Roberto De Zerbi and Shakhtar Donetsk - two names we haven’t heard since, well, a few months ago. The Champions League may be open to teams from all across the European continent but for Inter, it’s a reunion of old
friends colleagues. The Nerazzurri have met Shakhtar three times in the last two years while De Zerbi managed a Sassuolo side that gave Inter headaches just about every time they played. The Italian, who left the Neroverdi over the summer, is now at the helm of the Ukrainian side and will be looking to inflict a similar fate to Inter as his predecessor Luis Castro did a year ago.
The early returns of De Zerbi’s tenure have been positive for Shakhtar. It progressed through two rounds of Champions League qualification, knocking Genk and Monaco out along the way. The Hirnyky fell to a surprising 2-0 defeat in its UCL opener against newcomers Sheriff Tiraspol two weeks ago, a game that featured 75% of possession and 20 shots (but just three on target) for Shakhtar. Sure sounds like De Zerbi Ball to me. League action has been more kind to Shakhtar, which sits second after 9 rounds. It has the second-most goals scored (23) and second-fewest conceded (5). The only team ahead of Shakhtar in both categories is Dynamo Kyiv. Shakhtar handily beat them 3-0 in the Ukrainian Super Cup a week ago and has outscored its opponents 12-1 since that defeat in Moldova. This is far from the bunkering, counter-attacking team that caused Inter oh so many problems last time around. But that doesn’t mean Shakhtar won’t trip Inter up once again.
With Inter’s defense far from its best, Shakhtar has the weapons to wreak havoc on Samir Handanovic’s goal. 20-year-old Burkinabé striker Lassina Traore has six goals in four Premier League appearances and is the main, but far from only danger offered by De Zerbi’s men. Georgiy Sudakov (3 goals), Alan Patrick (2 goals, 2 assists), and Tete (2 goals) provide the goal threat from midfield. Along with a high-scoring attack, another facet of Shakhtar under De Zerbi has been youth. The Ukrainian side’s starting XI is composed almost entirely of players 25 and under.
*Screams into a pillow
- 0-0 (A), 27/10/20
- 0-0 (H), 9/12/20
Predicted Starting XIs
Prediction: Shakhtar Donetsk 1-2 Inter Milan
Inter will come out on top after an end-to-end affair thanks to goals from Lautaro Martinez and Joaquin Correa.