After surviving a major scare against Celta Vigo to stay top of the La Liga table last Sunday, Barcelona welcome Inter Milan to Camp Nou for a gigantic UEFA Champions League group stage match at the Spotify Camp Nou.
Following last week’s loss in Italy the Blaugrana are facing early elimination from the European Cup with two games to spare if they lose to Inter again and Bayern Munich win or draw against Viktoria Plzen in the other game in the group. Even a draw is pretty much a death sentence so all that matters to Xavi Hernández and his troops is to win, preferably by two or more goals to give themselves a real chance to reach the Round of 16.
Inter picked up a vital win at San Siro last week with a very defensive gameplan that they will no doubt try to replicate at Camp Nou, and it’s up to the Catalans to improve their attacking output to find a way to win in front of the home fans. Here’s how we think Barça will line up on Wednesday.
Xavi Hernández started three left-backs against Celta to try and preserve two key pieces of the defense for the Inter clash: with Jules Kounde and Ronald Araujo still injured and missing this one, Sergi Roberto is the only option at right-back and Eric García was carefully managed to be as fresh as possible for Wednesday’s battle.
Roberto and Eric will start alongside Gerard Piqué, leaving left-back as the only position of doubt. Alejandro Balde has done more than enough to earn his spot by now, but Xavi is yet to start the youngster in the Champions League and could once again opt for the experience of either Marcos Alonso or Jordi Alba. All three seem to have equal chances to start, so we will have to wait for the official teamsheet to find out Xavi’s choice.
Frenkie de Jong returned to the team against Celta and seems to be in line to start this one, and his presence in midfield was missed last week as Barça struggled to create meaningful offense against Inter. Frenkie’s passing, vision and intelligent runs could prove crucial to break down the Italians’ defense, and De Jong seems to be a lock for one of the three central spots.
Pedri is always going to play the big games, and he was substituted early against Celta exactly for that reason. If Frenkie does indeed start alongside Pedri, the other spot will go to either Sergio Busquets or Gavi. The logic seems to dictate Xavi will go with a more traditional midfield look and start his captain as the anchor, but Gavi’s running and intensity are also hugely appreciated by the boss and we could just as easily see a more attacking trio of De Jong, Gavi and Pedri.
Barça only showed signs of attacking life in Milan in the final 20 minutes when Ansu Fati came off the bench and was heavily involved in the action, and given he didn’t start against Celta it’s safe to assume Xavi has been saving the Prince to start on the left in this one.
Robert Lewandowski will lead the line as always, and it will be between Raphinha and Ousmane Dembélé for the right wing spot. Neither is playing particularly well since the international break, but Xavi’s trust in Dembélé for big games makes it easy to guess what his choice will be.
Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Roberto, Piqué, Eric, Balde; De Jong, Busquets, Pedri; Dembélé, Lewandowski, Ansu Fati (4-3-3)
How do you think Barcelona should line up against Inter Milan? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!