15 February 2019
After five wins in seven warm-up matches this January (W5, D1, L1), the Rapid Vienna return to competitive action as they welcome a struggling Inter Milan to the Allianz Stadion for the first leg of the Europa League last-32 tie.
The hosts have closed the first half of the season with a shameful 6-1 road loss to Austria Vienna that has brought their four-game lossless run across all competitions to an end (W3, D1). Surprisingly, but the Hutteldorfer have gone past the group stage in spite of two losses and a -3 goal difference, mainly thanks to back-to-back wins in the final two group phase fixtures. Still unbeaten at home in the Europa League this term (W2, D1), the Green-Whites are one of two teams that have managed to complete the first stage of the competition without conceding a goal on home soil. But, just like their direct rivals, Dietmar Kuhbauer’s players have been struggling in the final third during the last few weeks before the Christmas break. Rapid have scored over 1.5 goals per match just once in their last eight competitive outings, failing to hit the net twice in the process.
Quite uncomfortable away from home, the Milanese giants have suffered four defeats on their last eight road trips (W2, D2, L4), scoring one goal or less on seven occasions in that period. Luciano Spalletti’s job seems to be on the line after his team’s disappointing displays over the past few weeks, so he can’t afford a failure here. Not only Inter managed just one triumph in their last five games (W1, D1, L3), but they’ve failed to score over 1.5 goals per match 11 times in their previous 12 meetings across all competitions. Mainly thanks to a solid defense that has allowed 2+ match goals only twice in the Nerazzurri’s last 15 competitive clashes, the Italian is still sitting on the bench. As a result of Spalletti’s football philosophy, 11 of Inter’s last 12 clashes have produced under 2.5 goals, with seven of them ending with the identical 1-0 scoreline (4 in and 3 against their favor).
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