New-look Inter host Real aiming to outdo big name old boys
Milan (AFP) –
Simone Inzaghi is trying to put Inter Milan's rocky recent European past behind him as his side prepare for the visit of Real Madrid and an attempt to finally make it to the Champions league knockouts.
A long, hot summer at the Italian champions seems to be cooling down now that the new season has got underway, as memories of the departed stars Romelu Lukaku, Achraf Hakimi and Antonio Conte -- as well as the financial problems that led to their exits -- are shunted aside in face of a new-look Nerazzurri side which has started the campaign well.
Seven points from the first three matches of the season is not a bad haul for new coach Inzaghi, although after missing a host of chances in Sunday's 2-2 draw at Sampdoria the former Lazio boss will be wondering why it isn't a perfect nine.
And after a promising opening few weeks domestically he now he has the chance to go one better than his more illustrious predecessor Conte did in his two years in charge at the San Siro and make it past the group stage.
"I'm not thinking about last season because it's since 2010 (2011, Ed) that Inter haven't get into the last 16. That's not last season, it's the last 10 years," Inzaghi told reporters on Tuesday.
"That's a statistic that we want to change at all costs."
Inter also have the chance to get revenge on two of the sides who denied them a place in the knockout rounds last year, with Madrid and Shakhtar Donetsk again paired with Inter, this time in Group D with minnows Sheriff FC.
"I think that what happened with the two matches with Madrid last season is the past. Now we have a great chance to write an exciting new page," said Inzaghi.
"It won't be a very easy group but our hope is that we can get through it."
While Inter obviously miss the firepower of one of the world's best strikers, Inzaghi still has a strong base from which to attack the competition, with Copa America winner Lautaro Martinez in form up front and one of Italy's Euro 2020 heroes Nicolo Barella shining in midfield.
New signings Edin Dzeko, Hakan Calhanoglu and Joaquin Correa have all settled in well but up to now have only faced modest opposition.
Wednesday's match is a much sterner test against a Madrid side which lead La Liga and have scored 13 times in four matches, with nine of those strikes coming from red-hot Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior.
Inter will be missing the talented but injury-prone Stefano Sensi, who came on as Inzaghi's fifth substitute in the second-half but almost immediately suffered what Inter later revealed to be a ligament sprain in his right knee.
Madrid meanwhile will be without Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos, Dani Ceballos, Marcelo and Ferland Mendy, with Bale reportedly suffering a hamstring injury that could keep him out for some time.
© 2021 AFP