Inter vs Benfica: Champions League Preview, Lineups & Prediction

Stadio Giuseppe Meazza is the venue as Inter and Benfica go head-to-head in the return leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie on Wednesday. Simone Inzaghi’s men have one foot in the semi-finals after grinding out a 2-0 first-leg victory in Lisbon, but it’s far from over. 

Nicolo Barella and Romelu Lukaku scored two unanswered second-half goals at the Estadio da Luz last week to put the Nerazzurri in a sailing lead. Inzaghi’s men appear to be well-placed to advance into the semi-finals. However, Inter cannot afford to get complacent if they’re to secure a Champions League last-four berth for the first time since 2010. 

Instead of building on last week’s unlikely success in Portugal, Inter slumped again at the weekend. Serie A debutants Monza stunned Meazza with a 1-0 win on Saturday, inflicting more damage on the Nerazzurri’s faltering top-four bid. More importantly, Inzaghi’s job is hanging by a thread, putting the emphasis on the club’s Champions League exploits. 

Benfica may be lagging two goals behind heading into the second leg, but the Italian’s woeful run of form leaves this tie wide open. Unfortunately for the visitors, they look up the creek without a paddle. After racking up an eye-catching seven-match winning streak in all competitions, Roger Schmidt’s men have lost their last three competitive games.

A disheartening 1-0 defeat at Primeira Liga minnows Chaves on Saturday cast doubt on Benfica’s title pursuit, allowing second-placed Porto to whittle down the gap to only four points. Seeking amends for a lackluster domestic result, the Eagles will be out to turn this tie on its head and book a semi-final date for the first time in the Champions League era. 

Match Preview


Inter fans have every reason to feel anxiety about their side’s chances of wrapping up this tie despite a comfortably-looking aggregate lead. Inzaghi’s men have lost their last three home matches by an identical 1-0 scoreline, going down at the hands of Monza, Fiorentina, and Juventus. The 1-0 first-leg triumph over Benfica’s rivals Porto in the previous Champions League round appears as the only comforting fact. 

But that’s not the only reason for optimism. Inter have progressed from all nine two-legged European Cup/Champions League ties after winning the first leg by multi-goal margins. Maintaining that eye-catching tradition would make Inzaghi the first Italian manager to guide the Nerazzurri into the Champions League semi-finals since Eugenio Bersellini in 1980/81.

Inter need every encouragement they can get in these uncertain times. One such incentive could be that barring a 2-0 loss to Bayern Munich in the group stages, they have won all three remaining Champions League games this season ‘to nil.’ 

Player to Watch: Romelu Lukaku

Despite his unfathomable misses against Fiorentina and Salernitana in Serie A, Lukaku remains Inter’s most in-form player. The Belgian has scored two of his side’s last three goals. Moreover, he’s registered nine strikes in 14 Champions League appearances for the Nerazzurri.


Before the abovementioned disappointment at Chaves, Benfica had won four consecutive away matches ‘to nil,’ with three of those victories yielding a 2+ goals margin. Another similar success would be enough to take this tie into extra-time/penalties, but the Eagles can draw further confidence from their stellar away form on the continental level.

Schmidt’s men haven’t lost any of their last seven Champions League outings on hostile turf (W4, D3) en route to setting an unprecedented feat in the club’s history. Benfica dispatched Club Brugge 2-0 on their most recent Champions League travel, making it two away European wins in a row, and could add a third to the tally for the first time since 1990.

However, playing on Italian soil has often been an unpleasant experience for Benfica. Before ousting Juventus 2-1 in this season’s Champions League group stages, they had gone winless on six consecutive European visits to the country (D1, L5) in a run stretching back to 1997. 

Player to Watch: Goncalo Ramos

For a player gunning for a mega-money transfer in the summer, Goncalo Ramos cannot afford another miss like the one he had in the first leg’s dying moments. Before drawing a blank in Lisbon, the Portuguese hot prospect had registered four goal contributions in his three previous Champions League appearances for Benfica. 

Team News

In addition to the outgoing center-back Milan Skriniar, who has yet to recover from a back problem, Inter picked up a fresh injury concern against Monza. Dutch defender Stefan de Vrij hobbled off the pitch early in the second half with an ankle issue and could miss out on Wednesday’s game.

After being handed a much-needed rest, midfield stalwarts Marcelo Brozovic and Hakan Calhanoglu should return to the starting lineup, with the latter likely to displace underperforming Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

On the other hand, Benfica will be without long-term absentee Julian Draxler and first-choice right-back Alexander Bah. However, Nicolas Otamedi’s return from suspension should plug the visitors’ defensive leaks.

Inter vs Benfica Potential Lineups

Inter (3-5-2): Andre Onana; Matteo Darmian, Francesco Acerbi, Alessandro Bastoni; Denzel Dumfries, Nicolo Barella, Hakan Calhanoglu, Marcelo Brozovic, Federico Dimarco; Edin Dzeko, Lautaro Martinez. 

Benfica (4-2-3-1): Odysseas Vlachodimos; Gilberto, Antonio Silva, Nicolas Otamendi, Alex Grimaldo; Florentino, Fredrik Aursnes; David Neres, Rafa Silva, Joao Mario; Goncalo Ramos. 

Inter vs Benfica Prediction

Inter’s depleted backline, once known for its solidity and stubbornness, is currently short of personnel and likely to concede a goal against Benfica’s free-flowing attack. With Schmidt’s side likely to throw caution to the wind in their pursuit of keeping their European aspirations alive, this tie could still go either way.

However, we back the Nerazzurri to go through.

Prediction: Inter to progress

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