Inter has two games left in its Champions League group stage and nothing to play for. Well, not quite nothing, but the heavy lifting is thankfully over long before the nail-biters on Matchday 6 that we’re accustomed to. The Nerazzurri’s qualification to the Round of 16 is already secured thanks to back-to-back wins over RB Salzburg, and now the only worry left is whether Simone Inzaghi’s men will manage to edge out Real Sociedad, who also clinched advancement, for first, or settle for second. While Sociedad hosts Salzburg, Inter will take a visit to the Iberian Peninsula and Benfica on Matchday 5.
The Portuguese side is dead last in the UCL with four losses from four, three points behind Salzburg for the Europa League spot. Its domestic form, however, has been stellar with 9 wins, 1 draw, and 1 draw in the Primeira Liga, good enough for first-place alongside city rivals Sporting CP. Benfica’s attack (24 goals scored) and defense (9 conceded) both rank second in Portugal, but its Champions League campaign has been a very different story, and surprisingly so after a run to the quarterfinals last season.
Nonetheless, Roger Schmidt’s side is liable to wake up in Europe at any time and has the weapons to cause problems. Angel Di Maria is Benfica’s leading scorer with 5 goals, while attacking midfielder Rafa Silva (4g, 4a) and striker Petar Musa (3g, 1a) aren’t short on final third product either, and keep an eye on right back Fredrik Aursnes (2g, 3a) as well.
Inter, though, would feel confident in its ability to keep Benfica under control with a 10-game unbeaten streak in all competitions under its belt coming into Wednesday’s encounter. I say would, though, because regardless of the result against Benfica or Sociedad’s result vs Salzburg, Inter will have a chance to claim the top spot in Group D at home against the Spaniards on Matchday 6. Both teams are currently tied on ten points and even if Inter loses and Sociedad wins this week, the three-point difference would be surmounted with a win in December. Inter would then go on to claim first in the head-to-head tiebreaker thanks to its draw in Spain, while a Sociedad victory would do the same for them. A result against Benfica would give the Nerazzurri a bit more flexibility, but there’s no way it can clinch first ahead of time, so with a trip to Napoli looming on Sunday, Inter’s focus might be looking just a little ahead.
Inter boasts an unbeaten 4W-2D-0L record against Benfica, including a 1-0 win in the reverse fixture back in early October, decided by a 62nd-minute Marcus Thuram strike.
Predicted Starting XIs
Prediction: Benfica 1-1 Inter Milan
A rotated Inter won’t be able to keep the European winning streak alive, but it will manage a draw thanks to another Thuram goal, canceling out Angel Di Maria’s opener.