There's a heavyweight clash in the Europa League on Monday night, and Kevin Hatchard thinks Bayer Leverkusen will give much-fancied Inter Milan a stiff challenge...
"Inter have had a punishing schedule in Serie A, they didn't look their best against Getafe, and they face a Bayer team that loves to keep the ball and make the opposition run."
Inter Milan v Bayer Leverkusen
Monday 10 August, 20:00
Live on BT Sport
How much do fatigued Inter have in the tank?
While Inter Milan eventually saw off Spanish battlers Getafe in the last 16, the 2-0 scoreline doesn't really tell the whole story. Inter's opponents squandered a golden opportunity at 1-0 down, veteran striker Jorge Molina put a penalty wide. Getafe had 17 goal attempts, as Antonio Conte's side struggled to build upon the lead given to them by Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian has now scored in his last eight Europa League outings, and if he scores in the last eight, that will set a new tournament record.
Inter have reached a European quarter-final for the first time in nine years, and the incredibly demanding Conte is desperate to succeed in continental competition, but I wonder whether a punishing Serie A schedule has taken its toll. From the 21st of June to the 1st of August, Inter had to play 13 league matches, and we've already seen Italian sides suffer in Europe in the last few days. Roma looked out on their feet as they were swept aside by Sevilla, Juventus couldn't find the extra gear they needed as they crashed out of the Champions League against Lyon and Napoli couldn't lay a glove on Barcelona.
At least Inter's form is good. They have won four games in a row, and haven't conceded a goal in any of them. Their last defeat was against Bologna in the first week of July, and they haven't lost away from San Siro since returning from lockdown.
Lukaku will once again partner the excellent Lautaro Martinez in attack, while Christian Eriksen hopes for a start after scoring against Getafe. Alexis Sanchez is available after his loan move from Manchester United was turned into a permanent switch.
Bosz looking to take Bayer to the next level
For too long, Bayer Leverkusen have been seemingly content to be the nearly men of German football, developing and selling on top talent while never really challenging for honours. Demanding Dutch coach Peter Bosz is changing that mindset, insisting that a club cruelly dubbed as "Neverkusen" should feel they can win trophies. Die Werkself got to the final of the DFB Cup this term, and although they were thrashed by a dominant Bayern Munich, reaching such a showpiece event was a step in the right direction.
Having dropped into the Europa League from the Champions League, Leverkusen have been impressive in this competition. They dismissed newly-crowned Portuguese champions Porto, and managed to do what few teams can manage by beating Steven Gerrard's Rangers at Ibrox. In-demand wonderkid Kai Havertz has scored in three of their four matches in the UEL, and he was impressive in the second leg against Rangers, without adding a finishing touch.
Brazilian youngster Paulinho remains sidelined by injury, while in the front four, Bosz must decide whether to persist with 17-year-old Florian Wirtz, or bring in a slightly more experienced option like Leon Bailey. Midfield schemer Kerem Demirbay is back after suspension.
Leverkusen can at least force extra time
Bayer will be the fresher side, and their record in this tournament so far is very good, with four wins out of four against strong opposition. The pace of French winger Moussa Diaby and the trickery and clever movement of Havertz can cause Inter's back three a few problems, and I see this as a closer affair than the market suggests. Bayer and Bosz love to dominate possession, and in really warm conditions I think they can give Inter the run-around.
You can back Draw and Away in the Double Chance market at [1.85], which gives you a winner unless Inter take the victory inside 90 minutes.
Market expects goals
With Over 2.5 Goals trading at [1.8] and Both Teams To Score priced at [1.68], a goal-filled affair is expected, and that makes sense given the firepower on show. However, there is a counter argument. Four of Bayer's last six games have featured fewer than three goals, as have four of Inter's last six - Under 2.5 Goals is trading here at [2.22].
Lukaku odds-against to extend streak
Although I think Bayer can push Inter really hard here, Romelu Lukaku is overpriced in the To Score market at 6/5. Not only is his UEL record outstanding, he scored 23 goals in his first Serie A season. It may seem counter-intuitive to back Lukaku to score in a game where I believe Inter won't win inside 90 minutes, but the two things aren't mutually exclusive.
If you believe the outstanding Havertz can score, he is priced at a hefty 2/1, and he has scored in seven of his last 12 appearances.
If you fancy both Lukaku and Havertz to score, you can back that outcome and at at least four corners for each team at 14/1 on the Sportsbook's #OddsOnThat.
Back Draw and Leverkusen in the Double Chance market at [1.85]
Back Romelu Lukaku to score at 6/5 on the Sportsbook