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Barcelona can ease Champions League pressure with a win against Inter

A pragmatic Xavi is counting on all his players with a hectic fixture of games incoming

RCD Mallorca v FC Barcelona - LaLiga Santander Photo by Cristian Trujillo/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Barcelona are entering stage two of the season, and this is where things get interesting.

In spite of two disappointing early results, Xavi’s squad has impressed so far, keeping pace with Real Madrid in La Liga, and showing they have the quality to go toe to toe with anyone in the Champions League.

The international break threw a wrench, however, in the manager’s plans, calling into question whether the team has the defensive depth to give the team the stability and consistency it will need to stay on the path forward.

Against Mallorca, Barcelona once again got the shutout, alleviating concerns that the team would regress to becoming defensively fragile as they were the year before. It wasn’t an exciting game, but we were able to see that Alejandro Balde can put in a shift at right-back, and Gerard Pique can still be called on to help when needed.

Real Mallorca v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Xavi took risks on Saturday, knowing that what matters now is getting results in every game, even if there’s less to write home about in terms of the performance on the pitch.

He understands that everyone will be needed this month, and the time is now to give players the playing time they need to find their form.

For that reason, it was great to see Franck Kessie and Ansu Fati get the starting nod. They didn’t look amazing, but they both will be crucial to the success going forward, and need to find a way to participate and contribute on a consistent basis.

Xavi has a clearly defined system, and an array of players who can fill in, and do enough to help the team get the win on any given day. With Robert Lewandowski, there is a difference maker who has what it takes to create the big moment, even when the team isn’t at its tactical best.

RCD Mallorca v FC Barcelona - LaLiga Santander Photo by Rafa Babot/Getty Images

For many of these players, October will be a tryout, and whoever rises to the occasion the most will be the ones playing the biggest role when things get back to normal after the World Cup.

On Tuesday, they travel to Italy for their first big test of the month against Inter Milan.

You can already predict where Xavi’s mind is at in preparation for it based on the decisions made against Mallorca.

First and foremost, give rest to Pedri, who played many minutes for Spain the week before.

Hence, Franck Kessie, you were needed in his stead, and put in a solid professional performance that served an important purpose.

RCD Mallorca v FC Barcelona - LaLiga Santander Photo by Cristian Trujillo/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Next, you can see he wanted to rest Sergi Roberto, who is the best right-back currently on the roster, and still recovering from an injury, and perhaps also Eric Garcia, who also played a lot for Spain. You can’t have another center-back going because they’re being overused. Gerard Pique and Alejandro Balde did a fine job filling in.

Finally, Raphinha will have a big part to play, especially after his headline catching displays for Brazil. Up front, you can expect for him to join Ousmane Dembele and Robert Lewandowski, completing Xavi’s preferred attacking trident. This was made possible because he knows he can count on Ansu Fati, who recorded an assist, and Ferran Torres to be competent backups at this point in the season.

I don’t think Xavi is too worried about Inter Milan. He will believe that his side is better, and has all the talent, and tactical advantages it needs, to get the win, even in such a historic and hostile stadium.

Real Mallorca v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

It’s true that Barcelona’s defense and Marc-Andre ter Stegen will have one of its biggest tests yet.

But keep in mind that Romelu Lukaku has been dealing with injuries and has been out of form. Lautaro Martinez is still a threat, but hasn’t been setting the world ablaze.

In general, Inter Milan has had a very disappointing start to the season, coming off a demoralizing 2-1 defeat to Roma on the weekend, and finding themselves in eighth place in the Serie A table.

Barca are the favorites to come out of this group, and no doubt Xavi has the two Inter games circled on his calendar, along with El Clasico, as the most important fixtures of the month, and he will prioritize his squad rotations accordingly.

With so much pressure growing, getting the win in the San Siro would go a long way to building the momentum this team needs to have a successful October, while heading into the World Cup feeling in control of their destiny.

So whichever team Xavi puts out is the one he will likely be calling on in the biggest moments to come.

If they seize the opportunity, there will be more to come, and it will create chances for other players to play a role in less challenging games.

That’s the game plan as it stands.

Every game may not be the most exciting, but it’s part of a bigger roadmap to keep the team on pace to win trophies in all competitions.

Time to see what this team is made of from the top to bottom.

Every game counts, and everyone is needed.

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