Real Madrid travel to San Siro to face Inter on Wednesday knowing a win could be the difference between staying in the Champions League and an unexpected (and unwanted) season of Europa League football.
This has not been your average Champions League campaign for Los Blancos, who managed a solitary point from their first two games and just about scraped past Inter in the third through a combination of luck and individual brilliance.
Inter, meanwhile, haven’t fared much better and could really have used a win in Madrid to put them in the driving seat in this group – or any sort of contention at all. They are currently rock bottom of Group B without a single win.
In other words, you’ve got two teams full of the world’s best players who haven’t really bothered to defend throughout the entirety of their season in Europe. With that in mind, this has all the makings of a cracker.
While Inter will certainly miss Stefano Sensi, whose muscular problems may rule him out of playing all 90 minutes of this match, physical injuries are the least of their issues, with three of their squad ruled out with COVID-19.
Aleksandar Kolarov and backup goalkeeper Daniele Padelli are both currently self-isolating with the virus, while Marcelo Brozovic has also contracted COVID, meaning Inter will be without one of their key men.
Real Madrid have been slightly more fortunate on the COVID front, with just Luka Jovic picking it up during the international break, but they are still going to be without some crucial players.
Captain and talisman Sergio Ramos will be out for a few weeks with a hamstring tear, while Karim Benzema is unlikely to feature for the full match. To make matters worse, Federico Valverde is absent with a knee injury. Though Alvaro Odriozola would’ve been unlikely to feature, he is also struggling with a calf problem.
Thankfully, Eder Militao and Casemiro will return to the XI after COVID-19 diagnoses had originally ruled them out.
Hosts Inter finally got a bit of a respite this weekend after a challenging four-game winless run. It was anything but a routine win as the Nerazzurri came back late from a two-goal deficit to vanquish Torino.
They are currently five points off bitter rivals Milan at the top of Serie A, but with Romelu Lukaku now back in the side after his injury, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic.
While Madrid looked to have turned a corner before the international break, with a Clasico victory over Barcelona starting a run which featured three wins and a battling draw against Borussia Monchengladbach, things have got slightly weirder since then.
Carlos Soler got a four-goal haul, all from the penalty spot, that Bruno Fernandes would be proud of as Valencia downed Zidane’s men 4-1, before the all-conquering juggernaut that is Unai Emery’s Villarreal held the champions to a 1-1 draw.