The goalkeeper came close to the final in 2019 with Ajax, the Armenian played 12 games (all as a starter) between the eighth and quarterfinals. They weren’t there last year, against Porto they can make the difference
Inexperience is no longer a concept to be associated with Inter in Europe. The Nerazzurri have been playing in the Champions League for four years. The notes of the acronym are now a habit, as well as the tension of the great nights of continental football. The round of 16 was already played last year, against Liverpool, also managing to win at Anfield. An elimination also the result of the details: the lack of concreteness in the first leg, the absence of Barella due to the red card received in Madrid in the group stage, the expulsion of Sanchez in the second leg. A little inexperience, indeed. Inter arrive more ready for the match against Porto than they were 12 months ago. And compared to 2022 he has two more veterans, who know how to do it: Onana and Mkhitaryan.
Inter is already reaping the benefits of the two zero strikes in the summer. The goalkeeper and the midfielder are now two very regular players: the relay between Onana and Handanovic lasted very little, Mkhitaryan was good at “exploiting” Brozovic’s absence to gain credit as one of the leaders of this team. The Croatian is returning, but the Armenian is holding on to his place. There is a lot of the former Roma in the victory against Udinese: second half as an all-rounder in midfield and a very heavy 2-1 goal, a pearl. He came out bruised in the final but is fully recovered. It’s hard to do without him right now.
It is in these nights that two profiles like Onana and Mkhitaryan can have a further impact. The Cameroonian was a full title holder of Ajax who came close to the Champions League final in 2019. He played all the matches of that edition: the two with Bayern in the group stage, then the inside or outside challenges with Real Madrid, Juventus, Tottenham. Experiences that shape. He came back to the round of 16 last year with Ajax, he played the return match against Benfica. And at Inter he was launched right in the Champions League, on 7 September in the match against Bayern Munich. He left from Europe to take the starting position in the Nerazzurri, his presence can be important for the whole rearguard.
Mkhitaryan had played 42 Champions League games before six for Inter this year. Baggage already very rich. He is a man of important nights and in fact has always played as a starter with Inzaghi in Europe, with the exception of the irrelevant match against Bayern Munich. In the first two days, against Bayern and Viktoria Plzen, he sent Barella and then Calhanoglu to the bench: even with everyone healthy, he was already a starter in the Champions League. And he unlocked the game against Viktoria in the second leg, a match that was then downhill (4-0) and decisive for the next round. Mkhi can really be the extra man against Porto: in his career he has already played eight round of 16 matches, all as a starter, between Shakhtar Donetsk and Borussia Dortmund. He went through twice out of four and therefore played four quarter-final matches, also in that case always starting from the beginning. All the other Nerazzurri will treasure the double-header against Liverpool and the two matches against Barcelona this year, Onana and Mkhitaryan can still bring something more. No: talking about inexperience at Inter is no longer possible.
February 21 – 11:54
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