Champions League 2018/19: Inter v Barcelona, Preview and Prediction
Barcelona will be looking to win Group B of this year’s UEFA Champions League and qualify for the knockout stages with a win over Inter Milan at the San Siro. The Spanish champions would qualify regardless of the score here if Tottenham Hotspur and PSV Eindhoven draw once more at Wembley.
Inter Milan, meanwhile, must be victorious in this match to have a realistic chance of finishing on top, but it could still largely depend on Matchday 5, when the Italian side travel to England to face Spurs. With both sides in fine form, and a close reverse fixture a fortnight ago, this should prove to be another fascinating contest.
Inter 5-0 Genoa (Serie A)
Inter Milan kept their impressive start to the Serie A campaign going by thumping Genoa at the San Siro. Lautaro Martinez had the first opportunity for the home side, but his close-range volley blazed over the bar. The Argentine needn’t have worried about his team’s chances, though, as Roberto Gagliardini swept the ball into the net after a series of blocked shots.
Matteo Politano made it 2-0 with barely a quarter of an hour played, bamboozling the Il Grifone back-line before finishing emphatically. Gagliardini got his brace in the second half, again making the most of mistakes from the visitors, volleying in Inter’s third from a tight angle.
Genoa couldn’t get out of their own half in the closing stages, and Joao Mario punished them with a powerful long-range effort. It was high-fives all around, Radja Nainggolan adding the icing on top of the cake with a last-minute header.
Rayo 2-3 Barcelona (LaLiga)
Also on Saturday, Barcelona left it late against struggling Rayo Vallecano but extended their lead in LaLiga to 4 points thanks to goals from Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele. It didn’t take long for the visitors to open the scoring, though, Jordi Alba racing down the left wing and laying the ball on a plate for Suarez to devour after just 11 minutes played.
The home side responded well, though, and would’ve levelled if Jose Angel Pozo got his angles correct. However, the Spaniard soon made amends, a fine shot from outside the box beating Marc-Andre ter Stegen all ends up.
A perfect cross was almost turned in for Rayo, but Alvaro Garcia profited on the defensive confusion to put the rebound in. Barca looked to be heading for their second defeat of the season, but Dembele had other ideas, putting the Catalans level on 87 minutes before Suarez’s effort completed the comeback and saved the Blaugrana’s blushes.
After resting Kwadwo Asamoah and Mauro Icardi against Genoa, both should return to the starting line-up in place of Martinez and Dalbert respectively. Elsewhere, both Joao Mario and Gagliardini should keep their starting places thanks to their impressive performances at the weekend. Overall, just 2 changes to the XI which beat Genoa, thanks in part to a clean bill of health for the Inter squad.
Barcelona will be desperate to get Lionel Messi back into the starting XI, but I think that they will opt to start the Argentinian on the bench, for reasons that I’ll get into later in the article. Dembele and Arturo Vidal were both rested at the weekend, so the pair should return to the starting XI, in place of Rafinha and Arthur. Elsewhere, it’s the same eleven that beat Rayo on Saturday.
Key Player: Gerard Pique
Even without Messi, Barcelona's front free is a force to be reckoned with but how their defence performs will be key to how the scoreline looks by the end of the game. Gerard Pique will more than likely be the one who's assigned to man-mark Mauro Icardi - Inter's main attacking threat - and attempt to keep him out of the game.
The Argentine forward is unstoppable on his day, but the physical presence of the Spaniard might be enough to protect ter Stegen in goal.
Will Messi feature?
Barcelona have stated on Twitter that Messi has been given the “medical all-clear” but whether that means the Argentine forward will start is another matter. The club’s all-time top goalscorer has missed Barca’s previous four games after being injured against Sevilla, but if he’s going to be brought back, this is the game to do it.
However, I think that Valverde will err on the side of caution, it’s a long season, and, if truth be told, a draw in this game would be a solid result, provided the Catalans triumph against PSV and Tottenham in their remaining group games.
Prediction: Inter 1-1 Barcelona
With a draw suiting Barcelona more than Inter, I'm going for that being the outcome of this contest. Barca won't risk losing this one, as that would allow Inter Milan to have a shot at winning the group and getting a more favourable draw for the knockout stages. That being said, I do think that the Nerrazurri will score, but I can't see the Italian side keeping a clean sheet either. If Tottenham beat PSV, Inter will still have work to do with this result.