Barcelona will round off their UEFA Champions League group stage campaign with a trip to Italy, as they take on Inter Milan at San Siro on Tuesday.
The curtains will fall on the group stage of the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League season with Matchday 6 being played out this week. The marquee fixture in Group F will see table toppers Barcelona lock horns with Inter Milan, who are hoping to book their place in the Round of 16 this week.
Inter Milan are finally starting to regain some of the swagger that has been missing in their game for years, with the appointment of Antonio Conte working wonders. The Nerazzurri are currently perched atop the Serie A table, although things are much tighter in the Champions League, where they are level on points with Borussia Dortmund and are vying for second spot in Group F.
Barcelona, on the other hand, are at the summit of Group F as well as La Liga. The Blaugrana have blown hot and cold all season, but still manage to find themselves in a strong position in different competitions, although they warmed up for the trip to Milan with a 5-2 hammering of RCD Mallorca in the league.
Barcelona came from a goal down to beat Inter Milan in the reverse fixture on Matchday 2, with Luis Suarez scoring a match-winning brace. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Antonio Conte has a couple of fresh injury concerns to contend with ahead of the visit of Barcelona. On Tuesday, the Inter Milan boss could be without as many as six first-team players, with the wing-back slots posing some concern.
Antonio Candreva (back) and Kwadwo Asamoah (knee) are major doubts for the Barcelona game and are likely to miss out. In addition to the duo, Nicolo Barella (knee), Roberto Gagliardini (foot), Stefano Sensi (thigh) and Alexis Sanchez (ankle) are also on the sidelines and will play not a part against Barcelona.
The big decision for Conte will be picking his wing-backs, with Valentino Lazaro and Danilo D’Ambrosio likely to get the nod on the two flanks. D’Ambrosio will feature as the left wing-back, with Lazaro starting on the opposite flank.
The back-three is likely to remain unchanged, with Diego Godin, Milan Skriniar and Stefan de Vrij partnering up again. Inter Milan captain Samir Handanovic, meanwhile, picks himself between the sticks.
In the absence of Barella and Sensi, the three central midfielders become automatic picks, with Matias Vecino, Marcelo Brozovic and Borja Valero starting in the middle of the park. Upfront, Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, who scored in the reverse fixture, will form the strike partnership once again.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Handanovic; Godín, Skriniar, de Vrij; Lazaro. Valero, Brozovic, Vecino, D’Ambrosio; Lukaku, Martinez
Ernesto Valverde is set to make some rotations when Barcelona next take the field against Inter Milan. Without four first-team players due to injury troubles, Valverde has also decided to rest Gerard Pique, Sergi Roberto and captain Lionel Messi, leaving the trio behind in Barcelona.
Those who miss out through fitness issues are Nelson Semedo (calf), Jordi Alba (hamstring), Arthur (groin) and Ousmane Dembele (thigh). With Semedo unavailable due to his injury and Roberto rested, Moussa Wague will get a rare opportunity to impress at the right side of the Barcelona defence.
Pique’s absence means Samuel Umtiti and Barcelona B youngster Ronald Araujo will likely form the central defensive partnership, while Junior Firpo is a certain starter as the left-back. In goal, Neto is set to make his Barcelona debut, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen likely to be rested as well.
Another player who ought to be afforded a rest is Frenkie de Jong, with the Dutchman featuring week in week out since joining Barcelona. In de Jong’s stead, Carles Alena, who has endured a frustrating season till date, should start, with Arturo Vidal and Sergio Busquets completing the midfield trifecta.
Youth should be the name of the game out wide in attack, with Carles Perez and Ansu Fati starting on the two flanks. Antoine Griezmann ought to lead the line against Inter Milan, with Luis Suarez being given a breather, only to be used as a backup option, if required.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Neto; Wague, Araujo, Umtiti, Firpo; Vidal, Busquets, Alena; Perez, Griezmann, Fati
- Barcelona have secured first place in their Champions League group for the 21st time, and a 13th season in a row – both competition records.
- Inter Milan have been victorious in only two of their last nine UEFA Champions League matches (D3 L4).
- Barcelona have won only five of their last 15 matches on the road in European competition (D6 L4).
- Barcelona’s next UEFA Champions League win will be their 150th; only Real Madrid have reached that landmark in the competition so far.
- Inter Milan are unbeaten in their last nine games against Spanish opposition at San Siro (W3 D6) stretching back to a 2-0 loss to Alaves in the 2000-01 UEFA Cup fourth round. That is their sole defeat at home to a Spanish club in 19 fixtures (W9 D9).
Player to Watch
If there is one thing that Romelu Lukaku has become infamous for over the years, it is that he is unable to turn up for matches against the best of teams. His record against the ‘Big Six’ sides in the Premier League was abysmal to say the least, although things have improved marginally in Serie A.
Lukaku could not find the back of the net against Barcelona, though, on Matchday 2. But, the La Liga champions’ visit to San Siro now gives him the chance to set the record straight. With Barcelona not being at full strength, this is Lukaku’s best chance to torment a team of such stature, an opportunity he is likely to relish.
Inter Milan 2-1 Barcelona
Barcelona are already through to the Round of 16 and Ernesto Valverde is taking this opportunity to rest some of his key men. Team chemistry is, therefore, likely to take a hit, which Inter Milan ought to exploit on Tuesday.
The Nerazzurri will be desperate for all three points, which will be enough for them to book their safe passage through to the knockout stages. Barcelona should still pose a great deal of threat, especially with prodigious youngster Ansu Fati featuring in attack.
In the end, however, Inter Milan should have just about enough quality to edge the contest by the odd goal. The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-1 win for Antonio Conte & co. in a result that will enable them to secure their place in the next round, regardless of the result in Borussia Dortmund’s game against Slavia Praha.