Liverpool v Inter Milan – Champions League 2nd Round Preview

Update – Second Leg Preview: Internazionale v Liverpool – Reds and Nerazurri prepare to paint San Siro with the colours of Europe.

Update – First Leg Match Reports: Inter have it all to do as Liverpool finally find the killer touch‘ and
Liverpool overwhelm Inter with aggression, tactics and simulation‘.

The last few seasons have seen Inter Milan take a stranglehold over the rest of Italian football, as the Nerazzurri have won back to back Scudettos in the last two seasons, along with back to back Coppa Italia trophies in 2004-05 and 2005-06.

This season has been no different, as Inter appear to be well on their way to a third straight championship, and are in the Coppa Italia quarterfinals.

However, that same success hasn’t occurred in Europe. Inter did win three UEFA Cups in the 1990s, and made a fourth final, but they haven’t reached a European Cup final since 1972 and haven’t lifted the trophy since 1965. In that time span, stadium sharers AC Milan have won six European Cups and made nine finals.

While Inter are dominant domestically, it’s the complete opposite for Liverpool, who have excellend in Europe the last few years, becoming the champions of Europe in 2005 and finishing runner-up to AC Milan in last season’s competition.

At the same time though, the Reds haven’t come close to adding to their record 18 English top-flight titles, and it doesn’t look like they will this season, as they are well behind table-toppers Manchester United and Arsenal with much of the season still to go.

But, while they haven’t been able to break through in the league in the last couple of decades, the Reds have established quite the reputation as a cup team, winning three FA Cups, three League Cups, two Community Shields, one UEFA Cup, two Super Cups, and of course, their Champions League title in 2005.

So, they are where they should be right now, even though it’s been a bumpy road to get there.

This hasn’t been the best of seasons, both on and off of the pitch. The off-pitch issues have been well-documented on Soccerlens, so I’ll spare you from having to read further about them. On the pitch, however, things haven’t been so harmonious either, as instead of a power struggle, it’s been a struggle for consistency.

In Europe, the fork was almost piercing the skin after a poor start in the group phase, but the Reds obliterated their final three opponents to get to the round of 16.

It’s not a matter of whether or not Liverpool are good enough to win this tie, or for that matter, make another run to the Champions League final, because they’ve proved time and again, when the chips are down, and when they’re on the biggest stage, they know how to get it done.

But, their yo-yoing form makes this one hard to predict.

They don’t have any problems scoring at home – 10 of their last 12 home ties have seen them with two or more goals on the scoreboard, with three or more coming seven times. On the other hand, it appears that they could use some Viagra for their impotence in front of goal when they’re not at Anfield. Outside of a 4-0 thrashing at Marseille, a win that secured their qualification for the knockout round, they’ve struggled mightily to find goals away.

It’s certainly not for a lack of scorers. Fernando Torres has delivered, firing in 18 goals thus far, and Steven Gerrard has scored 16 times and provided on nearly just as many. And Peter Crouch, as dead in the water as he was supposed to be, has actually woken up lately, with four goals in seven appearances.

On the other hand, however, Dirk Kuyt hasn’t scored since late November, Ryan Babel has hit the proverbial wall as well, and Yossi Benayoun is all about getting his goals in bunches (10 goals this season, six from two hat tricks).

Defensively though, the Reds have been solid all season long, and have one of the best defensive records in the Premier League, and they’ll need that defense to be an impenetrable fortress against Inter.

The Nerazzurri have lost only once this season, and their scoring exploits have been a big reason why – Inter haven’t scored two or more goals in only eight of 32 matches this season, and in those 24 matches, they have a record of 22 wins and two draws. That’s half decent, I suppose.

Their biggest contributions have come from the partnership of Zlatan Ibrahimovic (19 goals) and Julio Cruz (15), which has certainly proved effective, especially because the 33-year old Cruz is having one of the best seasons of his career.

At the other end, they haven’t been too shabby either, as they’ve allowed two goals only six times, and thanks to their aforementioned scoring prowess, haven’t lost any of those ties (four wins, two draws). Their only defeat this season? A 1-0 setback at Fenerbahce, who, if you read their round of 16 preview, is pretty good in their backyard.

If you want to go off of recent form, we should see the good Liverpool in the first leg. That means that, even if it doesn’t wind up showing on the score sheet (thanks to two quality defenses, with two quality keepers), we could and should be in for an enthralling tie at Anfield.

If it ends up being a 0-0 or 1-1 draw, I’ll be disappointed, but if Liverpool can somehow hold Inter scoreless in the first leg, that will do wonders for their confidences, and their chances of progression.

But, Inter’s consistency over the entire season, both at home and away, and conversely, Liverpool’s unpredictability, are why Roberto Mancini’s side should come out on top in this matchup.

However, you can never count Liverpool out of any tie. History has proved that one, multiple times (2005 Champions League final vs. AC Milan, anyone?). So, while the odds certainly don’t favor them, it won’t be an upset in the least if they’re able to dump Inter out.

Will they be able to make big things happen against another Italian giant? Or will it be Inter who move one step closer to breaking their long drought in the Champions League?

We’ll find out a week later than for the other seven ties, because the second leg in Milan won’t be played until 11 March. And, if you’re looking to get to that match, click here to see how you can make the trip without breaking the bank (unless you want to).

Go back to the full 16-team 2007/2008 UEFA Champions League 2nd Round Preview on Soccerlens.

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