The Champions League returns to San Siro on Tuesday as Inter take on Sheriff Tiraspol on Matchday 3 of Group D, with the Nerazzurri going in search of their first win in the competition this season.
Standing in their way are the undisputed breakout stars of this edition of Europe’s top club competition – Sheriff Tiraspol sit top of Group D on six points from a possible six, having beaten Shakhtar Donetsk 2-0 on Matchday 1 before following this up with a stunning 2-1 win over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.
The current reigning Moldovan champions, Sheriff – who have won 19 of the last 20 Moldovan league titles – are competing in the group stages of the Champions League for the first time ever. Their campaign started way back in July, with Sheriff eliminating Teuta, Alashkert, Red Star and Dinamo Zagreb with a total of six wins and two draws on their way to Group D.
The Yellow-Blacks are coached by Yuriy Vernydub, a Ukrainian former player. He has been the manager of Sheriff since December 2020 and has a record of 32 wins, seven draws and just one defeat from 40 games.
Sheriff faced 51 shots – including 15 on goal – in their first two games against Shakhtar and Real Madrid, but conceded just once. Their biggest assets are their compactness, their tactical organisation and their counter-attack. Vernydub – whose squad includes players with 17 different nationalities – usually sets up using a 4-5-1 with the lines playing very close together, with width provided by the forward runs of the full-backs. Left-back Cristiano is a particularly important player for Sheriff, having set up three of their four goals in the Champions League group stages so far.
Most of Sheriff’s goals have stemmed from their ability to control attacking transitions. Right-sided midfielder Edmund Addo tends to focus on screening the centre-backs, while Sebastien Thill – the author of a fine goal against Madrid at the Bernabeu – gets forward to create passing lines and contribute to attacks.
Sheriff’s players often tend to try to run into space, before then looking for Adama Traore, the Malian striker who leads the line for the Yellow-Blacks.