Barcelona fell to their second defeat in a row in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday night, as Inter Milan secured a 1-0 victory at the Giuseppe Meazza.
In a game that was dominated by controversial refereeing decisions, a late first-half strike from Hakan Calhanoglu proved enough for the Nerazzurri to get one over the La Liga behemoths.
The outcome of the match meant that Barça find themselves under immense pressure heading into the return fixture against Inter at Spotify Camp Nou. A failure to win there could potentially lead to them ending up in the UEFA Europa League for the second season in a row.
While the match officiating played a part, the Blaugrana themselves did not have the best of the matches, especially in the first half when they had the ball for longer periods but could not create much of note, which eventually came back to haunt them.
The defeat means that Xavi has now lost all of his three away matches as Barcelona manager in the UEFA Champions League – two of which have come against Bayern Munich. The 42-year-old has just one win in five games in the competition.
Furthermore, Barça have not scored any goal in their last three away games in the UEFA Champions League, which is their worst away run in the history of the competition.
Having failed to find a way through the middle, the Blaugrana resorted to drifting wide and hitting in crosses into the box to try and get a goal at the Giuseppe Meazza.
Indeed, Barcelona made 50 crosses against Inter on Tuesday night, with 35 of them coming in open play. Both tallies are the highest records for the Catalans under Xavi. But the strategy did not yield the desired result.
This season, it has often been the case that if Robert Lewandowski does not score, Barça fail to win. The Poland captain was not on target in the goalless draw against Rayo Vallecano on the first matchday of La Liga, then did not score against Bayern and Inter in the UCL, with the team losing both games.
With Lewandowski not finding the back of the net on Tuesday, he has now failed to score in four consecutive away Champions League games for the first time since 2016.
Ousmane Dembele had yet another underwhelming outing on Tuesday night. The Frenchman’s final pass was lacking on more than one occasion and he even missed a great chance to score, while he often gave away the ball cheaply, putting pressure on the team.
Indeed, Dembele lost the ball as many as 38 times against Inter Milan. So even though he made 33 progressive carries on the night – the most by a player in this season in the UCL – the Frenchman proved to be more of a liability than asset for Barcelona.