Champions League nights are back, and it’s the knockout stage thriller. Inter Milan host Liverpool in the 1st Leg of the Round of 16 tie between the two sides, at the San Siro.
Simone Inzaghi prepares his troops to face the 6 time champions, Liverpool; in one of the most awaited knockout matches of this season’s UCL Round of 16. Although, there isn’t much to separate the two sides on paper. But the recent run of forms of the two sides, favor the Reds to win the game.
Jurgen Klopp knows the importance of such fixtures, and will not just go by the stats. Even more so, both of the mangers have a great ball knowledge to know for a fact that run of forms don’t matter coming into these fixtures. Champions League football is much awaited for a reason. Here, underdogs have a tendency to upset their much favored opponents. The Reds, however, are one of the 3 teams to finish at the top of the pile in the group stages with a 100% record. On the other hand, Nerazzurri finished behind Real Madrid on second place in Group D, in the group stages earlier in the UCL 21/22 season.
Let’s tactically analyze both of the sides, ahead of their clash.
Inter under Inzaghi have developed the “total football” tactics
Firstly, the question: What is Total Football?! So, basically it is a system of play in which the outfield players could take any position on the pitch as required, during the course of the game. In simpler terms, Inter players have got the green signal from their manager to take up any position on the pitch, whenever they are farthest from the play or are in acres of space. Due to this, it tends to become more difficult to mark the Inter players. Now you can observe the free flow of the movement of players.
However, it is nothing new amongst the ultras of the Black and Blues. Their ex manager, Antonio Conte, introduced a similar kind of play during his time with La Beneamata.
Further, Inzaghi has set-up a similar kind of formation to his predecessor- 3-5-2. The formation helps the wing backs move freely to the final third if needed. From where they either lay an extra pair of boots if needed to fly a cross inside, or even work a try for themselves. However, if caught out of possession the backline could get exposed as it was visible in the Derby da Milano. Where Milan beat Inter 2-1.
Going in to the game on Wednesday, the former Italian Striker turned coach, Inzaghi will urge his players to be composed at the back and attack on will. As the world now knows the pressing prowess of the Reds, since Jurgen Klopp introduced gegenpressing. The Inter players cannot even let this Liverpool side have the slightest of openings. Rather, Inzaghi would want them to play to their strengths and lure the visitors into committing mistakes.
The German counterpart might stick to the usual, seeing his team’s recent form
Jurgen Klopp, on the other hand, has nothing new to add to what his team has been doing lately. Gegenpress when out of possession. Pass and play when in the possession. Take it to the wider areas, whip a cross in and score. The instructions are predictable, so the question pops up: How Liverpool sides are still unplayable every time they set out to play?
To be clear, the play might be predictable. But the in-game instructions, during the course of the game, is the USP to success for the German coach. Moreover, the recent developments have spoiled the treat for many oppositions.
At the start of this season, Liverpool’s gameplay was criticized. The main reason was the amount of crosses each of the fullbacks, Trent & Robertson, whipped inside the box during a course of a single game. Adding to this, there was no flow to the play from the middle. Jurgen Klopp, however, has martialed his players now. In a way that, there is a rhythmic flow to the ball movement. Though, intensity of the crosses per game is still high but it does not effect the overall play.
In the recent few games, it is visible how the likes of Jones, Keita have been driving the plays forward from the midfield. While, in the final third, Liverpool players have looked to resort to the two touch passing. This strategy has looked to help them pass and move the ball, even in the tighter defensive areas.
The German coach, Jurgen Klopp will expect no less than a similar performance again from his in-form players. Keeping in mind that the away goal law has been erased, the visitors cannot expect to sit back and relax after scoring a goal.
When & Where?
Venue – San Siro.
Date – Wednesday 16th February, 2022.
Time – 8 PM GMT.
Players to look out for
Lautaro Martinez (Inter)
The Argentinian firepower, Lautaro Martinez is the biggest star amongst the Black and Blues. It seems as if he has started the season like he finished the last one-on a higher note. The 24 year old striker has already scored a total of 11 goals with 2 assists in just 22 Serie A games. Lautaro Martinez, is one of the key figures in the Inzaghi’s Inter side. Martinez is quick. Holds the ability to dribble his way past the defenders. You can expect an acrobatic effort at goal, here and there. He is a poacher, all of these skills and some more make him one the most hardest strikers to defend against.
If Lautaro is in his usual goal-scoring mood on Wednesday, it will be difficult task for the visitors to hold him back. No doubt, Inzaghi will be hoping his star man can work the treat for him and for his side.
Mohammed Salah (Liverpool)
Revisit Anfield, when the Reds recently faced Leicester City, with 30 minutes on the clock. You could here only one chant around the stadium:
“Mo Salah! Mo Salah! Running down the wing.
“Mo Salah la-la-la la-ahh, The Egyptian King!”
Yes! This was the reaction upon Salah’s return to the side, after guiding his national side Egypt to the finals of AFCON. Only to lose to the fellow Liverpool teammate and friend, Sadio Mane. Despite not being able to lift the International Trophy, Mo Salah has already achieved the title- King of the World. And rightly so! He has played 28 games across Premier League and Champions League, in which he has scored a mammoth total of 23 goals, and complementing with another 9 assists. While 7 of those goals have come in just 6 Champions League group stages matches, this season.
Mohamed Salah is unstoppable this season. Layers of defenses laid down to stop him, yet he manages to find the back of the net somehow. Going in the match on Wednesday, he will be looking to add to his tally. Egyptian scoring will mean a great satisfaction to the travelling fans who will be flying in to see their team end up Victorious. Don’t get surprised if you hear the Mo Salah chant louder than the Home fans’ chants.
For Inter there will be a few absentees, that Simone Inzaghi would have loved to have in his side. Robin Gosens and Joaquin Correa, will remain out due to the thigh injuries. While, Barella is suspended following his suspension in the final match of the group stage against Real Madrid.
Addition of the January signings, Gosens & Caicedo, means there had to be some removals. As Kolarov and Sensi were removed from the squad, while the latter also being loaned out to Sampdoria in January. Meanwhile, Bastoni can be seen featuring alongside De Vrij and Skriniar, in the back three.
For the travelling away camp, there are no major concerns regarding the availability of the players. Jurgen Klopp and co will be coming in full strength. With options on and off the bench. Likes of Thiago, Milner, Keita will be looking to get the place in the centre midfield alongside Henderson and Fabinho. As the German told that the medical staffs have cleared the English Midfielder to play.
Diogo Jota will be in contention to start alongside Salah and Mane, replacing the Brazilian Firmino. Meanwhile the new January signing, Luis Diaz could be seen starting in the bench.
Inter Milan – Handanovic; Skriniar, De Vrij, Bastoni; Dumfries, Vidal, Brozovic, Calhanoglu, Perisic; Martinez, Dzeko.
Liverpool – Alisson; Trent, Matio, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Jota, Mane.