When Inter was drawn into Group C alongside Real Madrid, Borussia Moenchengladbach, and Shakhtar Donetsk, it was quickly labelled the group of death, and with good reason. Zinedine Zidane’s men may no longer have Cristiano Ronaldo, but were just coming off a La Liga triumph, while the Bundesliga side boasts one of Europe’s most dynamic frontlines. Shakhtar, by contrast, has always demonstrated they can compete, regularly qualifying for the knockout stages.
Regardless of the tough opposition, Antonio Conte’s men entered the group as favourites to progress alongside Real Madrid. The Nerazzurri possess a resolute backline, including the likes of Samir Handanovic, Milan Skriniar and Stefan de Vrij, and can count on Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez for firepower.
Nicolo Barella’s progression has helped them significantly in the middle of the park, while Achraf Hakimi’s summer arrival offered Inter some much-needed quality from out wide. Despite this, Inter has struggled to get its European campaign off the mark and are currently staring down the barrel an early exit. Antonio Conte’s side are languishing dangerously at the bottom of Group C, winless after four games, and will need nothing short of a huge turnaround to progress.
Beyond winning its last two games, Inter will need some help around Group C, giving them an outside shot of qualifying to the knockout stages. While Inter’s struggles have almost definitely condemned them to an early exit, they are indicative of a greater pattern at play: Antonio Conte continues to falter in Europe’s elite competition.
Dating back to his days at Juventus, the veteran tactician has struggled in the Champions League, failing to make deep runs into the competition. As it stands, Conte’s European record is nothing short of abysmal: 11 wins, 12 draws, and 11 losses for a 32% win ratio. At this level, that is simply not good enough.
Inter has invested significantly in moulding its roster to fit Conte’s preferred 3-5-2 and has since been left empty-handed. Dethroning Juventus may be a step too far, but even then, the Nerazzurri were unable to muster a serious title threat, faltering at crucial stages last season. The Bianconeri are largely a side in transition and have demonstrated their own vulnerabilities in recent seasons, yet Inter could not capitalize.
Beyond their struggles to contend, Inter’s recurring issues in the Champions League are concerning. Should they fail to qualify, that would be three consecutive group stage exits for them, two of which have come under Conte. While Group C is understandably difficult, Inter can do much better than two points from four games.
In many ways, Conte’s outdated 3-5-2 has cost them. Gian Piero Gasperini has since revolutionized the back three, urging his men to go forward and has shown the rest of Italy that a little courage can go a long way; a lesson Conte has not learned.
The former Azzurri boss has not adjusted his conservative setup, despite its clear limitations as it relates to the Champions League. Inter’s buildup play has become far too predictable and easy to defend against. Rather than committing another man forward, Conte persists with his 3-5-2, with Inter struggling to create regular chances.
The case of Christian Eriksen is another concern. Conte has failed to integrate the former Spurs maestro into his eleven, reducing him to a supersub. The Danish international would add some much-needed quality in the final third and inject some fresh ideas into the side, but alas, he doesn’t fit Conte’s 3-5-2. Despite featuring rarely, Eriksen continues to make an impact with Denmark on the international level, dictating proceedings in the final third. The midfielder is rumoured to be on his way out from Inter once the window reopens.
As Inter heads into a crucial stretch in the season, it may be time for Conte to reevaluate his roster and for the first time in his career, adapt. Inter can ill afford a trophyless season, let alone another early Champions League exit. As unlikely as it may be, Conte would be wise to shake things up and inject new life into his Inter side.
Join the most popular Fantasy Serie A game here: fantasyseriea.com now!