Given this is the Champions League last-16 we should be long past the stage of mis-matches in arguably the world’s greatest club competition.
Yet as Inter Milan travel to Liverpool for the second leg of their tie on Tuesday night few give them any sort of chance of dumping out one of the favourites for the competition.
That’s not necessarily a dig at the Italian champions, and more a reflection on just how frightening it is having to take on Jurgen Klopp’s side presently.
So what hope do Inter have of performing an astonishing comeback at Anfield having lost the first-leg 2-0 at the San Siro thanks to goals from Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah? Sportsmail looks at their chances and if there really is any optimism for them on Tuesday in stopping the runaway Reds train.
Liverpool and Inter Milan will once again go into battle on Tuesday to resume their last-16 tie
Liverpool triumphed 2-0 in the first leg of the Champions League clash at the San Siro
Only one winner here. In the red corner are Liverpool who in 2022 have played 14 games and won 12 of them. The other two? A Carabao Cup draw in a semi-final tie against Arsenal they still won, and of course the final against Chelsea which they still triumphed in by winning the penalty shootout.
In summary, Jurgen Klopp’s side have dropped absolutely nothing this year and have even picked up some silverware along the way. That’s extremely close to perfection.
Inter meanwhile have only just ended a five-match winless run after defeating Salernitana at the weekend – although it was a morale boosting 5-0 triumph.
Inter Milan come into the game having won 5-0 against Salernitana at the weekend
Lautaro Martinez (left) scored a hat-trick while Edin Dzeko scored twice for Inter Milan
Still, all runs come to an end and while they can happen from out of nowhere, there is still some hope for Inter as they arrive at Anfield.
‘You are only as good as your last game’ is the old saying, and Inter are certainly buzzing from that 5-0 triumph where Lautaro Martinez netted a hat-trick and Edin Dzeko also grabbed a brace. Liverpool meanwhile were off their best as they just about edged out West Ham 1-0 at home. An early sign of a Reds decline in form or just a blip?
Liverpool have only lost two games this season and on both occasions they were beaten despite having a greater number of shots and having much greater possession.
So the ‘you score three, we’ll score four’ approach doesn’t look like it’s going to work for any side and is instead just asking to be cut to ribbons by a counter attack and a devastating Liverpool front three.
Frustration may be the name of the game for Inter, and it’s just as well the team is based in a country that are culturally the experts at doing just that in the game through Catenaccio.
One of Liverpool’s rare defeats this term came at West Ham where they went down 1-0
West Ham defeated Liverpool 1-0 earlier this season with just one shot on target and 31 per cent of the ball, while Leicester’s 3-2 win at the end of 2021 also came with just three shots on target and 37 per cent possession.
It gets a little complicated when Liverpool only need to turn up and play out a simple 0-0 to qualify but it beats going 3-0 down inside the opening 30 minutes when you’ve gone all out attack. Granted, it’s boring but at the very least Inter have to stay in the tie heading into the latter stages.
It really is clutching at straws just trying to spot any weaknesses in Liverpool but even they can be prone to a mental lapse – and not just against the best.
Encouragingly for Inter it tends to happen at Anfield too. One notable game this term came in the home clash against Brighton.
The Reds went 2-0 up easily inside 24 minutes thanks to goals from Sadio Mane and Jordan Henderson. Three points looked well on their way.
Brighton though rather unexpectedly fought their way back into contention and after the hour mark had levelled at 2-2 to leave Anfield stunned before then going on to claim a point.
Brighton came back from 2-0 down to rescue a surprise draw at Anfield earlier in the season
Even the Premier League’s rock bottom side Norwich have made the Reds uncomfortable recently.
Two-nil down and with 15 minutes to go they looked well out of an FA Cup tie at Liverpool before Lukas Rupp pulled a goal back with their first shot on target. It led to the Canaries arguably having the better of the final 15 minutes of the game as they chased an equaliser to the backdrop of near silence as Reds fans sensed an incredible comeback. Even European nights at Anfield are not immune to late-match nerves.
Although Liverpool held on, Inter are a far better team than the Canaries and it gives them hope of also perhaps launching a late smash and grab to try and rescue the tie.
The dark arts
And if you can’t beat Liverpool players with the ball, just beat them in their heads. Gamesmanship is one of the oldest tricks in the book but it’s also a timeless one.
Liverpool were caught out slightly just before Christmas when they visited Tottenham, having twice thrown away a lead before drawing 2-2.
Liverpool were left furious when Tottenham’s Harry Kane was not sent off following a reckless sliding challenge on Andy Robertson when the teams met back in December
Robertson himself was later sent off in the 2-2 Premier League clash in north London
The Reds were left furious when Harry Kane escaped a potential red card following a dangerous slide tackle on Andy Robertson.
The Reds’ left-back perhaps didn’t take too kindly to the decision himself, and his late swipe at Emerson Royal later on in the game eventually saw him depart to leave Liverpool chasing a winner with just 10 men.
It’s a risky tactic for Inter to deploy but if they are to have any chance of beating Liverpool they certainly cannot lose the battle of the minds.
Lightning striking twice…
Inter Milan do have past form for coming back from two goals down to beat Liverpool in the European Cup.
Granted, the second leg was at the San Siro… and it was also 57 years ago.
Still having lost 3-1 at Anfield in the first leg of their 1965 semi-final, they performed a remarkable turnaround in the second leg to win 3-0 before going on to defeat Benfica in the final.
Of course, no players involved that night will feature on Tuesday evening. However, while history doesn’t repeat itself it can rhyme.
Not that it did last time the sides met in the Champions League though. At this stage in 2008 Liverpool also won 2-0 in the first leg at Anfield after goals in the last five minutes by Dirk Kuyt and Steven Gerrard before Fernando Torres killed the tie off at the San Siro.
Fernando Torres scores for Liverpool in their 1-0 win at the San Siro back in 2008