinho with them often being involved in the Europa League rather than the Champions League due to poor league performances. Their European Record for the last seven seasons is as follows:
22/23: Finalists (Still in Progress)
21/22: Round of 16
20/21: Group Stage
19/20: Group Stage
18/19: Group Stage
16/17: Finalists (Europa League)
With respect to Man City, the narrative, but also expectation levels, are on a completely different level to their rivals. In saying that, their continued underperformance in Europe in recent years would be considered disappointing.
When Simone Inzaghi took over from Conte for the 21/22 season he inherited a side which had won the 20/21 Serie A. That was their first League Title since their fantastic 09/10 season where they also won the Champions League under Jose Mourinho. In his first season at the club they lost out in the Serie A title race by just a point to AC Milan along with winning the Coppa Italia and the Suppercoppa Italiana.
However, at the 21/22 edition of the event, they met Liverpool in the Round of 16 and after losing 2-0 in the first leg their 0-1 away victory in the second leg was not enough to advance in Europe as their poor run in the competition continued.
During the off-season Inter Milan made some key acquisitions with the likes of André Onana, Robin Gosens, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and the return of Romelu Lukaku on-loan from Chelsea which added much-needed depth to their squad. This has arguably been the difference maker in their Champions League run this season after not having the necessary depth to go deep in the competition in recent years.
ROAD TO THE FINAL
In the Champions League this season they were initially drawn in what many people saw as the “Group of Death” with Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Viktoria Plzeň. Despite this tough draw, Milan managed to qualify second in the Group behind Bayern Munich following a record of three wins, one draw and two defeats (both to Bayern Munich) scoring ten goals and conceding seven.
Their Key Game in this Champions League run (for me anyway) came early in their campaign in Matchday 3 of the Group Stage when they faced Spanish Giants Barcelona. In this match, a 45+2-minute goal by Hakan Çalhanoğlu was enough to earn them a crucial 1-0 victory which was essentially the result that got them out of the Group ahead of Barcelona.
What is most impressive is this 1-0 scoreline was achieved through an XG of 0.2 while restricting Barcelona to an XG of 0.5, showing how tight of a game it was. What was notable was Barcelona had a staggering 71% of possession but Inter proved there is more than one way to win a game which could prove crucial again for the Final.
It is fair to say that Inter have had one of the easier paths to a Champions League Final that we have seen in recent memory.
In the round of 16 they were drawn against Portugal’s Porto who they narrowly beat thanks to a late Romelu Lukaku strike in the first leg followed by a tense 0-0 second leg.
Their quarter-final opponent was yet another Portuguese outfit, this time Benfica. Inter proved too good as they advanced to the semi-final courtesy of a 5-3 aggregate win.
In the semi-final they were drawn against city rival AC Milan. Inter were able to get the better of both Milan derbies in this semi-final tie to book a spot in the Champions League Final where they will take on Pep Guardiola’s Man City.
The Argentinian Hit-Man has 3 Goals and 3 Assists across his 12 appearances in the competition this season. His finishing ability, link-up play and eye for a pass make him a constant thorn in the side of opposition defences.
What really separates Martinez is his relentless running and pressing from the front which is his biggest asset to the Inter attack as he doesn’t look to give his opponents a second on the ball! This is evidenced by the fact that for forwards he ranks in the 84th percentile for Tackles, 98th percentile for Interceptions and 92nd percentile for Blocks. He will be crucial at the weekend again to stop Man City from starting their passing game from the back.
The Italian CB has been a massive part of the Inter Champions League run featuring in 11/12 matches (the one game he missed they lost to Bayern) and 915/1080 minutes the most of all their outfield players.
What stands out most about Bastoni is his passing where he ranks in the 94th percentile for Progressive Passes amongst CBs along with being in the 98th percentile for Progressive Carries which makes him the perfect modern CB. Furthermore, defensively he is an intelligent defender with good concentration which allows him to snuff out danger before it occurs through his positioning.
The final key man to watch is the tenacious Number (8) Barella who offers the link between the defence and attack in the Inter side. Barella defensively offers an awful lot of much-needed energy to the Inter midfield and don’t be surprised if he is employed to do a man-marking job on either Gundogan or De Bruyne.
When Barella gets the ball he is even stronger going forward where he ranks in the 89th percentile among midfielders for Shot Creating Actions, 89th percentile for Progressive Carries and 93rd percentile for Progressive Passes received. Expect him to be looking to break up the Man City attack and launch Inter counterattacks with dribbles or through balls to the likes of Lautaro Martinez up front.
Simone Inzaghi Tactical Philosophy
Inter Milan manager Simone Inzaghi has built a reputation for getting the most out of his players. He is known for deploying a 3-5-2 formation which he has used for 3427/ 3605 minutes this season.
In this system, the wingbacks are encouraged to get forward and join in the attacking play. He also prefers to have two central strikers which is more often than not Lautaro plus one of Edin Dzeko or Romelu Lukaku. Those two strikers are supported by an attacking midfielder in the 10 position who sits just in front of the other two players in midfield.
With Man City expected to have 55%-75% of the ball at the weekend Inter will need to create opportunities from limited ball-play so when the ball is recovered (probably by Barella) you will have a counterattack with Barella, Calhanoglu and Mkhitaryan playing long balls down to the runners down the flanks in Dumfries and Dimarco. They will be looking to pick out the pace and energy of Lautaro in behind the Man City defence.
The most important thing to note for this match-up is that it is a tactically fluid system which appears like a 5-3-2 out of possession as the wingbacks drop back into defence. The two players likely to be employed as wingbacks for Inter in this game are Dumfries and Dimarco in a low/mid-block and high press.
Inter are also strong at defending set-pieces so don’t be surprised to see them being pushed for some cynical tactical fouling led by Barella and Bastoni the former who will be tasked with stopping the Man City midfield while the latter will have the unenviable task of stifling Haaland.
For a full preview of Man City v Inter Milan check out our Champions League Final Prediction post where we look at the odds, matchups and form for both teams ahead of the world’s biggest club football game.
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