The three-time winners possess leading talents in several departments – and a coach who will not let their focus slip
He scores goals – often and in a variety of ways. But that is far from the only reason why Antonio Conte wanted Lukaku so badly at Inter. The Belgium striker also works hard for the team, using his strength to open up space for his attacking partners to exploit. His physical power renders him a constant threat for any defensive line, while his positive attitude – not to mention how quickly he learnt Italian – makes him a fine example for all his team-mates.
The tall centre-back with a passion for the NBA has become an untouchable figure in the Inter defence after a series of accomplished performances. “Diego Godín and Milan Škriniar always give me great advice,” says the 21-year-old. Since both are now competing for a spot alongside him, perhaps they have said too much.
Having won domestic titles with Juventus and Chelsea by fielding a three-man defence, Antonio Conte has built his Inter side according to the same principles. Their 3-5-2 formation usually features two men upfront, with two dynamic midfielders ahead of an anchorman and a pair of attacking wing backs. Christian Eriksen’s arrival in January prompted the former Italy coach to try a 3-4-1-2, yet he quickly returned to his favourite system after the former Tottenham Hotspur star struggled.
The sitting midfielder, Marcelo Brozović, is there to drop deeper and help the build-up, but the centre-backs – Stefan de Vrij and Alessandro Bastoni, in particular – have ball skills of their own and try to pick out the forwards with long passes behind defensive lines. In addition, Ashley Young has proved a tremendous asset to Inter’s attacking thrust, contributing four goals and four assists in 18 Serie A games since joining in January.
The Ukrainian champions are focused on repeating their fairy-tale run to UEFA Cup glory in 2009, having already posted some eye-catching results
Shakhtar possess individual talent in numerous positions, but it is the 33-year-old forward who usually finishes their moves. Having joined from arch-rivals Dynamo Kyiv two years ago, Júnior Moraes has now scored 50 goals and created 24 assists in his 78 games for the club. Born in Brazil but a Ukrainian international since 2019, he is the complete striker: equally effective in the area or dropping deep, capable of scoring with both feet and his head, and a tireless presser of defenders when out of possession.
Every right-back at Shakhtar is inevitably compared to the club’s legendary former captain Darijo Srna – but, in the 21-year-old Brazilian, they may have found a worthy successor. Dodô has everything the modern full-back needs: not just pace and stamina but excellent ball control and a keen eye for attacking openings
Shakhtar’s philosophy has remained largely the same since Mircea Lucescu launched their possession-based attacking style, with build-up from the back, fluent passing in midfield and lightning-fast penetrations in the final third. Luís Castro has simply made his side a bit quicker in transitions and more direct, leaving them, arguably, more potent on the counterattack than ever.
His team’s basic formation is a hybrid of 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1, as their midfield triangle can be turned in any direction. In most cases, however, the trio in the middle have distinct roles: Taras Stepanenko is a holding midfielder, playing deeper and operating between the centre-backs in the early build-up stage; the dynamic Marcos Antônio covers every bit of territory from box to box; and Alan Patrick pulls the strings behind Júnior Moraes. Out wide, meanwhile, Taison and Marlos love to cut inside and leave the flanks to the full-backs.