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Inter Milan vs Benfica Preview | Champions League Odds, Picks

Inter Milan vs Benfica Preview | Champions League Odds, Picks article feature image

Sopa Images/Getty. Pictured: Lautaro Martinez.

Inter Milan vs Benfica Odds

Wed, Mar. 1
3 p.m. ET

Inter Milan Odds


Benfica Odds

Over/Under2.5 (-110 / -120)
Both Teams to Score (Yes/No)(-125 / -105)
Odds via Caesars. Get the latest soccer odds here.

Inter Milan take a two goal lead back to Milan for the second leg against Benfica, looking to secure a spot in the Champions League semifinals.

They put in a fantastic performance in the first leg to give themselves a two goal cushion coming home. Inter have gone through a really poor finishing slump in Serie A, but that hasn’t made its way into the Champions League. They’ll likely be very defensive here for the second leg, so that finishing slump may not matter.

Benfica had a pretty easy road until the quarterfinals and ran into a wall in the first leg. It’s not as if they were throughly beaten by Inter. Rather, the Portuguese side did create a decent number of high quality chances and in the end they just didn’t find the back of the net. They will have to be the aggressive ones here in the second leg.

Inter Milan Likely to Change Style Ahead of Second Leg

Inter pressed Benfica, but not in the most impactful way. They had a PPDA of 11.6 and forced five high turnovers. Now that they lead by two goals on aggregate, the game plan changes as we saw when they faced Porto.

In that second leg, Inter didn’t press with the same intensity that they did in the first leg, as their PPDA went from 6.8 to 13.4. Their average defensive height against Porto went from 53.5 yards to 38.5 yards in the second leg, as they played incredibly passive.

Inter have been one of the best defensive teams in Serie A this season. They’re only allowing 0.90 npxG per 90 minutes and have conceded the fewest big scoring chances of anyone in Italy. Their 3-5-2 formation sets them up very well to play five at the back and not allow Benfica to gain numerical advantages in wide areas, and it also allows them to close off the middle of the pitch, which is where Benfica did most of their attacking in the first leg.

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Benfica Facing Monumental Task

Something that Benfica really struggled with in that first leg was their build up play. In Portugal they are really good at possessing the ball and building out from the back, but from the beginning of the match it was clear that Inter wanted to make the match transitional. In fact, Benfica are averaging 64.4% possession in Portugal this year and the only two matches they’ve held less than 50% possession was in both meetings against PSG in the group stage. The chart below is a perfect indicator of the style that Benfica want to play.

(image via the Analyst)

Even though Benfica have to be really aggressive and try to get back into this tie, it’s important to note just how good of a defensive team they’ve been this season. In Portugal they’ve only conceded 18.1 xG in 28 matches. In their nine Champions League matches they’ve only conceded 9.7 xG.

Benfica had a shock loss over the weekend, losing to Chaves 1-0 on a stoppage time goal, but they did create 2.1 xG for the match and were really unlucky not to even get a draw. They also created 1.6 xG against Inter along with three big scoring chances, but they just couldn’t find the back of the net, so their offense is due for some positive regression.

Inter Milan vs Benfica Pick

Taking single game xG without any context is not the best method of analyzing a match. For instance, in the previous match, before the Barella goal happened in the 51st minute there had been only five shots and 0.29 xG created between the two sides up until that point. Then, Benfica got more aggressive and created two big chances right after that goal, but they couldn’t find the back of the net. Inter were awarded a penalty, which inflated their total xG to 1.4, but the reality is they created just 0.6 xG from open play in the match.

Since we just saw Inter play passively with a one-goal lead in the round of 16 against Porto, I expect them to be even more passive with a two-goal aggregate lead at home. Therefore, it’s a little crazy to me that they’re sitting as an odds-on favorite.

Pick: Benfica +0.5 (-135)

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