Three talking points ahead of Barcelona vs Inter Milan
Aptly nicknamed the ‘Group of Death’, Group C of the UEFA Champions League has lived up to its billing. Every match day brings mouth-watering clashes that do not disappoint, and this week is no different.
Coming off their rough 1-0 win over Celta Vigo, Barcelona face off against Inter Milan on Wednesday for the second time in as many weeks. However, the stakes are much higher this time around, with the Catalans’ place in the competition virtually at stake.
Simone Inzaghi’s men saw off Sassuolo at the weekend courtesy of a 75th-minute winner by Edin Dzeko. Now, they will look to book a slot in the Round of 16 of the UCL with a win over Barcelona.
Their last two visits to Spotify Camp Nou in 2018 and 2019 ended in losses, and this could be their best chance to turn around that trend. Barça Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Barcelona’s decisive UCL game midweek.
1. The most important night of the season, so far
One glance at the standings of Group C of the UEFA Champions League is enough to tell a thousand words. Three games into the campaign, Bayern Munich top the table with a perfect score of nine points. Inter Milan follows closely behind with six, while Barcelona languishes in third place with just three points.
Being drawn into the Group of death alongside two other European powerhouses was indeed a matter of bad luck for Xavi’s side. However, the claim to being European Champions has to be earned, and a tough group can never be an excuse to crash out.
Having already spent last year in the Europa League, Barcelona cannot afford to be pushed down to the second tier for the second season in a row. I
t is imperative that the Blaugranes progress deep into the prestigious competition, especially given how the board lucratively signed stars in the summer by putting the future of the club at stake.
Anything other than a win against Inter Milan tomorrow will throw the Catalans’ place in the tournament into jeopardy. Barcelona must play for only one result at the Spotify Camp Nou come Wednesday night. For the situation is as good as a ‘do-or-die’.
2. Will Xavi crack under pressure?
The start of the new season was beautiful for Barcelona. Top-quality signings coupled with numerous players returning from injury helped the Blaugranas dominate at every stadium they travelled to.
Both Barcelona’s wins in October have been by a narrow 1-0 margin, and truth be told, toothless. The team has lacked coherence in defence and looked clueless in the final third, and it is clear that Xavi is as helpless as his players.
When Barcelona and Inter Milan met at San Siro last week, the manager had no answer to the Nerazzuri’s low block. His substitutions and tactical changes on the night made no difference to the final result, and it was clear that he had been out-prepared.
One would expect Xavi to bounce back stronger in his next game against Celta Vigo, but the game against the Galicians was a story in itself. Eduardo Coudet’s side pushed Barcelona to the absolute limit in the second half and decimated their defence with ease. Once again, the manager had nothing in his tank to resuscitate his team, and Barcelona were lucky to walk away with three points.
With two bad games under his belt, Xavi now faces probably the most decisive game of the season midweek. As a serial European Champion in his playing days, Xavi will now have to bring back his experience and guide his team through the woods when they need his help the most.
3. Lewandowski’s time to come up clutch
Having scored 12 goals in just 11 appearances for the Azulgranas, Robert Lewandowski has gotten off to a fabulous start to his career in Spain. He is comfortably on the top of La Liga’s scoring charts and could well have a record-breaking season to come. However, his influence in the Champions League has been shockingly poor.
Despite getting off to a flying start to the UCL with a hat-trick against Viktoria Plzen, the Pole has been a shadow of himself ever since. He missed around three clear-cut goal-scoring chances on Barcelona’s 2-0 defeat to Bayern Munich, and matters only got worse in the third game.
At San Siro, Lewandowski was nowhere to be seen on the field. The Italian defence caged him out of the game with such great effect that he managed just 14 passes in the entire 90 minutes with only one shot on target.
sS Barcelona head into a must-win clash on Wednesday against the same opposition, Xavi will hope that his seasoned striker finds his goal-scoring boots again and lights up the park.