FC Barcelona have a huge test early in the season, and one they really must pass. While failing to win against Inter Milan at Camp Nou would not guarantee losing out a place in the next stage of the UEFA Champions League, it would put Barcelona perilously close to such a result.
When the Catalans went to the UEFA Europa League last season, it was seen as disappointing if acceptable given the team’s state at the time. But to do so again after big investments in players would be a terrible setback. And for the first time, there would be serious questions asked of Xavi as manager.
It’s not just a matter of being knocked out early from Europe’s premier competition. It’s the fact that advancing rounds in the Champions League helps bring more money in, something the Catalans desperately need given the amount of money invested over the summer.
What’s frustrating is how close they have been to success. They were undone away to Bayern Munich despite dominating long stretches of the match. And while they were far from brilliant against Inter at San Siro, Barcelona were treated to some rather scandalous refereeing that denied them a goal and a penalty in the second half.
In addition, Barça will be without several players - Jules Koundé, Memphis Depay, Héctor Bellerín, Ronald Araújo, and Andreas Christensen are all injured. The backline will be without at least two nailed on starters, if not three that Xavi would’ve liked to play.
And after it’s all over, Barcelona have Real Madrid at the weekend. At the very least, some players may be recovered in time. But that is yet another pivotal clash as both teams are tied on points at the top of the league.