Goal-shy Inter eye Champions League semis while crisis looms at home
Inter Milan stand on the verge of making the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since last being crowed European champions 13 years ago, but all is not well with a goal-shy team ahead of the visit of Benfica.
Last week’s superb 2-0 win in Lisbon gives Inter a great chance of setting up a blockbuster all-Italian last four tie with either Napoli or local rivals AC Milan.
Both are teams Inter have had the better of this season, and Simone Inzaghi’s side have shone more often than not in the headline matches.
But judging by their domestic form, Inter should be nowhere near the semis, let alone have any hopes of making it through to the final in June.
Inter have lost more than a third of their Serie fixtures this season — Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat to Monza their 11th in 30 games — and the win at Benfica is the only victory in their last eight matches.
Having taken the title race down to the final day last season Inter sit outside the top four, a whopping 24 points behind league leaders Napoli and two behind fourth-placed AC Milan.
Worse, they have lost their last three home matches without scoring as formerly prolific forwards have collectively misplaced their shooting boots.
Inter are averaging less than a goal a game in the second half of the league season, and while Lautaro Martinez hasn’t scored since March 5 in his team’s last Serie A win, over Lecce, the numbers for the Argentine’s attacking partners are even worse.
Edin Dzeko has been firing blanks since netting in the Super Cup against Milan on January 18 and Joaquin Correa’s drought extends to late October.
Romelu Lukaku meanwhile has had a nightmare return to Inter and will almost certainly be sent back to Chelsea in the summer after failing to rediscover the form which made him a Scudetto winner and idol two seasons ago.
– ‘Not scoring enough’ –
The Belgium forward has scored just three times from open play all season, his other four goals in all competitions coming from the penalty spot.
“Since the restart we’ve not been at our normal level. For 16 months we were the best attack in the country and now we’re not scoring enough,” said Inzaghi on Saturday.
The atrocious form and the spectre of not reaching next season’s Champions League for a club whose finances are in disarray has left Inzaghi’s position at Inter in serious doubt.
Yet, there might be a case to be made that Inter would be favourites reach the final, assuming they don’t suffer what would be a stunning collapse on Wednesday night.
Inter were the first Italian team to beat Napoli this season in the first round of fixtures after the World Cup, and were by far and away the better team on the day.
Meanwhile, Inter have shone in recent derbies with Milan, smashing their local rivals 3-0 in the Super Cup in Saudi Arabia before then winning a league derby in early February.
There’s no doubt that Inzaghi is an adept cup manager. Under him Inter won last year’s Italian Cup and Super Cup before retaining the latter in January.
This year, his team are in the semi-finals of the Italian Cup and have repeatedly shown up when it matters in the Champions League, getting out of a group which contained Bayern Munich and Barcelona and not conceding a goal in three knockout matches.
With a two-goal cushion and familiar rivals on the horizon, Inter could yet have a chance to make history.
Originally published as Goal-shy Inter eye Champions League semis while crisis looms at home