Barcelona will be aiming to clinch a place in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 when they travel to San Siro to take on Inter Milan on Tuesday
UEFA Champions League returns this week with Matchday 4 of the group stage. One of the marquee clashes of the latest round of fixtures will be played in Italy, when Barcelona pay Inter Milan a visit at San Siro, with top place in Group B on the line.
The aforementioned summit of Group B is currently occupied by Barcelona, following a perfect start to their UEFA Champions League campaign. Their hosts Inter Milan are second with six points, knowing full well that a win could see them climb up to the very top of the table.
Inter Milan are in top form heading into the crunch UEFA Champions League tie, having won all but one of their last 12 games in all competitions. That loss came at the hands of Barcelona themselves, although the Nerazzurri have plundered in eight goals without conceding any in the two outings that have followed.
Barcelona, on the other hand, haven’t always quite looked convincing but have still managed to avoid defeat in each of their last eight outings – the obvious standout being the 5-1 mauling of Real Madrid in El Clasico. Their fragile defence though, will have Inter Milan licking their lips.
As iterated earlier, Barcelona were the victors in the reverse fixture at Camp Nou, coasting to a 2-0 win, courtesy goals from Rafinha and Jordi Alba. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides on Tuesday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the UEFA Champions League encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Luciano Spalletti has no injury concerns whatsoever ahead of the visit of Barcelona, with the Inter Milan boss boasting a clean bill of health for Tuesday’s Champions League tie.
The aim of the game for the visitors will be to absorb the pressure that Barcelona look to heap on them before unleashing quick and clinical counter-attacks. To that end, Spalletti will look to utilize the pacy outlets of Ivan Perisic and Keita Balde Diao, with Antonio Candreva missing out.
The Inter Milan boss will also rely on the abilities of Matias Vecino and Borja Valero in the middle of the park, with the duo being tasked with turning over possession and relaying the ball forward quickly. Another key midfielder will be the fit-again Radja Nainggolan.
The Belgian maverick will be looking to win possession high up on the pitch and test Marc-Andre ter Stegen with his long range efforts. Spalletti will hope that Nainggolan, alongside Valero, Vecino, captain Mauro Icardi and others who were rested for the tie, can have the legs to last the game and pile the pressure on a susceptible Barcelona defence for long periods.
Meanwhile, with reports that Messi has travelled to Milan for the tie, the defence will need to tighten up that bit more. Milan Skriniar and Miranda will likely be the central defensive pairing for Inter, while Sime Vrsaljko and Kwadwo Asamoah should be the full-backs who will also be vital cogs in the counter-attacks.
Samir Handanovic, who will likely be a busy man in the Inter Milan goal, will aim to thwart the Barcelona attack with a colossal showing.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Handanovic; Vrsaljko, Skriniar, Miranda, Asamoah; Vecino, Valero; Perisic, Nainggolan, Keita Balde Diao; Icardi
Ernesto Valverde’s woes have eased to a great extent ahead of the trip to San Siro to take on Inter Milan. On Tuesday, the Barcelona boss will be without just two first-team players, with Sergi Samper (calf) and Thomas Vermaelen (hamstring) unavailable.
Samuel Umtiti is also likely to miss out for the visitors as well, considering Valverde is likely to ease him back in after returning from a knee injury. In his stead, Clement Lenglet will continue partnering Gerard Pique at the heart of the Barcelona defence.
The duo should be flanked by Sergi Roberto and Jordi Alba, who will be key in Barcelona’s build-up play. Alba in particular, has stepped up in the absence of Lionel Messi, whose return will only buoy him to continue his boisterous performances.
Speaking of Messi, the Barcelona captain is fit and available, which bodes well for the visitors as they aim to secure top spot in Group B. The Argentine’s return also comes at the perfect time, with Luis Suarez starting to come into his own. In addition to the duo, Philippe Coutinho is likely to complete the attacking unit, although the Brazilian will hope to improve his output.
The midfield trio looks pretty much set as well, with Arthur establishing himself as a key figure in the first-team setup with his assured performances. The other two spots in the side will go to Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets, with Arturo Vidal having to make do with a place on the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Arthur; Messi, Suarez, Coutinho
- Inter Milan and Barcelona have previously met on seven occasions, with the Blaugrana enjoying a significant advantage in the head-to-head record (W4 D2 L1).
- Inter Milan are also on a run of two successive defeats at the hands of Spanish opposition, with Atletico Madrid beating them in the 2010 UEFA Super Cup.
- Barcelona have netted the most number of goals in the UEFA Champions League group stage so far (10 goals, level with Paris Saint-Germain).
- Barcelona have won their group in each of the past 11 seasons, and have reached at least the quarter-finals in all of those UEFA Champions League campaigns, both competition records.
- Barcelona have a mixed record against Serie A clubs in Italy, having won just six of the 23 matches they have featured in (D10 L7). The Blaugrana are without a win in their last seven trips (D4 L3).
Player to Watch
For Inter Milan to get past a rampaging Barcelona side, they will need to be clinical on the ball, starting with their turnover and transitions. To ensure quick and smooth transitions, the midfielders will need to step up to the plate, and this is where the experienced head of Borja Valero will come in.
Having looked raring to go during Inter’s pre-match press conference, the 33-year-old will be Luciano Spalletti’s go-to man. If he manages to link up well with those ahead of him, the Nerazzurri might just be on course for a popular win over the Group B leaders.
Inter Milan 2-2 Barcelona
Barcelona may have looked comfortable two weeks ago when Inter Milan visited Camp Nou. But, at San Siro, the Nerazzurri have been on a roll, with a shock loss at the hands of Parma being their only setback so far.
Barcelona’s vulnerabilities at the back will also provide Luciano Spalletti’s men the required impetus to take the game to their visitors and take them out of their comfort zone. But, the return of Lionel Messi will surely put a spring in the steps of Ernesto Valverde & co.
All in all, this looks set to be a keenly contested affair that could well go either way. The Hard Tackle though, is going with a score draw, with Barcelona and Inter Milan sharing the spoils, and possibly making it to the Round of 16.