The real charm of the Champions League is facing teams that Bayern Munich would otherwise never encounter in a normal season. This year, the Bavarians kick off their CL campaign against Inter Milan, a team who we haven’t faced in a REALLY long time. So to get familiar with our opponents, we caught up with David McFarland of Serpents of Madonnina, SB Nation’s blog on all things Inter.
Here’s what he told us.
What kind of approach do you expect Inzaghi to take against Bayern Munich?
Simone Inzaghi has a habit of playing too cautiously in big games and to unfortunate effect more often than not - just two weeks ago we saw him bench Inter’s attacking midfielder against Lazio to try and neutralize Sergej Milenkovic-Savic with Roberto Gagliardini, one of Inter’s most consistently subpar players on the past few seasons. As you might expect, that resulted in a 3-1 loss and an SMS assist to add insult to injury.
On the flip side, Inter played its forward-thinking style against both Liverpool and Real Madrid last season, even outplaying Madrid (don’t ask me, ask Thibaut Courtois) only to succumb to late winners on both occasions after missing a boatload of chances prior. Even despite those results, the performances in both of those games warrant another go with an attacking mindset.
As for this game in particular, the absence of Romelu Lukaku to injury will loom large. The Belgian was re-signed with the aim of scoring those very chances that went begging against Madrid and Liverpool, so to lose him for some of the biggest games of Inter’s season is in particularly poor taste.
That also means Bayern has one less threat to worry about in behind — 36-year-old Edin Dzeko is nowhere near as speedy as Lukaku. With that in mind, Bayern’s speedy wingers could be in for a feast against Inter’s 3-5-2, taking advantage of the space between the wingbacks and center-backs, especially the veteran Matteo Darmian on Inter’s left flank and Stefan de Vrij in the middle of the back three.
However, I do think Inter might have an advantage in midfield with the forever underrated Marcelo Brozovic pulling the strings and Nicolo Barella (currently in superb form) and Hakan Calhanoglu finding more of the final third success.
If Inter Milan fans had to name the #1 weakness in the team, what would it be?
This is a tough one considering ownership probably isn’t a valid answer (ever since the pandemic Inter is always in constant danger of losing its stars if the right offer comes in and has to replace them with bargain buys thanks to Suning’s massive debt and financial problems). Instead, I’ll say the lack of a Plan B has caused Inter the most trouble in recent seasons.
The Nerazzurri are one of the best teams in Europe when everything is going to plan, but when it’s not, well, the drop off is steep. Inter has played a 3-5-2 in all but one game that I can remember off the top of my head over the last three seasons and doesn’t have the depth to change games on the fly. That’s become even more of a problem since 2022 began, with draws and losses stacking up as the Antonio Conte win no matter what mindset wears off. We’ll see if Simone Inzaghi can reverse the trend and stop the staleness seeping into Inter’s play of late.
How does your fanbase view Bayern Munich and teams from the Bundesliga in general?
Bayern’s run of 10 straight titles reminds us of Juventus’ nine-year stranglehold on Serie A, put to an end by yours truly. There’s obviously a lot of respect for that achievement (though not in Juve’s case of course) and no one was happy when Inter got drawn with Bayern. They’re seen as one of Europe’s very best and Inter is clearly a tier or two below that level.
As for the Bundesliga in general, it doesn’t have the best reputation and is seen as a bit of a punching bag for Bayern, just like Serie A was until recently. Bayern is clearly the apex predator but there don’t seem to be any rivals to it or anyone that has the ambition to become one. Players signed from the Bundesliga are also seen with some skepticism thanks to Germany’s more energetic, less tactical style of play compared to the more composed Serie A.
That doesn’t mean Serie A doesn’t have as many goals (in fact, it was the highest scoring of all five big leagues last year), but the space in the final third isn’t the same as the Bundesliga. In terms of stadiums and TV deals, however, pretty much any other league is ahead of Serie A and its prehistoric leaders.
Despite domestic success, why have Inter struggled to perform in Europe lately?
Antonio Conte and misfortune. Inter failed to make it out of the group stage in both seasons under Conte only to qualify for the Round of 16 in Inzaghi’s first season. As good a manager he was domestically, two games a week were the bane of his existence and Inter took the Scudetto race by the neck only once the calendar lightened up.
It was more than just that, however. Inter showed a complete lack of confidence and personality in those UCL games and at least to me, that came from the top. Of course, the horrible luck (a group of death draw and an incredible number of missed sitters) didn’t help, but there was a reason those factors became so important.
Under Inzaghi, Inter has managed to imprint more of its style on games and most importantly turn that into results, headlined by a 1-0 win away at Anfield and a comeback attempt that fell just one goal short in the Round of 16 against the Reds.
538’s Champions League predictions gives Inter a 45% chance of making it out of the group. Do you think that’s accurate?
That’s fair. I think Bayern will be easy group winners and Viktoria Plzen have 4th locked up. That leaves 2nd and 3rd down to Barcelona and Inter, and I think the Spanish side has the edge. Barca’s depth is far superior and it’s been impressive to start the 2022/23 campaign, whereas Inter still looks in preseason gear.
It’s sure to be close, though, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the business side of things lasted until Matchday 6 when Inter visits Munich.
Huge thanks to David for taking the time to answer our questions! If you want to see their version of this same QandA, check out Serpents of Madonnina! And if you’re interested in our take, check out our latest podcast episode! We do a full preview of the Inter game, and talk about Bayern’s apparent weakness to parked buses. Listen to it below or at this link.
As always, we appreciate all the support!