Barcelona tried it until the very end, but their Champions League journey is virtually over thanks to a wild 3-3 draw against Inter Milan at the Spotify Camp Nou. Barça played a great first half and took the lead at halftime, but an insane second half ended with a six-goal draw that leaves Inter just one win away from qualification to the Round of 16. Barça are technically still alive, but this result means they are very likely headed to the Europa League for a second straight season.
Xavi Hernández made a controversial team selection, but his tactical setup quickly justfied his personnel choices. Barça came out in a 3-4-3 formation with Marcos Alonso as a center-back, Sergi Roberto playing in midfield, Raphinha in his best position on the right wing and a very aggressive attacking strategy from the get-go.
Inter once again parked the bus with a very compact 5-3-2 designed to deny spaces, but the Blaugrana did a much better job of finding players in between the lines and create danger with plenty of crosses, shots from distance and players arriving in the box. There was much more variety in attack, and the Catalans felt like a more dangerous side from the start.
Robert Lewandowski had a header cleared off by Federico Dimarco, and Ousmane Dembélé forced a great save from André Onana with a shot from outside the box. But Inter came very close as well, with Edin Dzeko hitting the crossbar and Denzel Dumfries forcing a strong save from Marc-André ter Stegen.
The first 25 minutes were pretty even, but as the half went on Barça became more and more overwhelming with their pressure and Inter could no longer get out of their own half. The home team never stopped going forward, and they finally got the goal their performance deserved: Raphinha won the ball from Dimarco near the corner flag and found Sergi Roberto inside the box with a great pass, and Roberto found Dembélé for a tap-in and the Blaugrana’s opening goal.
At halftime, a very good attacking performance gave Barça a deserved one-goal lead, but they still had more work to do to find more goals and take all three points in the second half.
Barça continued to dominate the ball and attack to start the second half, but a horrible individual mistake just five minutes into the period changed everything: Alessandro Bastoni sent a long, hopeful ball into the box and Gerard Piqué inexplicably decided to not head it away, which left Nicolò Barella all alone in front of Ter Stegen and the Inter midfielder found the top of the net to equalize for the visitors.
The Blaugrana were clearly affected by the unexpected manner of the Inter goal and completely collapsed mentally for the next 15 minutes. Inter found themselves in complete control of the game, and took the lead when Hakan Çalhanoglu found Lautaro Martínez with a beautiful pass over the top which the Inter striker chested down and fired into the net off both posts.
The result meant that Barça were on their way out of the Champions League, and they had 25 minutes to produce a miracle. The Blaugrana sent everyone forward and had their moments with crosses and set pieces, but Inter were mostly comfortable at the back and made themselves almost impossible to break down once they moved to a back six with 15 minutes to go.
But Barça didn’t give up and gave themselves a chance ahead of the final 10 minutes: Alejandro Balde sent a cross into the box and Robert Lewandowski won the initial header, and after Stefan De Vrij failed to clear the danger Lewandowski was quicker to the rebound and found the back of the net with help of a Bastoni deflection.
Xavi called Ferran Torres from the bench and Barça sent everyone forward looking for the goal that would save their Champions League lives, but it was Inter who took the late lead when a long ball from the back found Lautaro down the right wing and the Argentinean played a brilliant pass to find Robin Gosens, who made it 3-2 and surely ended Barça’s hopes.
But the Catalans gave themselves a chance in added time when Lewandowski headed home a cross from Eric García to make it 3-3, and the Blaugrana had five minutes to score a fourth. They couldn’t, however, and the final whistle came to virtually end the Blaugrana’s Champions League journey.
Barça have to win their final two games and Inter cannot get more than one point from their last two matches, but the Italians face the worst team in the group at home needing a simple victory to qualify while Barça have to take on Bayern Munich. Yeah, it’s pretty much game over.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Eric, Piqué, Alonso (Balde 72’); Roberto (Kessie 72’), Busquets (De Jong 64’), Gavi (Ferran 84’); Pedri; Raphinha (Ansu Fati 64’), Lewandowski, Dembélé
Goals: Dembélé (40’), Lewandowski (82’, 90+2’)
Inter Milan: Onana; Skriniar, De Vrij, Bastoni (Acerbi 85’); Dumfries, Barella (Asllani 85’), Çalhanoglu (Gosens 76’), Mkhitaryan, Dimarco (Darmian 66’); Lautaro, Dzeko (Bellanova 76’)
Goals: Barella (50’), Lautaro (63’), Gosens (89’)