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After analysing Borussia Dortmund, we continue with the series of looking at three rivals Barça will face in this edition of the 2019/20 Champions League. Next up is Inter Milan, a historic Italian and European football club that, despite bad results in the last few seasons, start a new campaign with new faces, allowing them to dream big this year.
History of the club
Founded on March 9, 1908, they're the only Italian team that have never been relegated to Serie B and have played in all 88 editions of Serie A to date. With 111 years of history, they're one of the most important clubs in Italy and also in Europe. Despite being the second most successful Italian team in terms of league titles (tied with AC Milan on 18), their most glorious era dates back to the beginning of the 21st century. From the 2005/06 season to 2009/10 they were the champions of the Italian League, first with Roberto Mancini as coach and then with José Mourinho. Just after Barça won their first treble (2008/09), the Italian team repeated the same feat and became the sixth team in history to do so. Since then, Juventus have monopolised Serie A, winning the title in every campaign since 2012. This season, however, Inter have strengthened well and aspire to return to the top of Italian and European football once again.
Trajectory in Europe
With three European Cups, Inter are the seventh most successful football club on the continent. The first two were consecutive: 1963/64 and 1964/65 with Helenio Herrera as coach and Luis Suárez as a great reference point in attack. It was not until the 90's that another European title came along: UEFA Cups in 1990/91, 1993/94 and 1997/98. In 2010, they reigned in Europe with the historic treble mentioned earlier. Since then, their best finish in the Champions League was the quarterfinals of the 2010/11 season. Last year, they returned to the competition after six seasons without participating, but a third place finish in the group stage meant they dropped into the Europa League where they were knocked out in the Round of 16 by Eintracht Frankfurt.
Prospects for this season
Last season they finished fourth in Serie A, the same as the season before, allowing them to play in the Champions League again. In spite of this, they were eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Coppa Italia against Lazio, and finished third in the group stage of last season's Champions League.
In 2019/20, their prospects for both league and Champions League are very different. The nerazzurri remain unbeaten in the first two league games, and are leaders with six points, the same as Juventus and Torino.
The players to look out for
The great star of the team is one of the signings this summer: Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian striker signed from Manchester United in exchange for 65 million euros. The change of scenery seems to have benefited him too. In his first two league games, he has already scored twice. Alongside him in attack are Lautaro Martínez and Alexis Sánchez. In the engine room we find Brozovic, with Candreva and Assamoah out wide. The veteran, Handanovic, starts his eighth season in goal for the Italian team.
How have they strengthened?
Inter have lost Mauro Icardi (formed in the youth categories at Barça), after six seasons and more than 200 games, Ivan Perisic and Radja Nainggolan. The arrival of Diego Godín will ensure experience and quality which are vital to fight for trophies in Europe. Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sánchez, both signed from Manchester United, have got the fans excited.
Undoubtedly, the arrival of Antonio Conte this season is the best news for the Italian team. Since Roberto Mancini's first stage at the club in 2008, none of the 12 coaches since have lasted more than two seasons. It seems that with Conte's appointment, this irregularity could end.
The Italian is a great connoisseur of Italian football, both as a player (almost 300 games with Juventus) and also as a coach. Conte coached the old lady for three seasons and lifted the Scudetto in all of them. He was also coach of the Italian national team during the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 European Championship. Winner of the Premier League with Chelsea in the 2016/17 season, he is committed to a game that fits Italian football perfectly; A three man central defence, two wide offensive wing-backs, three men in midfield and two reference points in attack.
Precedents against Barça
Barça and Inter have faced each other 12 times, eight of them in the Champions League, especially the group stage, where they've met in 2002/03, 2009/10 and 2018/19. In 2010, they crossed paths in the semifinals, and the Italian side reached the final in one of the most painful eliminations in Barça's recent history. The most recent precedent is last season, when Barça managed to win at the Camp Nou 2-0, with goals from Rafinha and Jordi Alba, and draw 1-1 at Giuseppe Meazza with goals from Malcom and Icardi. One thing to keep in mind: Barça have always beaten Inter at the Camp Nou in the Champions League, but have never won a match against them as a visitor.
The stadium: Giuseppe Meazza
Opened on September 19, 1926, it is the largest stadium in Italy with capacity for more than 80,000 spectators. Both Inter Milan and AC Milan play there. When the nerazzurri are at home, it's known as the Giuseppe Meazza (a historical player from Inter), but when the rossoneri are there, it's called the San Siro.
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