Inter Milan, the Italian giants, are no strangers when it comes to dominating in Europe, as they reached the UEFA Champions League final against all odds just last season, defeating cross-city rivals AC Milan in the process.
Back in 2010, Jose Mourinho led them to the famous ‘Big-Eared’ trophy for the first time in 45 years with a Diego Milito brace downing Bayern Munich in Madrid.
However, what may come as surprising to many is that on neither of those occasions did the Nerazzurri top their group.
Last term, they finished second behind Bayern Munich, and back in 2010, they finished second behind Barcelona – a team they would go on to defeat in the semifinals. This term though, things are looking different.
Inter are currently second in Group D, only behind leaders Real Sociedad on goal difference.
With the Spaniards still to travel to the San Siro, there’s a great chance that this year could be one of few in which Simone Inzaghi’s men top their group.
But despite that, the latest soccer odds still don’t fancy Inter’s chances of European success, pricing them as long as 25.00 to win the Champions League this season.
But with this campaign looking like it could be a landmark one in the continental affairs of Inter Milan, we decided to take a look at the last three times Inter topped their group.
2011/12 – Stunned By Marseille
Perhaps surprisingly, it has been over a decade since Inter finished top of a Champions League group.
Between 2012 and last season, the Nerazzurri only dined at the most elite dinner table of European football on five occasions. Three of those times ended in the group stage.
Back in 2011/12 however, Inter finished top of their group, winning three of their six matches and finishing on ten points, two clears of second-placed CSKA Moscow.
The team had plenty of the aging veterans that had led them to glory two years prior. Wesley Sneijder, Diego Milito, Samuel Eto’o, and the legendary Javier Zanetti all featured prominently.
They had a favorable draw in the second round against French outfit Marseille and were the favorites to progress.
However, the 1993 champions had other ideas. They netted a 92nd-minute away goal in the second leg at the San Siro courtesy of Brandão which was enough to secure victory and a spot in the quarterfinals.
It would be six long years until Inter Milan played in the Champions League again.
2007/08 – Lethal Torres Strikes
In the 2007/08 season, Inter Milan were drawn into a challenging group with Fenerbahce, PSV Eindhoven, and once more, CSKA Moscow.
But that did not stop the Nerazzurri from dominating the group stage. They finished with 15 points, winning five out of six matches.
They scored ten goals and conceded four, with their famous striker, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, continuing to display his class by scoring four goals in the group stage, including a stunning brace against PSV Eindhoven.
The team’s defense was impressive, with Materazzi and Cordoba leading the charge.
Despite topping the group though, Inter were drawn to face Liverpool in the second round, a team that had reached the final in two of the previous three seasons.
With the Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres partnership on full display, the Reds picked up victories both home and away to set up an English quarter-final against Arsenal.
2005/06 – Underdogs Villareal Down Inter En Route to Semifinals
The 2005/06 campaign started with a narrow 1-0 victory over Rangers and that would set the tone for another dominant display in the group stage.
They thumped Slovakian minnows Artmedia Petržalka in their third game, winning 3-0 courtesy of goals from Adriano, Esteban Cambiasso, and Obafemi Martins.
The win propelled them to the top of their group, and they went on to win three more games to finish with 13 points, six clears of the aforementioned Scottish champions.
In the second round, they would meet Ajax and were immediately in trouble, dropping two goals inside the first 20 minutes in Amsterdam.
The visitors would fight back though, managing to leave the Johan Cruyff Arena with a 2-2 draw courtesy of second-half strikes from Dejan Stankovic and Julio Cruz.
Serbian midfield maestro Stankovic would strike once more in the return leg to secure a 3-2 aggregate victory and a meeting with tournament debutants Villareal with a place in the semifinals up for grabs.
Inter were heavily favored to progress however, that didn’t translate into success.
They managed to pick up a 2-1 victory in the first leg at the San Siro, but Diego Forlan’s first-minute away goal gave the Spaniards something to cling to. And cling they did.
In the second leg, the Yellow Submarine pressed the action much to the surprise of the footballing public.
In the second half, they would find the all-important goal through Argentine defender Rodolfo Arruabarrena and Inter Milan couldn’t find a way back into the Champions League tie.
The two-legged affair would eventually finish 2-2, with the Spaniards progressing on away goals.