Inter Milan host Spanish giants Barcelona on Tuesday night in a pivotal Group C game that will see the winner potentially put one foot into the next round of the UEFA Champions League.
Both Inter and Barcelona recorded a win over Viktoria Plzeñ and a loss to Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, who top the group with 6 points ahead of their clash with the Czech side at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday.
Despite a shaky start to the league season, German giants Bayern have all but secured a spot in the Round of 16 after winning their opening two fixtures. This results in there being only one other place available in Group C to progress in the competition, condemning either Inter or Barca to the Europa League.
The home side Inter go into the match off the back of a 2-1 defeat to Roma at the San Siro on Saturday. The Nerazzurri currently sit 9th in Serie A, after a difficult start has seen them win 4 and lose 4 of their opening 8 fixtures.
Manager Simone Inzaghi claims this game is “very important” for their season, and their European hopes in particular.
“Saturday was a bad defeat, clearly undeserved,” said Inzaghi in his pre-match press conference.”But this makes us understand even better what football is: in matches in which you deserve another one with the result you go out with broken bones.
“What now awaits is another great match, very important for our journey in Europe.
“We will have to be good at limiting their big dribble, knowing where to attack. And when we have the ball we will have to be able to keep it.”
Barcelona boss Xavi has also recognized the importance of the trip to the San Siro, telling his players they “cannot fail,” such are the stakes in this game.
“The game is vital tomorrow, not definitive, but very important if we are to get through to the next round,” said Xavi during his pre-match interview.
“We both lost to Bayern so tomorrow’s game is huge. We will see what Bayern do tomorrow too, but we cannot fail. That’s in our heads, we cannot fail.”
The Blaugrana head into the tie in great form, currently topping La Liga on goal difference after 6 wins and a draw from their opening 7 fixtures.
Despite Robert Lewandowski grabbing all the headlines with 12 goals in his first 9 matches at the Club, its Barcelona’s defence that has been particularly strong, only conceding one goal in La Liga so far this season, the best in Europe.
However, Xavi has dismissed the momentum his side have built, and spoke highly of his opposition instead, emphasizing how dangerous they can be.
“Form doesn’t matter that much, we’ve played many games in which we were favourites and we lost,” continued Xavi on Monday.
“Inter are very strong, they have great movement in attack, they use a dynamic style with two forwards that isn’t used in the Spanish league.
“This is the toughest group we’ve had in the Champions League for many years, it will be very difficult. We have to show the personality we showed in Munich but get the result.”
Barcelona’s rear-guard will face a tough test up against the likes of Lautaro Martinez, Romelu Lukaku and Edin Dzeko. Although their defence has been the best on the continent this season, they’ll be missing key players in the backline for Tuesday night’s encounter, namely Jules Kounde, Frenkie de Jong who’s been used by Xavi at centre-back before, Ronald Araujo, and Hector Bellerin.
Inter 2 – 2 FC Barcelona
I think Barca’s injuries in defence will be particularly damaging, especially away at the San Siro in a big game for both teams. So Inter will attack them and cause problems. However, with Robert Lewandowski in their ranks, among some other top quality attacking players, Barcelona have enough firepower to walk away from the fixture with a result.