The Nerazzurri will have to take a break from its red-hot start to Serie A, where it boasts four wins, 13 goals scored, and one conceded, but European nights are back. Inter is now a bit more seasoned abroad thanks to last year’s run to the final, and while a repeat is unlikely, the group stage draw has seemed to pave the way to another deep Champions League run. Of course, that requires Inter to navigate a tricky but not impossible Group D (featuring Benfica and RB Salzburg as well), and where better to begin than against Real Sociedad in the beautiful Basque Country.
Real Sociedad currently sits 10th in La Liga with one win and three draws from its first four outings. Managed since 2018 by Imanol Alguacil, the Spanish club finished 4th in 2022/23 with 71 points, booking a Champions League spot for the first time in a decade with 7 points to spare. Alguacil has had the same squad at his disposal for much of his tenure and this consistency and year-over-year improvement is a big reason Sociedad has reached Europe’s grandest stage. Nonetheless, it will be hard-pressed to go much further considering the paltry sum of €17.40 million spent in the summer market, not quite an outlay matching the income brought by the Champions League.
Sociedad did manage to keep its spine of Spanish internationals Martín Zubimendi (CDM), Robin Le Normand (CB), Mikel Merino (CM), and Mikel Oyarzabal (CF) intact and add on-loan fullbacks Kiernan Tierney and Alvaro Odriozola from Arsenal and Real Madrid, respectively. Keep an eye out for winger Takefusa Kubo as well. The Japanese youngster bagged 9 goals and 7 assists last year and already has 3 in 4 games this time around. Much of Sociedad’s play in the final third will flow through Kubo and Oyarzabal, a far-from-shabby attacking duo. Sociedad’s real strength, however, is its defense, which conceded a mere 35 goals (the 3rd best tally in La Liga) last season, and with the exception of a wild 5-3 win over Granada, has limited the opposition to 2 goals in 3 games this campaign.
Inter’s perfect Serie A start will have to be put on hold with Champions League football here. Nonetheless, the Nerazzurri should have the squad depth to cope after its summer transfer window. David Frattesi, Juan Cuadrado, Benjamin Pavard, and Marko Arnautović are all options for their first start of the season and though Simone Inzaghi isn’t likely to rotate much this early in the season, a few changes are needed to keep things fresh.
Inter and Sociedad have met only twice before, going all the way back to the 1979 UEFA Cup Round of 32, which the Nerazzurri progressed from on aggregate after a 3-0 win and 2-0 loss.
Predicted Starting XIs
Prediction: Real Sociedad 1-2 vs Inter Milan
It won’t be easy against a stingy Sociedad back line, but Inter will escape Spain with all three points thanks to a Lautaro brace to decide a hard-fought affair.