Inter midfielders Nicolo Barella and Marcelo Brozovic both looked to be right back at their sparkling best in the midfield battle against Benfica on Tuesday evening.
This is the view in today’s print edition of Rome-based newspaper Corriere dello Sport, via FCInterNews, who argue that both of the pair were key to the Nerazzurri’s performance to secure the 2-0 Champions League quarterfinal first leg win at the Estadio da Luz.
Facing Benfica was always likely to be a tough ask for Inter.
The Lisbon-based side have established themselves as one of the most formidable in all of Europe with their performances both domestically and in Europe this season, and a key reason for this has been their strength in midfield.
With a solid base formed by Florentino Luis and Chiquinho, and the likes of versatile trio Rafa Silva, Fredrik Aursnes, and Joao Mario ahead of them, the Aguias certainly have the resources necessary to execute coach Roger Schmidt’s frenetic style of high-pressing.
This has meant that teams like Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain have been just a couple of those who have found themselves overrun by Schmidt’s men centrally over the course of the season so far.
In this sense, one of Inter’s vital tasks on Tuesday at the da Luz was always likely to be finding a way to negate this midfield strength from the host.
Doing so without the injured Hakan Calhanoglu made it an even tougher challenge.
However, in the end Brozovic proved why, even if it has been reported that he is likely to leave Inter in the summer amid suggestions of a rift between he and the club, there is still no denying his quality when he is at his best.
The Croat has frequently not been the best version of himself this season, with injury and fitness problems and the fact that he’s started to lose his place to Calhanoglu, preventing him from putting in a string of top-shelf performances.
Against Benfica at the da Luz, however, the 30-year-old was imperious, as only a very late giveaway in a bad area marred a performance which was otherwise vintage Brozovic.
Brozovic covered an enormous amount of ground to recycle possession, control the tempo, and win the ball back, never phased by the Benfica pressure.
The same was true of Barella, who even without his vital opening goal was a massive presence in the midfield battle for Inter.
Add to this another display by Henrikh Mkhitaryan that proved that even at 34 years of age he can be just about everywhere on the pitch, and Inter’s trio more than held their own against Benfica’s midfield. "