It’s not the situation we expected to be in, is it? When the group-stage draw came out, we may have expected varying degrees of difficulty from Group B, but Inter making it into the Champions League Round of 16 for the first time since the 2011/12 campaign seemed more likely than not. And yet, it hasn’t quite turned out that way. The Nerazzurri are facing a third straight group stage exit from Europe’s premier competition if anything less three points are picked up when it travels to Borussia Mönchengladbach on Matchday 5.
Inter is in this position thanks to draws versus Mönchengladbach and Shakhtar Donetsk, but it was back-to-back defeats against Real Madrid in the previous two rounds that have really done the damage. Inter’s two points have it rooted firmly in last, while Shakhtar, on four, holds the Europa League spot. Mönchengladbach and Real are set to advance with eight and seven points, respectively. For Inter to qualify it would need to win out and hope Madrid beat Mönchengladbach on the final matchday. For Europa League, winning one more match than Shakhtar over the next two outings would be enough. But back to the here and now.
Like Inter, Mönchengladbach enters this midweek clash off the back off a heavy victory in league play, a 4-1 thrashing of bottom side Schalke. That leaves Mönchengladbach in 7th with 15 points in the Bundesliga table after nine rounds. Third is just three points away, so Borussia is very much in the thick of things in Germany. Marco Rose’s side hasn’t been spectacular in the league, however. Mönchengladbach’s fourteen conceded goals is the most of the top eight and its scored the third least (seventeen) at the other end. For contrast, Inter has twenty-three goals scored and thirteen conceded.
Borussia has been excellent in the UCL, though, and deserves the top spot after four rounds. Its scored fourteen goals, though ten came against Shakhtar Donetsk. Borussia also notched 2-2 draws against Madrid and Inter but succumbed to a late equalizer in each. Although Jonas Hofmann, who scored one of his four goals an two assists in the reverse fixture, is out with a long-term injury, Mönchengladbach has plenty to throw at a leaky Inter defense. It’s top scorer is 32-year-old Lars Stindl with four goals, while both Marcus Thuram and Florian Neuhaus have two goals and one assist.
- 2-2, H, 21/10/2020
Predicted Starting XIs
Inter is without the suspended Arturo Vidal for this one and Marcelo Brozovic’s status is unknown, leaving things a little light in midfield. That opens the door for Stefano Sensi to snag his first start since early October. Alternatively, Christian Eriksen is an option in the center of the park for Antonio Conte, but we all know how likely that is. Romelu Lukaku, Ashley Young, and Achraf Hakimi were all rested against Sassuolo so should be 100% Tuesday. Lukaku of course will slot right back into the starting eleven but I wouldn’t be surprised if Matteo Darmian retains his place on either flank after a very strong Saturday showing.
Prediction: Borussia Mönchengladbach 2-2 Inter Milan
I see this one ending in a 2-2 draw, like the last time these two sides faced. Inter’s away form has been excellent this season, but Mönchengladbach is unbeaten at the Borussia-Park in six fixtures. What the Germans do have is four draws, however, and this one could very well end in similar fashion. There is a path to victory, though. Borussia is sure to give away chances and if the Nerazzurri keep their finishing boots in prime condition it could be a high-scoring affair. And if the form Inter showed defensively against an attacking team like Sassuolo becomes the usual starting this Tuesday, then keeping its Round of 16 hopes alive for one more week won’t surprise me.