Three takeaways from Real Sociedad 1-1 Inter: Thuram proves that Inzaghi simply must start him

Inter maintained their recent tradition of being unable to win their opening Champions League match after a 1-1 draw against Real Sociedad, but Marcus Thuram made a positive impact from the bench.

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Inter began their Champions League campaign with a 1-1 draw against La Liga’s Real Sociedad at the Anoeta Stadium on Wednesday evening. The Nerazzurri needed a late Lautaro Martinez equaliser after defender Alessandro Bastoni was caught in possession in the opening minutes, allowing Brais Mendez to rifle in.

Substitute Marcus Thuram had earlier seen a goal disallowed for offside, whilst Nicolo Barella was sent off for a stamp but had his dismissal overturned after VAR intervention.

Inter yet to stir but remain amongst favourites

Whilst Inter failed to convince, they showed just how dangerous they can be by pouncing with a first shot on target in the 87th minute, with Martinez snatching an equaliser. Just days after annihilating bitter rivals AC Milan 5-1 in the Derby della Madonnina in Serie A, the Nerazzurri looked well off the pace and lacked the swagger of that victory.

Despite this, Simone Inzaghi’s side held firm and took the chance when it came to them, ensuring they didn’t leave Spain empty-handed, even with the likes of Barella and Denzel Dumfries underperforming. The Nerazzurri are clear favourites in Group D and will be amongst the teams expected to be considered genuine contenders for the trophy.

Takefusa Kubo shoots under pressure from Benjamin Pavard as Inter and Real Sociedad meet in the Champions League. (@RealSociedad)

After almost going all the way last season, Inter will be desperate to prove that they have the credentials to once again challenge in the latter stages of the Champions League on a regular basis; securing a tight draw when under the cosh away from home is a small step towards building a platform for continental success.

Inzaghi’s selections cause confusion

After such a complete display against Milan, Inzaghi strangely decided to mix his team up and drop the impressive Federico Dimarco and Matteo Darmian, with Carlos Augusto and Benjamin Pavard coming in. The latter’s link-up with Dumfries simply didn’t work, whilst the inclusion of Kristjan Asllani in place of the injured Hakan Calhanoglu was another error.

However, Inzaghi‘s biggest regret is likely to be his decision to relegate Thuram to the bench in favour of Marko Arnautovic. The switch simply didn’t work and Arnautovic offered next to nothing in attack, whilst also hindering Martinez.

Lautaro Martinez of Inter goes up against Real Sociedad’s Mikel Merino in the Champions League. (@RealSociedad)

Common sense prevailed in the end and France international Thuram was thrown on early in the second half, with the summer signing having a goal ruled out and stretching La Real’s high defensive line. After a wonderful performance against Milan, Inter need to utilise Thuram as often as possible in key fixtures.

Nerazzurri slow out of the blocks

Other than in the first season back to the Champions League in 2018, Inter have failed to win the opening match of their group and continued that unwanted tradition in San Sebastian.

Inter’s Carlos Augusto in action against Real Sociedad in the Champions League. (@RealSociedad)

A win against Tottenham Hotspur in 2018 was followed up by a last-gasp draw against Slavia Prague a year later. In 2020 it took a stoppage time Romelu Lukaku equaliser to earn a 2-2 draw against Borussia Monchengladbach, and since then Inter have fallen to defeats to Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

Such slow starts to Champions League campaigns have ramped up the pressure on the Nerazzurri in the past. Despite being handed a more favourable group than in previous years, the club that is synonymous with craziness, as ‘Pazza Inter’, appear keen to keep supporters on their toes.

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