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Inter 1-1 Barcelona: Lessons learned at the San Siro

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Ernesto Valverde’s side sealed qualification

FC Internazionale v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Group B Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Despite heavy rainfall, Barca showed grit, determination and a dynamic attacking performance in what was a competitive 90 minutes. Whilst only able to come away with a point against a stalwart Inter defence, there were plenty of high points and takeaways from this highly competitive duel.

Defensively, the Blaugranes looked sturdy and comfortable at the back. Apart from a near Inter break involving Matteo Politano and Asamoah’s miss from close range, Barca gave nothing away to the Italian side in the first half. Pique and Lenglet showed good positioning, whilst both Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto managed to find a perfect balance between tracking back and providing thorough support on the attack. This defensive prowess continued into the second half, and was enabled by Barca’s dominance in possession and focus on scoring (69% of Barca’s time on the ball was spent on the attack). Inter were restricted to taking hurried opportunities, which resulted in only one shot on target the entire match.

The sole defensive flaw for Barca came in the form of Icardi’s late equaliser. In a rare moment of weakness for Barca, Martinez was able to dodge out of both Alba’s and Vidal’s paths and make the pass to Vecino, who provided Icardi with a close-range chance that Busquets unluckily failed to intercept. With Icardi seemingly losing his footing, Sergi Roberto was unable to make the tackle as Icardi pulled the ball away and slotted it home.

FC Internazionale v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Group B Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Whilst a well-engineered team effort by Inter, the goal was also partly enabled by a series of Barca errors. This goal was an unfortunate one to concede, as it undid all the respectable work that Barca’s backline had done for much of the game’sduration. Whilst Barca have done well to cancel out defensive errors with plenty of goals in recent games, goals are not always easy to come by, as this clash proved. Valverde should seek to prevent further defensive errors in an effort to keep more clean sheets in future.

On the offensive, there are little to no areas of Barca’s attack that warrant criticism. Barca showed ferocity in the way that they pressured Inter’s defence for the full 90 minutes.Barca summed up a total of 738 passes, and took a colossal 26 shots. Replacing Rafinha with Dembele proved to be the right tactical decision from Valverde, as the Frenchman took some dangerous shots throughout the match and made some decent runs. Whilst sometimes battling to cope with pressure from Inter’s defence, Dembele compensated for this by retaining the ball and passing it out to team-mates in more open positions. Coutinho and Rakitic came close to scoring, with last-gasp saves from Handanovic necessary for preventing the breakthrough. Whilst Suarez saw little of the ball, his most prominent involvement in the game was probably his second half goal that was disallowed due to the ball going out beforehand. Barca finally got the breakthrough they deserved from a well-orchestrated strike from Malcom, who came on only two minutes before. Surely, this will earn Malcom some more game time in future?

FC Internazionale v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Group B Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

The main reason for Barca not scoring earlier could possibly be attributed to a combination of intense weather conditions, Inter’s ever-resilient defence and some phenomenal saves by keeper Handanovic. Barca played dynamic and entertaining attacking football on the night, and have showed consistency in recent matches. So long as defensive errors are kept to a minimum, Barca should have no issue progressing into the late knockout stages of the Champions League and emerging as one of the favourites to lift the trophy in Madrid come the final next June.