After a hard-fought win away to Mallorca to extend their winning streak in La Liga, Barcelona travel to Italy for a massive Champions League group stage match against Inter Milan at San Siro on Tuesday night.
This crazy month of October will go a long way in deciding Barça’s European fate, and their chances of qualifying for the Round of 16 will be largely dictated by the two straight meetings with Inter in the next 9 days. Four or six points will pretty much guarantee a spot in the knockouts, but even one loss could prove to be really costly for Xavi Hernández and his troops.
Inter are going through a serious crisis and manager Simone Inzaghi is under immense pressure, but he could save his job if he pulls off the upset against the Blaugrana in this one. Here’s how we think Barça could line up on Tuesday evening.
Barça’s defense kept a clean sheet for the sixth time in seven La Liga games and Marc-André ter Stegen is enjoying his best run of form between the sticks, but the Barça backline will be severly tested by Inter’s attack, especially through the air where the Nerazzurri thrive and get many of their goals in big games.
Ronald Araujo and Jules Kounde are still missing for this one, and there’s no clear answer at right-back if Sergi Roberto isn’t able to start. The Catalan should be able to go from the beginning in this one, however, and it seems as though he only played 10 minutes against Mallorca to be saved for Tuesday. As good as Alejandro Balde was as a makeshift right-back, he’s still left-footed and compromised playing out of position so starting Roberto is the correct choice if possible.
Balde should keep his place on the left, though, as he continues to separate himself as the best left-back in the squad right now. Marcos Alonso was OK against Bayern Munich and might once again be picked by Xavi for his experience, but Balde is playing really well and deserves to start a big game at this point.
As for the middle of the defense Gerard Piqué and Andreas Christensen might be chosen once again due to their height against a very good Inter set piece attack, but Eric García is also an option and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him start this one either.
There is optimism Frenkie De Jong could make his return from injury for this one, but it’s hard to expect the Dutchman to have any chance of starting as he recovers from a hamstring injury. Franck Kessie seems to be the pick for games against weaker sides as was the case against Mallorca, but the Ivorian hasn’t done a lot to earn a spot in the really big matches yet.
Against Inter it will be Sergio Busquets as the captain alongside Gavi and Pedri, who was rested against Mallorca and should be fresh to face a very tough battle against the Inter midfield and especially the ultra-talented Nicolò Barella. Their duel will be fun, and could prove crucial to the outcome of this one.
The Barça attack was surprisingly poor against Mallorca, though it isn’t a shock to see the Blaugrana struggle in the first game after the international break again. But they also missed a little extra brilliance from the two wingers, with Ousmane Dembélé quieter than usual and Ansu Fati still working towards his usual level of sharpness.
Robert Lewandowski once again provided the magic touch with a wonderful winning goal, and he’ll lead the line looking to bounce back from the poor showing against Bayern Munich and get Barça back on track in Europe. Dembélé will partner him once again, and Raphinha should get the nod ahead of Fati and Ferran Torres for the other spot in the front three.
Possible XI (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Roberto, Christensen, Eric, Balde; Gavi, Busquets, Pedri; Dembélé, Lewandowski, Raphinha
How do you think Barcelona will line up against Inter Milan? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!