Inter did not even have time to celebrate the long-awaited Scudetto that he achieved last season eleven years later. The builder of success (Conte) immediately left, followed by Achraf (60 million) and Lukaku (115). The serious economic crisis altered the course and forced the release of several of its most relevant pieces. It has been a forced revolution that puts Inter back in a position of theoretical inferiority. By no means appeared among the most fearsome rivals of the first bass drum.
Through Conte came Inzaghi. His work at Lazio was laudable and he is expected to hit the key to preserve Inter’s competitive stature. The preseason and the first game of Serie A against Genoa (4-0) suggests that Inzaghi will follow the line set by Conte. The 1-3-1-4-2, with long lanes, good foot players and continuous offensive threat. He is required to remedy certain shortcomings in defensive transitions and bring a greater overall package to the team in real-life matchups. For this he will have the signings of Dumfries (12.5, PSV), Darmian (2.5, Parma), Çalhanoglu (Milan), Correa (Lazio) and Dzeko (Roma). But above all Inter will depend on the good work of Handanovic in the goal, the trio of centrals (Skriniar-De Vrij-Bastoni), the dynamism of Barella and the danger of Lautaro above. Brozovic will continue as a positional midfielder in a medullary that will yearn for the quality of Eriksen’s hitting after the alarming event he suffered at the European Championship. Çalhanoglu is called to take the creative baton. Before Genoa he responded.
Inter is missing a player yet to bring and will be active until the last minute in the market. If he succeeds in these incorporations, he should be able to secure a place in the round of 16 and fight in the local championship to prevent the title from being an episodic event. But it cannot be trusted. Inter already hit it last season in the group stage. Against Madrid precisely. He was last in the group, without the consolation of the Europa League either. A precedent to take into account.
Star: Lautaro Martínez (23 years old)
Another nod from the draw for Madrid. You can hardly believe that the Brazilian Shakhtar is going to play the Champions League. After eliminating Genk with some solvency in the first match of the previous phase, he had to fall to Monaco. He had won 0-1 in Monegasque lands, but was widely beaten in the second leg and only fortune prevented the tragedy in overtime. An unlikely own goal by Aguilar benefited him. Had he lost, it would have been a fateful debut for De Zerbi. The Italian coach, the greatest defender of the position game, has been tasked with regaining the throne in Ukraine and playing the great Europeans face to face.
His thought-provoking philosophy fits Shakhtar’s endless list of Brazilian players. There are 13 in total. Pedrinho (Benfica) and former Barcelona player Marlon, who was with De Zerbi at Sassuolo, landed in this market. Together with forward Lassina Traoré (Ajax), the investment is close to 40 million euros. Shakhtar has never lacked money, almost always destined for the Brazilian player. Dodó is a long-distance winger, Marcos Antonio can be a midfielder of magnitude and Teté brings a great imbalance. Pedrinho has started in a big way, while Israeli Solomon is also a player to watch and Lassina Traoré is a rook with a great game on his back. On the other hand, Marlos and Taison, key players in previous courses, have already lost weight and the striker Junior Moraes has been injured for a long time. As he demonstrated against Madrid in the previous edition, winning both games, Shakhtar cannot be underestimated in the offensive aspect. Another very different matter is his defensive response, starting with the goal. Trubin already gave the relief to the veteran Pyatov, who had to assume the title in the return against Monaco. But the young goalkeeper offers an uneven performance. Its irregularity is a reflection of what this Shakhtar is on a collective level.
Star: Marcos Antonio (21 years old)
The soccer community has looked in awe at Sheriff Tiraspol’s historic drive this summer. For the first time he will be in the Champions League after eliminating Albanian Teuta, Armenian Alashkert, Red Star and Dinamo Zagreb. A team without a country, from the unrecognized region of Transnistria, which has been champion up to 19 times in Moldova. It was created by two former members of the KGB and maintains its Soviet symbolism. Hence, the cultural and identity content of the Sheriff is much greater than the football interest.
But Yuryi Vernydub’s team has also been noted for what they do on the pitch. In the eight qualifying games he has only conceded two goals. One from Chilean against Alashkert and the other after a notable error by his goalkeeper Athanasiadis against Red Star, the defensive performance of the Sheriff has been magnificent as he demonstrated in the cross against Dinamo. The ends almost acted as laterals. No one rejected an effort in a commendable collective spirit. The central Arboleda and Dulanto, who also excel in the corners and offensive side fouls, are the leaders of a defense that does not change names. It is a fierce, firm block and always ready to surprise in counterattack situations. He is presented with 1-4-2-3-1, where the double Addo-Thill pivot provides great balance and the responsibility in attack falls on the arrival from behind of Kolovos, in the speed to space of Adama Traoré and the left-handed of the forward Luvannor. Yansane and the Colombian Castañeda play the other place in the eleven. With 17 different nationalities on his roster, a cultural mosaic, the Sheriff will represent all the modest and forgotten leagues on the European scene. The feat is already accomplished.
Star: Adama Traoré (26 years old)