Inter has gotten back on the right track in Serie A thanks to its 4-0 win against Salernitana over the weekend, but now it returns to where things started to go wrong this season. The Nerazzurri’s fortunate 1-1 draw at Real Sociedad after being heavily outplayed exposed its weaknesses for the first time of the campaign and it’s yet to rediscover its top form since. Perhaps Sociedad provided teams a blueprint to use against Inter or Simone Inzaghi’s side was mentally affected by being thoroughly outclassed, but either way, the team we’ve seen since has been completely unrecognizable from the side that beat Milan 5-1. Now, though, the Champions League is back with Matchday 2 and Inter has a crucial home tilt against Benfica to focus on.
Benfica is currently last in Group D after a 2-0 home loss to RB Salzburg, heavily influenced by the sending off of one of its center-backs within 20 minutes. Its domestic campaign, however, has been almost flawless with 7 wins and 1 loss from 8 in the Portuguese Primeira League. Benfica is second, one point behind Sporting CP, and two ahead of Porto, who Benfica beat this past weekend 1-0. Angel Di Maria was the scorer of that lone goal and leads Benfica’s charts with 5 goals and 1 assist, followed by attacking midfielder Rafa Silva (3g, 4a) and striker Petar Musa (3g). Brazilian winger David Neres is a game-changing option off the bench with 1 goal and 3 assists in just 2 starts, although he could get the nod over ex-Inter man Joao Mario from the word go this Tuesday.
Lautaro’s rise to stardom this season has also seen the Nerazzurri become more reliant on its Argentine talisman. His 10 goals on the campaign are 8 more than the 2 scored by the four players tied in second place, and with the exception of the 5-1 win over Milan, whether El Toro scores seems to correlate heavily with whether Inter gets a result. While not necessarily a bad thing (Lautaro is scoring boatloads at the moment after all), where the goals come when they’re not from him is worth keeping an eye on.
As for this Tuesday’s outing, the early takeaway from Matchday 1 in Group D is that it’s a collection of teams that will constantly be taking points off each other in a vicious circle. Taking care of business at home will be vital if Inter is to advance in good shape, starting with this clash against Benfica.
Inter has never lost against Benfica (famous last words), boasting a 3W-2D-0L record including a 2-0 win and 3-3 draw in the 22/23 quarterfinals.
Predicted Starting XIs
Prediction: Inter Milan 2-1 Benfica
An in-form Lautaro will strike again before Nicolo Barella snags the game-winner, but Benfica will make things interesting through an Angel Di Maria goal.