Hostilities are expected to resume as Barcelona will be really desperate to fuel their hopes of making it to the knockout rounds and nothing less than a victory will suffice when they take on Inter Milan at home at the Camp Nou on Wednesday night. The two sides clashed with each other less than a week ago and on that occasion at the San Siro in Milan, the hosts secured a controversial 1-0 victory thanks to the solitary goal from Hakan Calhanoglu.
Barcelona, who were denied a goal as well as a penalty late in the game due to dubious interpretations of the handball rule, were left to rue their chances. After consecutive defeats against Bayern and Inter, they are now third in Group C of the Champions League and at the risk of getting demoted to the Europa League for the second straight season.
Barcelona obviously failed to progress through the group stages of the Champions League last season when both Ronald Koeman and Xavi suffered upsets at the hands of Bayern Munich and Benfica. It has become a possibility once again this season as the Catalan giants are now third in Group C, three points behind second-placed Inter and six from leaders Bayern Munich.
Although Xavi’s side began their Champions League campaign in dominant fashion, with a 5-1 victory over Viktoria Plzen in the first week of September where new signing Robert Lewandowski scored a hattrick, they have been underwhelming since then. They suffered a 2-0 loss against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena despite dominating much of the contest and then went on to suffer another 1-0 loss in Milan with Calhanoglu scoring the only goal of the contest.
Barcelona will be well aware of the importance of their home fixture with Inter tonight as anything less than a win here could further derail their Champions League knockout rounds hopes. They will be pleased to play at home given that they haven’t lost at the Camp Nou since May and are unbeaten across all competitions.
While they have certainly struggled in the Champions League, Barcelona have been rather at ease in La Liga where they are currently the league leaders. Besides the opening day draw with Rayo Vallecano at the Camp Nou, they have won all of their fixtures so far and are level on points with defending champions Real Madrid going into next week’s El Clasico. The biggest takeaway from Barcelona’s dominance in the Spanish top flight has been their defence which has conceded just one goal so far – the lowest in the top five leagues in Europe.
With that being said, Barcelona certainly had to sweat it out in their previous encounter with Celta Vigo. Pedri’s first-half goal gave them the lead of the contest and although the visitors tried desperately to restore parity in the second half, Barcelona held on for dear life in order to secure all three points. With their La Liga campaign up and running, there’s no doubt that Xavi would want his men to prioritise the Champions League once again as they can ill afford to play in the Europa League for the second consecutive season.
Before facing Barcelona at home in the Champions League last week, Inter were coming off the back of successive Serie A losses at the hands of Udinese and AS Roma. However, a massive and spirited display, especially in defence, allowed them to take all three points from the fixture thanks to Hakan Calhanoglu’s brilliant thundering strike from outside the box.
Simone Inzaghi’s side’s Champions League campaign got off to a bad start as Bayern handed them a 2-0 defeat in the season opener. However, Inter returned to winning ways with a 2-0 success against Viktoria Plzen before their triumph over Barcelona at the San Siro. A total of six points has left them in second position, three points behind Bayern, who are the overwhelming favourites to top the group.
Inter will also enter this match off the back of an important Serie A victory, having beat Sassuolo 2-1, with Eden Dzeko scoring twice for the Milan giants, who are seventh in their domestic table on 15 points.
The Nerazzurri had qualified for the knockout rounds of the Champions League last season as well but they were defeated by English giants Liverpool in the Round of 16 stage. Sadly, the 2010 winners of the Champions League have not qualified beyond the first round of the knockout stage since reaching the final eight in 2010-11.
The last time Inter visited the Camp Nou was during the group stage of the 2019-20 season when they suffered a 2-1 defeat against their Catalan rivals. With that being said, however, Barcelona have lost three of their last six Champions League matches in front of their own supporters, which is a record that should hand the visitors confidence.
BAR vs INT, UEFA Champions League 2022/23
Date: 13th October, 2022
Time: 12:30 AM IST
Venue: Camp Nou Spotify, Barcelona
Barcelona UEFA Champions League form:
Barcelona form (all competitions):
Inter Milan UEFA Champions League form:
Inter Milan form (all competitions):
Barcelona wins: 6
Inter Milan wins: 2
Barcelona Team News:
Barcelona’s injury crisis found a little respite as the Catalan club were able to welcome Frenkie de Jong back into the fray after the Dutch midfielder had suffered an injury during the international break. Franck Kessie has also been out with an adductor problem and although the injury was expected to be severe, it is believed that he’s back in the squad and has been included for this high-profile clash.
However, Barcelona are still short at the back and are missing a number of key players. Jules Kounde hasn’t been able to recover in time to make it to the squad and Xavi will miss his presence in central defence along with Ronald Araujo as well as Andreas Christensen who got injured during the previous match with Inter at San Siro.
As a result, Xavi might opt to start with Gerard Pique and Eric Garcia at the heart of the defence. Meanwhile, Sergi Roberto could start at right back instead of the injured Hector Bellerin while Marcos Alonso should retain his place at left back for Barcelona.
The midfield trio of Gavi, Pedri, and Sergio Busquets are expected to start as usual as they did against Inter and against Celta this weekend while Frenkie de Jong could come off the bench in the second half.
Robert Lewandowski will lead the attacking line and he hasn’t scored in the last two Champions League games. Ousmane Dembele is expected to take up a place on the wing while some sources are also suggesting that Ansu Fati is set to get the nod ahead of Raphinha on the left flank.
Inter Milan Team News:
As far as Inter are concerned, Dalbert, Marcelo Brozovic, Alex Cordaz, Joaquin Correa and Gabriel Brazao remain on the sidelines for the Italian giants.
Romelu Lukaku has a chance of being available for selection, with the Belgium international recovering from the muscular problem that has kept him on the sidelines since the end of August, although he will not be considered for a start.
Dzeko is set to feature alongside Lautaro Martinez in the final third of the field, while Denzel Dumfries could get the nod as the right-sided wing-back, with Federico Dimarco lining up on the opposite side.
Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, E Garcia, Alonso; Gavi, Busquets, Pedri; Dembele, Lewandowski, Fati
Inter Milan possible starting lineup:
Onana; Skriniar, De Vrij, Bastoni; Dumfries, Barella, Calhanoglu, Mkhitaryan, Dimarco; L Martinez, Dzeko
The importance of this match with respect to Barcelona’s season cannot be overstated. The Catalan giants need to come out of the shell and go all guns blazing against Inter Milan. The latter are expected to opt for a defence-heavy approach given that they already have the lead in the two-way battle. Xavi’s side has struggled against low blocks but they need to be proactive and aggressive in their approach in order to force a result.
While Inter are more than capable of picking up a useful result, Barcelona are scary good when they are at their best and they should have it in them to secure a win here.