Inter leave themselves with too much to do as Champions League hopes dwindle

By Sports Desk November 25, 2020

Antonio Conte is under pressure and, as Wednesday's Champions League loss to Real Madrid illustrated, Inter's tendency to put unnecessary strain on themselves is a big reason why.

After an excellent first season that saw Inter finish second in Serie A behind Juventus and reach the Europa League final, Inter have failed to take the anticipated next step.

They are fifth in Serie A and trail arch rivals and early leaders Milan by five points, while their Champions League campaign is teetering on the brink after a performance at San Siro that laid bare one of their primary failings so far this season.

Too often in 2020, Inter have left themselves an uphill battle by having to come from behind.

Seven of their 15 points in the Italian top flight have come from losing positions, with Inter coming back from two goals down to draw with Parma and beat Torino - those fightbacks sandwiched by a 1-1 draw with Atalanta - in the last three games.

Such recoveries are rarely possible against a team of Madrid's quality, and Inter were behind inside seven minutes, Eden Hazard converting from the penalty spot after Nico Barella had fouled Nacho in the area.

Inter erased a 2-0 deficit in the reverse fixture only to lose 3-2, but no such resolve was on show this time around.

Madrid were in control throughout, Inter left chasing the game and creating little. Lucas Vazquez hit the post in the 13th minute with a vicious drive and four minutes later the Madrid winger saw another chance go begging as a Ferland Mendy pull-back proved too strong for him to make a telling connection.

When Arturo Vidal, who laid on the latter opportunity with a sloppy pass, was sent off for successive yellow cards for dissent after being denied a penalty by referee Anthony Taylor, Inter had a mountain to climb.

The game was effectively over after Rodrygo volleyed in at the far post from a sublime cross from Vazquez, whose excellent performance saw him complete nearly 94 per cent of his passes in the Inter half.

His precision in that regard was reflective of the pattern of the game, Madrid played 792 passes to Inter's 481 and completed 92.3 per cent to the Nerazzurri's 86.7 per cent.

The result was a stark disparity in possession, which Madrid dominated with 62 per cent of the ball, and a one-sided contest indicative of the divergent paths these two teams are on in European football.

While second-placed Madrid are on course to qualify for the last 16 with seven points from four games behind Borussia Monchengladbach in Group B, Inter face a struggle to even get back into the Europa League, having claimed only two points from their four outings.

Inter's superior quality to many of their Serie A rivals allows them to come from behind on a regular basis and stay in the title fight.

As Madrid reminded Conte's side, the Champions League is not so accommodating and their participation in the competition will soon be coming to an end unless they can produce a quite remarkable turnaround.

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