Simone Inzaghi set Inter a 10-point target for their daunting Champions League group as Hakan Calhanoglu warned of the danger of shipping more gift goals.
A sleepy Inter defensive display saw the Nerazzurri toss away an early lead to lose 3-2 to Milan in Saturday’s Serie A derby, with goalkeeper and captain Samir Handanovic having an off day.
While that is a recent concern, Calhanoglu pointed the finger at costly errors in Champions League games against Real Madrid and Liverpool last season.
A 1-0 group-stage home defeat to eventual champions Madrid was tough to take after Inter missed a host of chances before leaking an 89th-minute Rodrygo goal; then another dominant display at San Siro against Liverpool in the first knockout round proved worthless as two late goals gave Jurgen Klopp’s team one foot in the quarter-finals.
Inzaghi’s team face Bayern Munich in a tricky opener on Wednesday, and with Barcelona also in Group C, along with likely whipping boys Viktoria Plzen, the battle for places could be fierce. Only the top two go through to the knockout rounds.
Inter have home advantage for the first meeting with Bayern, and Inzaghi said: “We have to score 10 points in this group. which is objectively very difficult even compared to last year. But we are Inter and facing Bayern is an opportunity: they are one of the three to four candidates to win the trophy.”
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Last season saw Inter scrape together 10 points from their six group games, but the opposition, along with Madrid, was provided by Shakhtar Donetsk and Sheriff.
This time around it looks tougher to plot a route to double figures.
Midfield playmaker Calhanoglu said: “Last year, we dominated against Real Madrid and Liverpool. We had the games in our hands but lost due to small mistakes that changed the way they went.
“We need to be more focused and united on the pitch. We’ve analysed our mistakes and are ready. This year, we’re in another difficult group, but this is what the Champions League is like. It’s great to be involved and play against strong sides to see what point we’re at.”
In the Bundesliga, Bayern have drawn consecutive games against Borussia Monchengladbach and Union Berlin. This might be the time to face them, though Bayern have often punished teams in the past who thought that way.
“I have seen Bayern’s last two games,” said Inzaghi. “In terms of numbers, there has been no competition. The opponents have been good at limiting them with continuous aggression. Bayern have such intensity and aggressiveness as to be one of the best teams in Europe.”
Inter and Bayern have met seven times in European competition, both sides winning three apiece, with one draw. Inter got the better of Bayern in the 2010 Champions League final on neutral ground at the Santiago Bernabeu, but the Germans have a 100 per cent winning record in away games in Italy in the rivalry (W3).
Bayern’s Sadio Mane could become the fourth African player to reach 25 goals in the Champions League. He is currently one away, looking to join illustrious company in Didier Drogba (44), Mohamed Salah (36) and Samuel Eto’o (30).
The former Liverpool forward came in effectively to replace Robert Lewandowski, ahead of the Pole transferring to Barcelona.
Having to face both in the group stage will test Inter’s fragile backline, but Inzaghi is backing his players.
“We met Mane already last year, he is a great player with a crazy intensity,” Inzaghi said. “Lewandowski is another great player. In a month and a half we will meet them both: they are very difficult but very stimulating matches.”