Inter were held to a scoreless draw against Real Sociedad on Champions League Matchday 6, costing them a chance to finish on top of Group D.
Finishing behind the Spanish club means that the Nerazzurri could face a potential contender for the trophy in 2023/24 including Manchester City, who defeated the Italian giants in the 2023 final.
Although they do not have to play in the Champions League until February, Inter coach Simone Inzaghi needs to assess whether his squad can compete on both the domestic and European front, or prioritise one over the other.
Inter squander chance to finish on top of Group D
Despite resting captain Lautaro Martinez and midfielder Nicolo Barella, Inter created most of the scoring chances, and took the most shots with 10 compared to Real Sociedad’s five.
Unfortunately for the Nerazzurri, they only hit the target twice all game. Hamari Traore made a desperate block in the first half from a Henrikh Mkhitaryan effort and Lautaro nearly won it at the end, but his shot flew over the bar.
The Txuri-Urdin topped the group on goal difference, and finishing second means that Inter could be drawn against a very strong opponent like Real Madrid, Manchester City, or Bayern Munich. Depending on their draw, it might mean that reaching the final in this edition might be tougher than last season.
Inzaghi must decide whether Inter focus on all competitions or prioritise one over the other
Inter have looked strong in Serie A, and they are current two points above Juventus in the table. Although they came second in their Champions League group, Real Sociedad only finished on top on goal difference, and they went unbeaten in the group stage for the second time ever as well as the first since 2004/05.
However, things could change between now and February, and it might depend on who the Nerazzurri face in the Round of 16. Could they give it their all or would they write off the Champions League for this season? With Juventus on their trail in Serie A and no European football to worry about, would they be accepting of an early exit from Europe to focus on winning the scudetto?
Those are all hypothetical situations, and Inter so far have shown that they actually have sufficient depth. Their defence has held out well despite losing Benjamin Pavard to an injury while Alessandro Bastoni also spent time on the sidelines. Davide Frattesi is not a regular starter in midfield, but he has the ability to so when the opportunity arises.
Inzaghi will need to get his squad rotations right in the second half of the year, and it could be the difference between winning some silverware, or finishing the 2023/24 campaign empty-handed.
Real Sociedad still winless against Serie A teams in Italy
Although they finished on top of Group D, Real Sociedad were not able to beat Inter in any of their two clashes this season. In fact, they have never beaten a Serie A club in a European tie on Italian soil.
The Basque side dominated possession with 55%, and they had the better xG with 0.77 compared to 0.71, but they only took five shots. It was a stereotypical Spanish performance, trying to monopolise possession, but creating very little scoring opportunities with all that time on the ball.
Against a team like Inter that are resolute defensively, you need to take your chances. Having scored just six goals in the group stage, Real Sociedad need to find other ways of scoring goals. Otherwise, all that possession will count for nothing.