There are two Inter Milan this season. The one who is progressing slowly in the Champions League, with seven matches but no victory by more than a goal difference. And there is the elephant in the corridor of Serie A, noisy and unmissable. In the league, Inter are 16 points ahead of their runner-up, AC Milan. He is in the race to break the record for points in a season (102 by Juventus in 2013-14) and has by far the best attack (70 goals) and the best defense (13 goals conceded).

However, it was not guaranteed that Inter would be this war machine. Since their third place in Serie A last season, but also and above all the epic journey to the Champions League final (0-1 defeat against Manchester City), the Nerazzurri have lost goalkeeper André Onana, defender Milan Skriniar, midfielders Marcelo Brozovic and Robin Gosens and attackers Edin Dzeko, Romelu Lukaku and Joaquin Correa. They were either starters or luxury substitutes. “And the team is not suffering, it is even doing better,” applauded the legendary goalkeeper, Walter Zenga, confiding his “admiration” for coach Simone Inzaghi.

Invited on the set of the British channel Sky Sports, Thierry Henry gave the name of the Italian when asked which coach he admired tactically. By remaining faithful to his 3-5-2, already used by Antonio Conte who handed over to him on the bench in 2021, Inzaghi is rolling in Serie A. In C1, it is a minimalist but mature, serene and safe team of his strength, like his comeback on the Benfica pitch on November 29 (3-0 at half-time, 3-3 final score).

Facing Atlético de Madrid, in the round of 16 first leg, the 2021 Italian champion armed himself with patience to crack the Spanish block (1-0). As a symbol, it was the replacement center forward Marko Arnautovic who delivered Inter. Because the Lombard team has been renewed: Arnautovic and Alexis Sanchez are the new “supersubs”, Yann Sommer the goalkeeper, and above all there are two strong French reinforcements. Benjamin Pavard is unanimous in the interior rearguard, as much as Marcus Thuram in attack.

Inzaghi called Pavard a “very, very great player” a month ago, appreciating his express adaptation. Partly thanks to him, Inter have a staggering 24 “clean sheets” (matches without conceding a goal) in 35 matches, more than any team in the five major European championships this season. Up front, she thrives with her captain and Argentinian world champion, Lautaro Martinez (26 goals), outsider for the Ballon d’Or, and her recruit Marcus Thuram (12 goals, 7 assists), perfect complement, versatile and determined in defense .

“Inter is one of the 4 or 5 best teams in Europe,” said Atlético coach Diego Simeone before the first leg. “It’s the best team in Europe at the moment,” he corrected Tuesday. Experienced and disciplined, driven by unshakeable confidence (13 victories in a row, only one defeat this season), she ticks all the boxes to lift the big-eared cup at Wembley on June 1st. A bit like the defending champion, Manchester City, a little less for Real Madrid, full of resources but still sluggish.

There remains one obstacle not to be taken over: this round of 16 return to Madrid this Wednesday (9 p.m.), after a victory by the smallest of margins which offers little security. “It’s not a big deficit,” agreed Simeone. There’s not much to say. We must let actions speak.” Those of Inter are, so far, eloquent.