So much has been said in recent weeks about how Simone Inzaghi was able to make the most of his Inter squad‘s depth, finding a use for almost every player at his disposal to craft a cohesive group able to overcome difficulties thanks to their team spirit.
But the devil is often in the details and in the immediate aftermath of Inter‘s goalless draw against Real Sociedad, which saw them finish as runner-up in their Champions League Group D, questions are being asked about whether the Nerazzurri will regret finishing behind a team that came from pot four, and how this could affect the remainder of their season.
The truth is that Real Sociedad deserved to be the group winners after what they showed over the six Champions League group games and notably in their home debut against the Nerazzurri. Then, Inter managed a fortunate 1-1 draw after having been outplayed for the majority of the game.
How Inzaghi’s choices affected Inter’s path in Champions League
Simone Inzaghi‘s choice to start both Marcus Thuram and Lautaro Martinez in their 4-0 thrashing of an Udinese side that has just one win from 15 Serie A games, also keeping the Argentinian on the pitch for 90 minutes, was telling of the club’s priority.
Lautaro came on after 65 minutes against Real Sociedad, as did Nicolo Barella, meaning that two of Inter’s best players were waiting on the bench to be called upon just in case of need.
Until then, Inter were largely second-string, with the likes of Juan Cuadrado, Davide Frattesi, Alexis Sanchez and Carlos Augusto all playing. The Nerazzurri were struggling to cause problems to their opponents, and Real Sociedad grew increasingly confident as time progressed.
The substitutions were not enough to change the course of the game late on, and the hosts’ overall conservative game plan against a high-pressing Real Sociedad left them hoping that a moment would be enough to tip the scale in their favour.
Is Serie A Inzaghi and Inter’s priority?
As a result, Inter could face the likes of Manchester City, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich already in the next round, which drastically reduces their chance of progressing to further stages of the competition. Having made it to the final last season, they already look unlikely to embark on another memorable European adventure this term.
While the Nerazzurri could have been bolder in their final and decisive game at home, Inzaghi‘s rotations coupled with the other above-mentioned factors are a clear sign that every single Serie A game must be prioritised now, especially during a tight fight for the top spot with Juventus.
And as much as the Biscione’s squad has been improved, it is probably still not competitive enough to be competing in Serie A and the Champions League at the same level.
Inter to face tough Champions League draw
Inter will play their round-of-16 games between February 13 and March 13, 2024, immediately after a string of tough Serie A fixtures which will include games against Fiorentina, Juventus and AS Roma.
The level of focus, energy and commitment they’ll be able to put into those two European fixtures will likely be affected by how the Serie A title race looks by then. Now, Simone Inzaghi is extremely mindful of the importance of bringing a second star (a 20th Scudetto) to the blue side Milan; he knows that his time at Inter will ultimately remembered by his ability or inability to deliver the Serie A title.
Nonetheless, after going toe-to-toe against Manchester City last June the Nerazzurri are aware that few teams in Europe will actively want to face them. They know they can cause problems for any team on their day.
This is also likely to be one of the reasons why a second-place finish in their Champions League group wasn’t the hardest pill to swallow for Inzaghi and Inter, especially if it proves instrumental to them keeping the pace they’ve been able to keep in Serie A so far.