Inter Milan vs Liverpool | Wednesday 16th February 2021, 20:00 | BT Sport
It is doubtful to think that back in February 2012 Inter Milan fans, in the aftermath of Marseille dumping their side out of the Champions League, would expect to wait a full decade before their next fixture in the Round of 16 of the competition, but that is the case and the fact opponents Liverpool, in that time, have appeared in two finals, lifting the famous trophy in 2019, is perhaps the first indication of where these two sides currently sit in the Elite club pecking order.
On the face of it Simone Inzaghi has done a good job of taking over the baton from Scudetto winning Antonio Conte, after the big sales of Achraf Hakimi to PSG and Romelu Lukaku to Chelsea, replaced at a fraction of the cost by Denzel Dumfries and Edin Džeko, his side have only suffered two Serie A defeats, meaning they sit just one point off the top of the table with a game in hand.
However, dig a little deeper and I can’t help but think we can accuse the Nerazzurri of being somewhat flat track bullies.
Domestically, Inter have registered just two wins from their nine meetings with the current top six, even showing a negative goal difference of –1, with the most recent of those aforementioned losses coming earlier this month against their cross-city rivals who claimed pole position after Inzaghi’s side dropped more points with a draw at third placed Napoli.
Although smooth progress to this stage of the competition out of Group D was certainly achieved, securing qualification with a game to spare – but only managing victories over the disappointing Shakhtar and Moldovan minnows Sheriff Tiraspol, with winners Real Madrid taking maximum points from their two clashes with the Italian champions for the second campaign running.
Visiting a COVID reduced capacity San Siro will certainly hold no fears for a very much in-form Liverpool side – after all, they have already made one successful UCL appearance at the stadium this campaign, defeating AC Milan with a rotated squad to become the first English club to win all six of their UEFA Champions' League group games.
Considering the Reds were in the “Group of Death” having to complete doubles over not only the Rossoneri but Atletico Madrid and Porto – a record of 17 goals scored with just six conceded confirming their superiority with no side able to prevent them from finding the net at least twice in a game.
With a full squad once again available, made even stronger by the excellent addition of January signing Luis Diaz, Jurgen Klopp has hinted at changes but really is spoilt for choice especially in those forward areas, in contrast to his opposite number who must make do without the services of the suspended Nicolo Barella after his red card in the final group game, with his absence massive in my opinion and the final deciding factor in an opening selection for me of Liverpool to win.
Other selections that were close to making it off my shortlist were one of the Liverpool full-backs to provide an assist, with Andy Robertson flying a little under the radar with a total of eight in the EPL – just two short of Trent Alexander-Arnold who certainly is no secret weapon in that department.
The players expected assists data (4.61 xA to 8.80 xA) suggest the gap should be a little wider and would explain the difference in price with the Scotsman available at an appealing best price 4/1 with William Hill with his English colleague a short priced 5/2.
There should be two forwards on display who will be seen as lucky charms by their respective sides, the aforementioned Edin Džeko has a very respectable return of 14 goals in his 31 club appearances this season, with three strikes in his last four games and the veteran Bosnian has also found the net in each of his last three outings against Liverpool – the last of which in 2018.
While fans of the Anfield club will hope their idol Mo Salah gets on the scoresheet with a record of W21, D2, L1 when he does for them in this competition – widely available top odds of 13/10 weren’t enough to tempt me and although Liverpool have conceded in each of their last four Champions League away matches, Bet 365’s 21/10 didn’t excite me either – it's 6/1 with V Bet for those of you fancying a goal-fest and wanting to side with both adding to their tallies.
However, in the end for my “spicier pick” I’ve settled for a player who I just love to get onside – Diogo Jota.
After firing a brace last Thursday against Leicester, his 16th and 17th goals of the season for his club, the Portuguese started the weekend win over Burnley on the bench suffering from a dead leg, but I expect him to start here.
Standing at 5′ 10″ inches tall, the 25-year-old is deceptively adept in the air, with no player having scored more headed goals than his three in the EPL this term and only team mate Joel Matip having had more headed shots than his 19.
In the Champions League Jota has had four headed shots from his four appearances in the Group stages, with his only goal of the campaign a header against Atletico Madrid.
It’s 11/5 for a Jota headed shot on target with Paddy Power and for the bold you can get 12/1 with Sky Bet that he repeats the feat of scoring a header – personally I will be splitting a unit between the two.
Inter Milan vs Liverpool – Liverpool to win (11/10 William Hill)
Inter Milan vs Liverpool – Diogo Jota to have 1 or more headed shots on target (11/5 Paddy Power)
Inter Milan vs Liverpool – Diogo Jota To Score a Header (12/1 Sky Bet)