With the Mauro Icardi soap opera tearing up the club’s locker room and the usual post-Christmas syndrome affecting Inter’s results once again, the Nerrazurri’s season seems to be on the verge of collapse.
After spending most of the campaign in third position with a comfortable lead over the rest of their top four rivals, Luciano Spalletti’s men have now slipped to fourth with just three points separating them from the incredibly inconsistent Roma.
With the Scudetto being well out of reach ever since the season started, the painful Champions League exit and the Coppa Italia quarter-finals defeat on penalty kicks against Lazio, there is little doubt that securing Champions League qualification for next season is Inter’s main goal this term.
With the Beneamata’s place in the top four being under jeopardy now, the Nerazzurri must respect the Europa League and despite looking like a long shot, they should aim at winning it. Europa League triumph would not only secure the Champions League qualification and boost Inter’s forgotten European pedigree, but would also be the club’s first trophy since 2011.
However, in order to think about winning the whole tournament, Inter need to get past a very impressive Eintracht Frankfurt side, as the Nerazzurri are about the face the Bundesliga outfit away from home on Thursday.
A quick look at Eintracht’s results show that the Germans could prove to be more than a match, as Adi Hutter’s men are still unbeaten in 2019. The Eagles have won four and drawn five of the nine official games they’ve played this year and lost just one of their last 13 games in all competitions.
What’s even more impressive is the Germans’ European form, as they are still undefeated in the Europa League this season. The Eagles have won seven and drawn just one of their eight fixtures on the continent this term. Hutter’s men have also won each of their four home games in Europe, as those results include two 4-1 victories against Lazio and Shakhtar Donetsk, a 4-0 thrashing of Olympique Marseille and a 2-0 win over Apollon Limassol.
It’s obvious that those results don’t come by chance, as Eintracht’s aggressive and attacking playing style is extremely effective and can trouble any opposition, especially at home. Therefore, Inter should be extremely careful at the Commerzbank Arena on Thursday, as the Germans’ direct approach and aggressive pressing can be devastating.
Eintracht rarely keep possession just for the sake of it, as they usually move the ball forward right away or prefer to hand possession to the opposition in order to use another of their weapons - their pressing. This would arguably be Inter’s biggest problem, as the Nerazzurri should be extremely careful when playing out from the back and should not fall into the lethargic way of moving the ball in their own half that we’ve been witnessing way too often this season.
The role of Inter’s centre-backs will be key, as Stefan de Vrij and Milan Skriniar will have the tough task of keeping the hosts’ attacking trio at bay. Luka Jovic, Sebastien Haller and Ante Rebic have already scored a ridiculous 46 goals between them in the Bundesliga and the Europa League.
Since Eintracht have scored 69 goals in those competitions since the start of the season, this means that Jovic, Haller and Rebic are responsible for nearly 67% of the team’s goals. Finding a way to stop them should be Spalletti’s main priority and if he manages to do that, Inter’s chances would increase dramatically.
With the battle for a top four finish in Serie A heating up, it might be tempting for Inter to focus solely on their domestic results. This would mean a heavy defeat against Eintracht Frankfurt, and even then Champions League qualification would be far from certain.
Therefore, as long as the Europa League is an opportunity for the Nerazzurri, they should try to win it. It might seem like a long shot, but this how a winning mentality is built and at the end it could also earn the Beneamata the Champions League spot that they crave.
However, the first step towards this is respecting Eintracht Frankfurt, because the Germans will be extremely motivated to prove themselves and will be no pushovers against the shaky Nerazzurri.