The San Siro forms the backdrop of Wednesday night’s Champions League encounter as Inter Milan and Benfica renew hostilities for their quarter-final tie decider.
Inter will be keen to formalise their place in the last four, having recorded a comfortable 2-0 lead over the Portuguese league leaders in Lisbon.
The Nerazzurri suffered another setback in their bid to secure a top-four finish in the Serie A with another defeat to mid-table side AC Monza last weekend.
However, their form on the Continental stage continues to improve, and they will fancy their chances of finishing off Benfica, who suffered another blow to their title bid over the weekend.
Roger Schmidt’s side fell to a 1-0 defeat against mid-table Chaves and have now lost their last three games in a row, leaving their chances of earning a place in the Champions League semi-finals hanging by a thread.
Heading into the first leg encounter at the Estadio da Luz on the back of a six-game winless run meant expectations were low for the struggling Nerazzurri.
However, they continued their impressive form on the continental stage as second-half goals from Nicolo Barella and Romelu Lukaku earned them a hard-fought win against the profligate Benfica.
Looking to build off their European triumph, Simone Inzaghi’s side welcomed Monza, hoping their resurgence would continue in their domestic fight for a top-four place.
But despite doing nearly everything right, the Nerazzurri failed to ripple the net, and they were made to pay for their wastefulness by a 78th-minute strike from Luca Caldirola.
The defeat was Inter’s third in a row on home turf and their 11th of the campaign, ramping up the pressure on under-fire manager Inzaghi, who is reportedly now one bad result away from facing the sack.
Inzaghi’s long-term future at Inter is far from secure, with the Italian tactician hanging by a thread but finishing off Benfica would see his limited time extended once again.
Taking just one point from their last five league games leaves the Nerazzurri playing catch-up in the top-four face as they sit fifth in the Serie A standings, two points adrift of fourth-placed AC Milan.
Going all the way in the Champions League could be their only chance for respite following an appalling domestic campaign.
Their impressive unbeaten form against Benfica will boost their morale heading into Wednesday’s contest, having won three of their four meetings with the Portuguese outfit (D1), keeping a clean sheet in three of those games.
Inter have also never been eliminated from the knockout stage of a European competition after winning the first leg by 2+ goals, which bolsters their chances of reaching the Champions League last four for the first time since the 2009/10 campaign when they won it under Jose Mourinho.
Inzaghi could also be the first Italian head coach to lead Inter to the semi-finals of the Champions League since Eugenio Bersellini in 1980-81, but it remains to be seen if it would be enough to salvage his job.
Andre Onana played a huge part in thwarting Benfica at the Estadio da Luz, but Schmidt’s side were guilty of wastefulness on home turf.
The story was the same at the weekend when they travelled to face Chaves as they could not find a way to score and not for the lack of trying.
Benfica dominated the mid-table side from start to finish and created three big chances but failed to convert any, which proved to be their undoing when Issah Abass grabbed a winner for Chaves deep into second-half stoppage time.
Having embarked on a three-game losing run – their worst since November 2018 – the Eagles have seen their lead at the top of the Primeira Liga table reduced to four points, with defending champions Porto closing in while they also have one foot out of the Champions League door.
They have only progressed from a quarter-final clash after losing the first leg by 2+ goals once in their last nine attempts, which was as far back as the 1961/62 campaign.
However, their away form should spur them to an unlikely victory as they are currently unbeaten in seven Champions League matches on the road (W4, D3).
Benfica have already beaten Juventus away in the competition this season, so they will fancy their chances of thwarting Inter at the San Siro, which would be the first time they have won three Champions League away games in a row since March 1990.
Stefan de Vrij was the only casualty for Inter in the defeat to Monza as the centre-back was forced to come off early in the second half with an ankle problem.
It remains to be seen if the Dutchman will be fit enough to play a part against Benfica, but Francesco Acerbi should be ready to slot in if need be.
Milan Skriniar will also sit out the midweek contest as he continues his recovery from a back injury, but Hakan Calhanoglu should play a part, having recovered from a thigh problem.
Benfica will have the experienced World Cup winner Nicolas Otamendi back in the fold after serving his ban in the first leg.
Midfielder Florentino is also available after missing the loss to Chaves through suspension, but Julian Draxler and Mihailo Ristic are both nursing muscular problems and could miss out.
Right-back Alexander Bah is facing at least a few more weeks out with a knee injury, so Gilberto should retain his place in the Eagles’ backline.
Inter Milan potential starting line-up:
(3-5-2): Andre Onana; Matteo Darmian, Francesco Acerbi, Alessandro Bastoni; Denzel Dumfries, Nicolo Barella, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marcelo Brozovic, Federico Dimarco; Edin Dzeko, Lautaro Martinez.
Benfica potential starting line-up:
(4-2-3-1): Odysseas Vlachodimos; Gilberto, Antonio Silva, Nicolas Otamendi, Alejandro Grimaldo; Florentino Luis, Fredrik Aursnes; David Neres, Rafa Silva, Joao Mario; Goncalo Ramos.
We Say: Inter Milan 1-1 Benfica (Agg: 3-1)
Inter did a decent job keeping Benfica at bay in Portugal, but their depleted backline could struggle to contain the Eagles, who will no doubt push for a sensational comeback.
Inzaghi’s side would be naive to let complacency be the order of the day, having recorded a comfortable lead in the first leg.
However, they should have enough to see off the challenge from Benfica and secure a place in the last four.
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