Inter’s winding 2020/21 Champions League group stage journey ends once more with everything to play for on Matchday 6. For the third straight year Inter go to the final day with a chance to advance to the knockout stages, but we’ve seen this story end in failure all too often. This year, though, the road to the Round of 16 is a bit less rocky.
Three points separate all four teams in Group B, with Borussia Monchengladbach in first with eight, Real Madrid and Shakhtar tied for second with seven, and Inter trailing on five points. Anything less than a win for the Nerazzurri will consign it to 4th, but victory and a winner in the Monchengladbach/Real game will be enough for Inter to go through in second place. Third place and a trip down to the Europa League is also an option if Inter wins and Monchengladbach/Real ends in a draw.
Inter comes into its third clash of the calendar year with Shakhtar on a three-game winning streak. The Nerazzurri have notched three goals in each of those victories and conceded just three total. Wins over the likes of Sassuolo and Monchengladbach are sure to have built some confidence in the squad and almost everyone is fit (except Sensi, of course). A must-win UCL game such as this one couldn’t have come at a better time, but whether Inter shows up in the big moments remains to be seen.
While it’s comfortably second and unbeaten in the Ukrainian Premier League with 26 points from 12 games, Shakhtar’s UCL campaign has been full of surprising results and lopsided scorelines. After a scoreless draw with Inter, the Ukrainians were beaten 10-0 on aggregate by Monchengladbach, but preserved their pride by beating Real Madrid home and away. Donetsk’s -7 goal differential is the the second-worst goal differential of the entire Champions League, but it’s still managed to reach 2nd place after five rounds thanks to a superior head-to-head record with Madrid. In two meetings with Inter, Shakhtar is yet to record a goal but it has plenty of firepower available and leads the Ukrainian Premier League with 30 goals. Manor Solomon has five goals from the wing, Alan Patrick has four tallies to his name, and Junior Moraes two. Inter’s backline is certainly up to the task, but its definitely going to have its hands full if Shakhtar is chasing a goal. The Nerazzurri will have chances at the other end like it did in October, but unlike the original meeting between these sides, Inter has to have a finishing touch.
- 0-0, A, 27/10/2020
Predicted Starting XIs
Antonio Conte has a few interesting decisions to make Wednesday. Achraf Hakimi’s superb performance over the weekend is surely enough to keep him in the lineup, but Matteo Darmian seemed to be rested with this game in mind. In that case, Darmian will likely slide over to the left-wingback position, while Hakimi stays on the right. Nicolo Barella was also rested Saturday, but Roberto Gagliardini’s recent good form makes it hard to take him out of the eleven. Arturo Vidal seems to be the odd man out, so I expect the same midfield trio from the team that beat Monchengladbach a week prior.
Prediction: Inter Milan 2-1 Shakhtar Donetsk
The Nerazzurri will claim the three points Wednesday evening, but whether it advances is up to the football gods. I expect another tight game with lots of Inter possession and shots. This time, though, the ball will find its way into the back of the net.