It will be a monumental evening for Inter Milan as they make a return to the Champions League for the first time in six years tonight. The Italian giants, who won the trophy in 2010 under José Mourinho, will host Tottenham Hotspur at the San Siro. This is the third consecutive season for Spurs in the Champions League group stage, as they begin to establish themselves as a European fixture under manager Mauricio Pochettino.
We take a look at three key factors that could influence the outcome of the match.
Milan Skriniar v Harry Kane
Harry Kane might have started the season at less than his standard best, but he doubtlessly remains to be Tottenham’s main danger-man. His record in Europe is outstanding; he scored seven goals in seven matches in the Champions League last season.
Leading the defence against him will be Inter’s young centre-back Milan Skriniar. The 23-year old has established himself as one of Europe’s best budding defenders and attracted the interest of some of the best clubs on the continent.
Inter’s Milan’s misfiring forwards v Tottenham’s makeshift defence
Inter Milan manager Luciano Spalletti oversaw a very successful transfer window this summer. Among the arrivals were wingers Matteo Politano and Keita Baldé on loan from Sassuolo and Monaco respectively, as well as striker Lautaro Martínez on a permanent transfer from Racing Club. They added to the firepower already available in Antonio Candreva and Mauro Icardi. That notwithstanding, the Nerrazurri have only conjured up four goals in five matches so far this season.
They’ll be hoping to change that against a Spurs defence that has been shifted around by Pochettino quite often at the start of the campaign. Kieran Trippier and Toby Alderweireld have not travelled with the rest of the squad to Italy, which means there will yet be more changes against Inter.
Inter’s inexperience v Spurs’ growing stature
Just a decade ago, it would have been somewhat unfathomable to think of Tottenham as more experienced in Europe than Inter Milan. It was seen as a humiliation when the Londoners beat the then European champions 3-1 in the 2010 group stage, but that November night could be referred to as a meeting point for two clubs that were headed in opposite directions.
Inter would feature in the following two seasons of the Champions League but not again since. Tottenham have only gone as far as the last 16 of the tournament in the same time, but they demonstrated their growing maturity with their performances last season, especially in ties against eventual finalists Real Madrid and Juventus.
Can Inter overcome their relative inexperience to triumph, or will Kane find his shooting boots in Milan? Click here to bet on the match.