The Portuguese league leaders Benfica are set to take on Inter Milan in the first quarter-final of the champions league on Tuesday, 10th April at the Estadio De La Luz.
Champions League History
The team from the blue side of Milan have almost a perfect record against Benfica, they have won three out of the four fixtures while the last one ended in a draw. The last and only time these two teams met in European competition was in the 1965 European Cup (then Champions League) final when Inter emerged victorious with a goal from Helenio Herrera.
Benfica finished top in their group ahead of favourites Paris Saint-German and then knocked out Club Brugge in the round of 16. At the same time, Inter Milan finished second in their group ahead of FC Barcelona and behind Bayern Munich. In the knockout stages, they faced FC Porto, another Portuguese team, and knocked them out by a single goal over the two legs.
Simeone Inzagi’s men are winless in their last six fixtures, with three defeats and three draws and their last victory was a 2-1 win over Spezia in Serie A. They are 5th in the table, a point behind AC Milan in the race for the Champions League, and are yet to play the second leg of the Copa Italia semi-finals against Juventus. The first leg ended 1-1 with numerous controversies and three red cards shown. The last time the Nerazurri reached the Champions League semi-final was in 2010 when Jose Mourinho led them to a historic treble.
The Eagles on the other hand dropped points against rivals FC Porto last weekend yet are on top of the table with a 7-point lead. Roger Schmidt’s men will be without four key players in Julian Draxler, Alexander Bah, Goncalo Guedes, and Mihailo Ristic. This could prove to be essential in a Champions League quarter-final.
The Nerazzuri do have an almost fit squad but the availability of Milan Skriniar and Hakan Calahagnolu will depend on late fitness tests for Simeone Inzagi.
Although Inter have been struggling both offensively and defensively, and in the midfield, their main creator Calahognolu is injured, their strength lies in attack with Lautaro Martinez, Edin Dzeko, and now Romelu Lukaku who scored a last-minute penalty for them in the first leg of the Copa Italia semi-finals. Nico Barella and Andre Onana also have been key till now, and they have proved this in the Champions League.
The Portuguese team will be without key players but the trio of Goncalo Ramos, Joao Mario, and Alex Grimaldo have proven time and again that they can be consistent, and risk-taking and still can deliver goals and assists. They have decided matches for themselves this season on their own and that has got them to a first quarter-final appearance in six years in the Champions League.
The Benfica defence has been rock solid, and has been a wall to Odisseas Vlachodimos’s goal. The team has even fared well after the departure of their high-profile midfielder Enzo Fernaded to Chelsea on a record deal. Enzo was key to Benfica’s run in the group stage and in the league, but his performance in the 2022 World Cup impressed Chelsea enough to spurge more than 100 million on the Argentinian.
It will be interesting to see how Benfica’s lineup against a not-so-in-form Inter side, as we all know that world football’s most premier competition the Champions League can surprise us in more ways than one. The second leg of the fixture is set to be played on April 19th in the San Siro.