Barcelona to Face Another UCL Group Stage Exit?

Dejected Barcelona players during their defeat to Inter

FC Barcelona were defeated 1-0 at the San Siro by Inter Milan on Tuesday night in a UEFA Champions League Group C encounter. The result puts jeopardy on the Spanish giant’s chances to progress to the next round, with Barcelona to potentially face another UCL group stage exit.

The Nerazzurri secured the win following a lovely strike from Turkish International Hakan Çalhanoğlu just before half-time. Inter then came out in the second half and put in a typical defensive Italian performance, keeping out the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha and Ousmane Dembélé.

Barcelona thought they had an equalizer after Pedri put the ball in the back of the net after the 60-minute mark, but it was ruled out for an apparent handball by Ansu Fati, much to the frustration of Barca boss Xavi.

Inter goalkeeper André Onana rose through the crowd and parried the ball straight to Pedri, who put the ball into an open net. However, the goal was disallowed after the ball brushed Ansu’s fingers on its way to Pedri, leading to Xavi being shown a yellow card for his animated protests on the sideline.

Furthermore, the Blaugrana had a penalty appeal of their own turned down in the second-half for handball.

The Barcelona coach spoke after the game, expressing his unhappiness at the decisions that went against his side.

“The referee should be out here explaining why he makes these decisions, if he made mistakes or not. That would humanise them a lot more,” said Xavi in his post-match interview.

“Today I’m really unhappy. I feel there is real injustice.”

Barcelona right-back Sergi Roberto shared the same thoughts as his manager after the match, claiming the refereeing decisions were incomprehensible.

“What happened with the referee was incomprehensible,” said Roberto to BarçaTV+ after the game.

“I’m angry, because every year the penalty rules change. Nobody knows them. Neither the referees nor the players know what they’re doing.

“The supposed handball in the goal we scored is exactly the same as the handball in the penalty that was not given.”

Barcelona currently sit 3rd in Group C, 3 points behind Inter in 2nd and 6 behind Bayern, who top the group. The Catalan club are in danger of dropping out the Champions League at the group stages for the second consecutive year, after finishing behind Bayern and Benfica in the last campaign.

Another 3rd place finish in the group will condemn Barcelona to the knockout stages of the Europa League, where they crashed out at the quarter-final stage last year to eventual winners Eintracht Frankfurt.

However, Xavi was warned his players that their next 3 UCL fixtures are of utmost importance, labelling them as ‘cup finals’ as the Blaugrana aim to avoid the Europa League.

“We have three more finals to come,” said Xavi. “This is a game we have lost, but now we have two games at home from the three and they are real finals.

“We have to show more intensity. The first half wasn’t good, we have to be self-critical, but of course we are offended today.”

Barcelona’s next two UCL games are crucial, both home fixtures against Inter next Wednesday and Bayern the week after. Xavi’s men will need to take maximum points if they’re to stand any chance of progressing to the next round of the Champions League, a competition they haven’t won since 2015.

Hakan Çalhanoğlu celebrating his goal for Inter vs Barcelona last night
Hakan Çalhanoğlu celebrating his goal for Inter vs Barcelona last night