Barcelona will be hoping to lay down the marker in Group F of the UEFA Champions League when they welcome Inter Milan to the Nou Camp on Wednesday.
Matchday 2 of the Group Stage of the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League will culminate on Wednesday, with teams from the remaining groups in action. The marquee tie of the night will be played at Camp Nou, as Barcelona play hosts to Inter Milan for their second Group F fixture, with both sides in search of their first win in the competition this term.
Barcelona have blown hot and cold at the start of the 2019-20 season, thanks to their questionable form on the road. But, after grabbing their first away win of the season this past weekend at Getafe, the Blaugrana will hope to kick on in the Champions League, having only just about held Borussia Dortmund to a goalless draw on Matchday 1.
Inter Milan, on the other hand, have made a marvellous start to their Serie A campaign, winning each of their six league games so far, the latest being a 3-1 success at Sampdoria. But, it is the Nerazzurri’s Champions League fortunes that Antonio Conte will be keen to improve, although their opening group game ended in a disappointing 1-1 draw at home against Slavia Praha.
The teams also clashed in last season’s Champions League Group Stage, with Barcelona beating Inter Milan 2-0 in the game at Camp Nou. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Ernesto Valverde has greeted fantastic news ahead of the visit of Inter Milan. Key forwards Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele have trained in the lead-up to Barcelona’s second Champions League game and are in contention to feature.
Valverde is now without just three first-team players, with Jordi Alba (hamstring), Samuel Umtiti (toe) and Ansu Fati (knee) all being short-term absentees. As for Messi and Dembele, it is unlikely that the Barcelona manager will include either player in the starting lineup, having learned his lesson the hard way last week, with respect to Messi.
Carles Perez should, thus, continue his run in the team for now and the academy graduate will be eager to continue making an impression. Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann are certain starters for Barcelona, although both players need to pull their weight in the absence of Messi. Suarez, in particular, will be desperate to improve his recent record in the Champions League.
The midfield is expected to remain unchanged from the weekend. Arthur and Frenkie de Jong, who are starting to gel well as Barcelona’s creative pairing, will reprise the no. 8 roles once again. Sergio Busquets will be the deepest of the three midfielders for the hosts, looking to stifle Inter Milan in their build-up play.
At the back, Valverde could make one change, with Nelson Semedo replacing Sergi Roberto on the right. With Alba still sidelined, Junior Firpo is a shoe-in to be the left-back, while Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet will form the central defensive partnership. There is no looking past Marc-Andre ter Stegen in goal for Barcelona.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Junior Firpo; de Jong, Busquets, Arthur; Perez, Suarez, Griezmann
Antonio Conte has had the luxury of having a full strength squad at his disposal in the early stages of the season. But, heading into the crucial Champions League fixture against Barcelona, the Inter Milan manager will be without star striker Romelu Lukaku, who has not travelled to Barcelona due to a muscle injury.
In Lukaku’s absence, Alexis Sanchez should continue to feature for the Nerazzurri. Sanchez impressed in the 3-1 win over Sampdoria, although his dismissal early in the second half was quite the dampener. Nevertheless, the Manchester United loanee is seemingly starting to settle at Inter Milan and will be keen to continue leaving a mark.
The former Barcelona superstar will likely have Lautaro Martinez as his strike partner once again. The Argentine, though, needs to step up after making a rather slow start to the season. The changes ought to start coming into effect behind Sanchez and Martinez.
Marcelo Brozovic and Stefano Sensi are automatic picks in the middle of the park, with Brozovic being the Anchor Man in front of the defence and Sensi being the chief creator for Inter. Roberto Gagliardini, though, should make way for Nicolo Barella, who will look to drive the visitors forward.
As for the two wing-backs, Antonio Candreva and Kwadwo Asamoah are expected to keep hold of their places. The back-three should see one change, with Diego Godin returning to the side after being rested on the weekend. Godin will partner Milan Skriniar and Stefan de Vrij in the backline. Inter Milan captain Samir Handanovic will take his place in goal for the visitors.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Handanovic; Godin, de Vrij, Skriniar; Candreva, Barella, Brozovic, Sensi, Asamoah; Sanchez, Martinez
- Inter Milan have lost on five of their six visits to Barcelona, winning the other 2-1 in January 1970 in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.
- Barcelona have won 29 of their last 32 Champions League games at home, with Bayern Munich being the last team to beat them, in May 2013.
- Inter Milan are without a win in their last five UEFA Champions League matches (D3 L2), scoring just three goals in this run.
- Barcelona have failed to score in their last two Champions League matches; they have never gone three games without a goal in the competition. The Catalans last failed to score in three European games in a row in March 1988 in the UEFA Cup.
- Lionel Messi has been directly involved in 15 goals in his past 17 Champions League appearances against Italian opposition (12 goals, 3 assists). However, Messi has never scored against Inter in the competition in three games.
Player to Watch
His time at Manchester United did not quite pan out as he would have envisioned. But, Alexis Sanchez seems to be determined to make amends in what could be his only season with Inter Milan. Making his first start for the Nerazzurri this past weekend, the ex-Barcelona star netted for the first time for his new club, although what happened later on in the game was rather forgettable.
Now, set to be up against his former club at his old stomping ground, Sanchez will be eager to move over the bad memories of the Sampdoria game and try and go on a scoring run. With Romelu Lukaku out injured, the onus will be on Sanchez to stump Barcelona, whose defence looks rather suspect. Can Sanchez begin a fine run of form, or will the Sampdoria exploits prove to be one-off?
Barcelona 2-1 Inter Milan
Inter Milan are a hard team to score against, yes. But, in the UEFA Champions League, the Serie A giants have shown a tendency of being unable to hold their nerve and succumb under pressure. Add to it, the fact that Barcelona have been rather impressive at home and the Nerazzurri could be in for a tough outing on Wednesday.
For much of the game, however, it should be an evenly contested affair. But, Lionel Messi, expected to come off the bench later on in the game, will be Barcelona’s X-Factor, giving the hosts the slight edge for what should be a tight game.
The Hard Tackle, thus, predicts a 2-1 win for Ernesto Valverde & co. leaving Inter with an uphill task for the remainder of the Champions League Group Stage campaign.