Inter v Shakhtar: Semi-final showdown to catch the eye

Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku
Romelu Lukaku has arguably been the best player in this season's Europa League
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Inter Milan and Shakhtar Donetsk are both scoring plenty of goals, and Kevin Hatchard believes defences will be dominated in this Europa League clash...

"Lukaku is on unplayable form, but Shakhtar have rattled in 14 goals in just five UEL matches."

Back Over 2.5 Goals/BTTS double at [1.93] on the Sportsbook

Inter Milan v Shakhtar Donetsk
Monday 17 August, 20:00
Live on BT Sport 1

Lukaku leading the charge for Europa glory

The ball was rolled into the feet of Romelu Lukaku in the Bayer Leverkusen box. Edmond Tapsoba, who has been lauded as one of the Bundesliga's breakout stars since January, was already trying to wrestle with the Belgian before that ball arrived. Tapsoba is strong, but trying to dispossess Lukaku was like a mere mortal taking one of mythology's Titans. The Inter Milan striker held off Tapsoba, and squeezed a shot beyond Lukas Hradecky and into the bottom corner. That goal proved to be the winner for Inter in a deserved quarter-final victory, and it was no surprise that Lukaku was the hero yet again.

In defiance of the doubters, the memes and the shade from the bedroom-based keyboard warriors about his first touch, Lukaku is delivering a stellar campaign. A guy who first burst onto the scene at the age of 16 at Anderlecht has scored 23 goals in his first Serie A campaign, and has now broken Alan Shearer's Europa League record. The former Newcastle and England number nine managed to score in eight straight UEL games, but Lukaku has now found the net in nine in a row. He is also the first player to score in six straight European games for Inter.

Of course, it's not just Lukaku who has got Inter this far, but his form has papered over some cracks. Inter weren't clinical enough against Bayer Leverkusen, only edging a game they dominated, and they were far from impressive against Getafe in the last 16. There is huge quality in the Inter squad, and they only finished a point behind eventual Serie A winners Juventus, but they are yet to produce a 90-minute display in this competition to strike fear into the hearts of their rivals.

Alexis Sanchez has been ruled out of the game with a muscle injury, but coach Antonio Conte can call upon his favoured front two of Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez. Midfielder Matias Vecino is still unavailable.

Shakhtar's firepower demands respect

Shakhtar put a flag in the sand in their quarter-final, as they shredded Basel 4-1. Junior Moraes found the net inside two minutes, and the likes of Taison and Marlos ran riot. This is a team with plenty of experience at this level, and in goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov there is a link to the side that won the UEFA Cup in 2009.

Since dropping into the Europa League from the Champions League, Shakhtar have produced some eye-catching displays. They put five goals past Benfica across two legs, and beat a solid Wolfsburg team home and away. Luis Castro's team has racked up 14 goals in just five UEL matches, and although they can look fragile defensively, they are finding ways to win. I suggested them as a back-to-lay at [16.0] in the Winner market, and they are now [10.0], with Inter the favourites at [2.82].

Castro has no fresh injury or suspension concerns, and it remains to be seen whether defender Davit Khocholava will return after a ban.

Inter too short in fascinating clash

Inter have the stars, but Shakhtar are an excellent unit, and have lots of ways they can hurt the Italian giants. If the muscular Junior Moraes doesn't get you, the trickery of Marlos or the directness of Taison will. Of course, Lukaku could prove unplayable again, but I just think this will be a far closer clash than the market suggests.

I'd lay Inter to win in 90 minutes at [1.8].

Goals galore on the cards

Inter have scored at least twice in 13 of their last 15 matches, while Shakhtar are rattling in the goals in the UEL.

You can double up BTTS and Over 2.5 Goals at [1.93] on the Sportsbook's Same Game Multi, or go for Over 3.5 Goals on the Exchange at [2.68].

Lukaku and Moraes the dangermen

Lukaku is 10/11 to score at any time, and I think he'll cause a sometimes fragile Shakhtar defence all manner of problems. His form suggests that 10/11 is actually a generous price.

It's also worth considering Moraes at 15/8. He has scored seven goals in his last six matches, and is the focal point of the Shakhtar attack.


Points Staked: 7
Points Returned: 8.71
P/L: +1.71 points

Kevin Hatchard,

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