Inter Milan will be keen to get off the mark in this season’s UEFA Champions League when they travel to the Czech Republic to take on Viktoria Plzen.

Italian giants Inter Milan have not enjoyed the best of starts to the 2022/23 season, having lost three of their last five games across all competitions. One of the losses was an abject 2-0 defeat to German champions Bayern Munich in their UEFA Champions League opener, where the Nerazzurri were given a footballing lesson.

Drawn into the group of death that also includes Barcelona, Inter Milan now have a perfect chance to put points on the board against minnows Viktoria Plzen. The Czech outfit are clearly the whipping boys in the group, and Inter will heed well to avoid any unpleasant surprises. Losing to Bayern is one thing, but potentially falling short against Viktoria Plzen would be damning.

Simone Inzaghi’s side does not have the cutting edge of old and have, at times, fallen apart in the face of adversity. The Italian manager’s insistence to stick to a 3-5-2 without having a plan B has also made the Nerazzurri somewhat predictable. While it is difficult to see Inzaghi change his approach this week, he does have the advantage of having the better side on paper. The quality and strength in depth should account for something.

Viktoria Plzen, however, have little to lose and despite the loss to Barcelona in the first game, showed promising signs of intent. Playing in front of their home crowd, the Czech giants will be keen to land a scalp and throw their name into the hat for a Last 16 berth. Inter are there for the taking, and the onus will be on Inzaghi and co. to spare their blushes.

The Hard Tackle looks at how both sides could line up on the night and what tactics they might employ.

Team News & Tactics

Viktoria Plzen

Michal Bilek has a full-strength side to choose from and will be keen to give the home fans something to cheer about on the night. Viktoria Plzen have never faced Inter Milan in their history but managed to defeat AS Roma in the final group game of the 2018/19 Champions League campaign.

While a similar result seems improbable, it is not impossible. Inter Milan have shown themselves to have an Achilles Heel of late, and Viktoria Plzen could reinforce that by taking the game to their vaunted Italian opponents on the night. Bilek is likely to deploy his side in a 4-2-3-1 formation that will aim to silence Inter’s midfield orchestrator Marcelo Brozovic in the middle of the park.

Jindrich Stanek will start in goal behind the back four of Libor Holik, Lukas Hejda, Ludek Pernica and Vaclav Jemelka. Lukas Kalvach and Pavel Bucha will act as the double pivot, giving the trio of Jan Kopic, Jan Sykora and Jhon Mosquera the opportunity to inflict damage behind Tomas Chory, who will lead the line.

Chory and Sykora are in good touch and could give Inter Milan’s backline something to worry about. Stefan de Vrij is not the fastest player and could find his hand full against the Plzen duo.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Stanek; Holik, Hejda, Pernica, Jemelka; Kalvach, Bucha; Kopic, Sykora, Mosquera; Chory

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Inter Milan

Simone Inzaghi will be without star striker Romelu Lukaku, who continues to recover from an injury. The Inter Milan manager has an otherwise full-strength squad to choose from in what can be considered a must-win game.

Inzaghi’s men were amongst the best teams in Italy last season but have lost their aura of invincibility this time around. A major reason could be the Italian manager’s overutilised 3-5-2 system. Inter have rarely lined up in a different formation and often just choose to swap out their players to the same tactics.

Little will change on Tuesday, with the Nerazzurri once again lining up with three at the back. Andre Onana singlehandedly spared his side’s blushes against Bayern and should get the nod ahead of veteran goalkeeper Samir Handanovic between the sticks.

The Cameroonian will be protected by a back three of Milan Skriniar, Stefan de Vrij and Alessandro Bastoni. Marcelo Brozovic was the hero at the weekend against Torino and should start in the middle of the park alongside Nicolo Barella and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Denzel Dumfries should rekindle his role as the right wing-back, with Robin Gosens occupying the other wing.

Lautaro Martinez is a shoo-in upfront and will be partnered by Edin Dzeko, who is likely to get the nod over Joaquin Corea. As usual, Inter Milan will hope for Brozovic to set the tone of the game, allowing their wing-backs to push forward and offer width.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2):  Onana; Skriniar, De Vrij, Bastoni; Dumfries, Barella, Brozovic, Mkhitaryan, Gosens; Dzeko, Martinez

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Key Stats

  • This is the first meeting between Inter Milan and Viktoria Plzen. Inter Milan have travelled to The Czech Republic just once before in the UEFA Champions League. This occurred during their 3-1 win over Slavia Prague in the 2018/19 group stage.
  • Viktoria Plzen have won their last eight home games and have scored at least two goals in each of them.
  • Viktoria Plzen have lost just one of their last 19 home games in Europe, a 5-0 reversal to Real Madrid in 2018.
  • A win on the night will see Inter Milan win consecutive away games in the competition for the first time since 2011.
  • Viktora Plzen had 23.80% possessions against Barcelona on Matchday 1. This was the lowest by any side in the opening round of fixtures.

Player to Watch

Marcelo Brozovic

The Croatian midfielder has been a key part of Simone Inzaghi’s game plan and has often orchestrated the game from the middle of the pitch. Brozovic has been far from his best this campaign, and it has translated to those around him. Brozovic has cut a frustrated figure in recent months but rose to the occasion with an 89th-minute winner against Torino at the weekend.

The match-winning strike should give the veteran more confidence and hasten his return to top form. Inzaghi and co. will hope that the 28-year-old continues his purple patch against Plzen and lay the foundations for a turnaround in Inter Milan’s fortunes.

Prediction

Viktoria Plzen 1-2 Inter Milan

Given Inter Milan’s sketchy form, Viktoria Plzen could sense an opportunity to boost their chances of continued participation in European competitions in the coming months. But the Italians have quality in depth, and it should make the difference on the night. Anything less than three points on the night could more or less spell doom for Inter Milan’s hopes of progressing beyond the group stage.

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