Never landed in the quarterfinals, just 3 goals in 22 games. Tonight the Argentinian has one more reason to play a great game
In Porto as captain and leader of Inter, Lautaro Martinez is ready for battle. Tonight’s match at Dragao won’t be the most important of his career, because he played in the World Cup final just under three months ago, but it’s still a challenge that is one of the “heavy” ones in which strong players have to make the difference . Toro is aiming for this: to give a decisive boost to his training to allow him to qualify for the quarter-finals of the Champions League, a competition where the Argentine has almost never managed to show his full value. He scored some goals against the “big” ones, two against Barcelona, one against Real and Liverpool, but his numbers in the most prestigious European cup are before everyone’s eyes: 8 goals in 30 appearances. And they certainly aren’t the brilliant ones shown in Serie A and, more generally, in this excellent start to 2023. We need a euro-shock and Dragao could be the right stadium to send out a signal.
THREE GOALS IN OVER THREE YEARS
In the Champions League, as mentioned, Lautaro smiles little: after the pre-Covid brace on 27 November 2019 in the blitz on the field of Slavia Prague (3-1), he played 22 matches between the group stages (19) and the round of 16 (3) and scored 3 goals: one in Valdebebas against Real on 3 November 2020 (3-2 knockout), one on 8 March 2022 in the second leg of the round of 16 on the Liverpool field (useless 1-0 win) and one last October 12 on the Barcelona field (3-3 draw). Too little for a world champion like him who has entered a new phase in his career thanks to the triumph in Doha alongside Messi. He is more continuous in terms of performance and more ruthless in front of goal, he has fewer goal breaks than in the past, but now he must also be more decisive in the Champions League, a competition where in the past he went 10 games in a row without beating the opposing goalkeepers.
Lautaro is now the leader of Inzaghi’s formation, the fixed point in attack. In these first two and a half months of 2023 he has already scored 9 goals, which could have become 10 if he hadn’t missed a penalty kick on Friday at the Peak at 0-0. Now on penalties there is a new hierarchy from 11 meters and when Lukaku and Calhanoglu are on the field, Toro will hardly be the first on the list. But tonight at Dragao he wants to throw her in from action, with a head, a foot, with a rebound, with a tap in or in any other way, just to celebrate qualification. It’s the only important thing for Lautaro, who never made it to the quarter-finals: he knows well that only by making progress in the Champions League can he truly assert himself in the elite of European football. The captain’s armband on his arm will give him an extra push. The trust of his comrades will charge him further. Now Martinez just has to do what he knows how to do. Not thinking about the Champions League for him so far stingy with satisfaction. In Portugal he can start writing his new European story in the Nerazzurri and perhaps agree with Inzaghi who, before the 1-0 success at San Siro against his friend Conceiçao, had declared that he believed in winning the Champions League. A provocation? Perhaps yes given the other teams in the running, but be careful to underestimate the “crazy” Inter who beats the big teams in Serie A and loses to the small and medium-sized ones. Especially if Lautaro will finally become the King of the Champions League that everyone hopes for.
14 March – 14:46
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