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Champions League group stage recap: Inter come of age in daunting group

Pitched in a tough Group C with Bayern and Barcelona, Simone Inzaghi's men saved their best displays to eliminate the Spanish side.

Watch all of Inter's Champions League Group Stage goals

The group stage has not always been kind to Inter and when they were paired with Bayern and Barcelona, then lost at home to the former first up, the Nerazzurri would have been forgiven for having that sinking feeling.

However, four points from their back-to-back encounters with the Blaugrana moved them to the brink of qualification and they cruised past Plzeň to secure their place in the round of 16.

Round of 16: Inter vs Porto

Campaign so far

Group C runners-up: W3 D1 L2 F10 A7
Top scorer
: Edin Džeko (3)

Highlights: Barcelona 3-3 Inter

07/09: Inter 0-2 Bayern (Sané 25, D'Ambrosio 66 og)
13/09: Plzeň 0-2 Inter (Džeko 20, Dumfries 70)
04/10: Inter 1-0 Barcelona (Hakan Çalhanoğlu 45+2)
: Barcelona 3-3 Inter (Dembélé 40, Lewandowski 82 90+2; Barella 50, Martínez 63, Gosens 89)
26/10: Inter 4-0 Plzeň (Mkhitaryan 35, Džeko 42 66, Lukaku 87)
01/11: Bayern 2-0 Inter (Pavard 32, Choupo-Moting 72)

Campaign in ten words: When the going gets tough, few are tougher than Inter.

UEFA.com Inter reporter

Inter were drawn in one of the most difficult groups but they learnt from past mistakes to book a place in the knockout stage with a game to spare. The qualification was built around the two games against Barcelona, a 1-0 win at home and a 3-3 draw in Spain where Simone Inzaghi's players showed fantastic team spirit to overcome the absence of key players like Romelu Lukaku and Marcelo Brozović. The Nerazzurri completed the job at home against Viktoria Plzeň on Matchday 5.

How do Inter play?

The system is a 3-5-2, where wing-backs are called to cover the entire flank. Unsurprisingly, Inzaghi often replaces them both during games with Matteo Darmian and Robin Gosens good alternative options to Denzel Dumfries and Federico Dimarco. One of the three midfielders is a deep-lying playmaker: Brozović is the perfect fit but Hakan Çalhanoğlu did well in his absence. The other two, Nicolò Barella and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, lead the pressing and support the attackers. When fit, Lukaku should return to form the 'Lu-La' partnership with Lautaro Martínez.

Fantasy star performers

Alessandro Bastoni – 30 points
Edin Džeko – 28 points
André Onana – 28 points

Squad changes

In: none
Out: Dennis Curatolo, Aleksandar Stankovic

Clubs had until 24:00 CET on Thursday 2 February to register a maximum of three new eligible players prior to the knockout stage. Since 2018/19, it no longer matters whether those players have already played in the competition for another club, even for another club still in the competition.

Key stats

  • Edin Džeko scored twice on Matchday 5 to take his tally to 11 goals in just seven European games against Plzeň.
  • Inter's 4-0 win at home to Plzeň was their joint biggest margin of victory in the Champions League (group stage to final) and the fourth time they have won by four goals.
  • The Nerazzurri were without a win in their last 11 Champions League group stage matches against Spanish clubs (D3 L8) before beating Barcelona on Matchday 3.