Inter will take on Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk and Borussia Mönchengladbach in the group stage of the 2020/21 Champions League season.
They are not new opposition for the Nerazzurri: 15 previous meetings with Real Madrid, three with Shakhtar - the most recent being in the semi-final of the Europa League - and four with Borussia.
Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid qualified for the Champions League as Champions of Spain. The Frenchman, who returned to coach Los Blancos in March 2019, led Real to the Spanish title three years after their last La Liga win. The side from the Spanish capital has not changed much since last season: Real sold Hakimi to Inter (on loan with Borussia Dortmund last year), Bale and Reguilon to Tottenham and James to Everton; while Martin Ødegaard and Alvaro Odriozola have returned from loan spells away from the club. The winning core of the club remains: Courtois in goal, Sergio Ramos and Varane in the heart of defence, a midfield comprised of Modric, Kroos and Casemiro, while Benzema continues to lead the line. Eden Hazard has suffered an injury and will not be available over the next few weeks. Young players like Rodrygo and Vinicius.
Real Madrid have begun their season with a draw against Real Sociedad and wins against Real Betis and Valladolid.
We’d need a book to completely write the story of Inter and Real Madrid. The first chapter would take place in the 1964 European Cup final. On 27 May at Vienna’s Praterstadion, Inter beat Real Madrid 3-1 - the goals were scored by Mazzola, Milani, Felo Bautista and Mazzola again. It was the first continental triumph in Inter’s history, an unforgettable page. That was the first of 15 meetings between the two sides: nine in the European Cup/Champions League, two painful second-leg games in the UEFA Cup semi-finals of 1985 and 1986, with Los Blancos coming from behind to win.
In total the record reads seven Inter wins, two draws and six wins for Real Madrid (Inter scoring 19 goals and conceding 20). The last time the two teams faced off was in the Champions League group stage in 1998, with a 3-1 win for the Nerazzurri thanks to goals from Zamorano and Baggio (brace); this remains the only meeting between the two in the group stage.
Inter return to the Bernabeu ten years after the 2010 Champions League final against Bayern Munich.
Memories of Luis Castro’s Shakhtar Donetsk are much fresher in the mind: Inter beat the Ukranian side 5-0 in Düsseldorf in the semi-final of last year’s Europa League. The game was decided by braces from Lautaro and Lukaku and a D’Ambrosio goal. Shakhtar are reigning champions of Ukraine, having won their thirteenth national title - all in the last 20 years. They remain a squad stacked with exciting Brazilian talent. Thirteen Brazilians are currently in the squad, though Marlos and Junior Moraes have Ukrainian citizenship.
Shakhtar lost the Ukrainian Supercup 3-1 to Dinamo Kiev, who have former Inter player Mircea Lucescu as head coach. Castro’s side have eight points from four games in the league.
As said, the most recent meeting was the semi-final of the Europa League, but the two sides did also meet in a Champions League qualifier in 2005. Inter won 2-0 in Ukraine and drew 1-1 at San Siro.
The city of Mönchengladbach is situated west of the Rhine, between Düsseldorf and the Dutch border, their football team qualified for this year’s Champions League after a fourth-place finish in the Bundesliga. Marco Rose, former Salzburg head coach, has instilled his values into the team: intensity, speed and shutting down the space. This is made possible with a plethora of physical and talented players, such as Switzerland international Breel Embolo or Frenchman Marcus Thuram, son of a the World Cup winner. Yann Sommer is the stalwart in goal while Pléa completes and attack, which counts on legendary captain Lars Stindl. They usually set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
So far this season, the Foals have drawn to Union Berlin and lost to Borussia Dortmund in their first two Bundesliga games this season.
Inter and Borussia Mönchengladbach have faced off a total of four times, though in actual fact they’ve played five games. One of these has a particularly interesting story: the European Cup round of 16 in 1971/72. On 20 October 1971, Roberto Boninsegna was hit on the head by a can, which forced the game to be replayed (Inter lost 7-1) following a long, protracted legal process. As they were awaiting the verdict, the leg at San Siro was played - 4-2 to Inter with goals from Boninsegna, Bellugi, Jair and Ghio. The replay of the first leg took place in December in Germany: o-o, a young Ivano Bordon saved a penalty.
The last tie was in the second round of the UEFA Cup in 1979: 1-1 in Germany and 3-2 to the Foals at San Siro after extra time.