Real Madrid - Inter Milan: preview, team news, predicted XIs
Real Madrid host Inter Milan in Champions League Group B with both Zinedine Zidane and Antonio Conte in need of a win at the Alfredo Di Stéfano.
When Real Madrid and Inter Milan were drawn together in Group B of the 2020-21 Champions League the immediate question was which of the Liga and Serie A giants would finish top. Madrid, the reigning Spanish domestic champions and Inter, who ran Juventus to within a point of the Scudetto last season under Antonio Conte and reached the Europa League final, were overwhelming favourites to progress. Two games in and Zinedine Zidane is answering questions about his employment prospects beyond Tuesday. The meetings between the sides were expected to decide the group winner, not potentially who will be in the draw for the last 32 of the Europa League in December.
Shakhtar Donetsk and Borussia Mönchengladbach clearly paid little attention to that narrative. In a season when league tables across Europe have assumed a pleasingly retro look, the Ukrainian and German sides have thumbed their noses at the traditional function of the group stage: to provide the big guns with some early fodder while UEFA lick their lips at the prospect of the usual suspects reporting for the last-16 line-up. Most of the groups are sticking to a well-worn script but both Madrid and Inter are in very genuine danger of failing to get past the first hurdle.
Conte will not lose his job if that happens – Inter have not progressed from the group stage since 2011-12. Zidane’s position is more precarious. Madrid have never failed to reach the last 16 when competing in the Champions League and those three consecutive triumphs are money in the bank only as long as mathematics remain on the Frenchman’s side. The prospect of the Europa League is humiliating enough for a club of Madrid’s self-regard. The earliest of exits is unlikely to be tolerated.
Zidane’s side prop up the table after two games with Inter a point better off. Shakhtar, who beat Madrid with a reserve side missing 13 senior players, top the group ahead of Mönchengladbach, who travel to Kiev in the third round of fixtures.
Real Madrid predicted XI vs Inter Milan
Courtois; Mendy, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; Casemiro, Valverde, Kroos; Asensio, Benzema, Hazard
Inter Milan predicted XI vs Real Madrid
Handanovic; Kolarov; De Vrij, D’Ambrosio; Young, Vidal, Brozovic, Barella, Achraf; Perisic, Lautaro
Real Madrid vs Inter Milan: injuries and suspensions
Zinedine Zidane can finally call upon his first-choice front line with Karim Benzema, Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio all available. The Frenchman has some significant headaches at the back though with Dani Carvajal, Álvaro Odriozola, Nacho and Éder Militão all out. Lucas Vázquez trained on Monday and has been included in the squad giving Zidane an option at right back, where otherwise left back Ferland Mendy will be called upon to fill in.
Inter will wait until the 11th hour for a fitness test on top scorer Romelu Lukaku, whose absence will be keenly felt especially against a makeshift Madrid back line with nothing in reserve. The Belgium international has been out with a muscle strain and was replaced by Ivan Perisic against Parma, with the Croatian likely to partner Lautaro in Madrid. Alexis Sánchez and Milan Skriniar should return for Conte’s side but may only make the bench while Matías Vecino and Stefano Sensi are out.
Real Madrid really cannot afford to lose on Tuesday. Inter would go four points clear with a win and either Shakhtar or Mönchengladbach can pull further away in a meeting that Zidane will be hoping ends in a stalemate: after the international break Madrid travel to San Siro and the Olimpiyskiy Stadium in successive games.
The availability of Lukaku will be key to Inter’s chances. Sánchez lacks match fitness, Lautaro is not in the best of form and Perisic is hardly prolific. Given the ability of Madrid to produce goals from a variety of sources and having Sergio Ramos available to stop the defence from collapsing again, Madrid should edge this one. 2-1.
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