Inter Milan have a chance to make a big statement Wednesday when they travel to Camp Nou to face Barcelona in the third Group B match of the Champions League.
Both teams have wins over PSV Eindhoven and Tottenham Hotspur and the winner of the match Wednesday has the potential to take control of the group and sit in the driver’s seat to win it. Either way, both teams are on six points each as PSV and Tottenham have yet to win a group match.
Inter is coming off a 1-0 win in the first installment of the Derby della Madonnina on Sunday while Barcelona scored a 4-2 win over Sevilla on Saturday. Inter has won seven straight matches while Barcelona have won just three of their last seven while drawing two and dropping a 2-1 decision at Leganes on Sept. 26.
Inter team news
While Inter got the necessary three points against AC Milan in the first Derby della Madonnina over the weekend, the cost was pretty high.
A late challenge by Lucas Biglia has ruled out midfielder Radja Nainggolan as he suffered an ankle injury. Nainggolan will likely sit out the next Serie A match at Lazio as well.
Additionally, winger Ivan Perisic and midfielder Marcelo Brozovic suffered injuries and the club said they will be evaluated on a day-to-day basis.
Inter is running in good form, winning seven straight in all competitions after Sunday’s 1-0 win at the San Siro. Mauro Icardi has started to hit a stride after scoring the game-winner against Milan. Icardi has six goals in nine matches — including a pair of Champions League goals — with four of his Serie A goals coming in the last four matches (he did not play in Inter’s 2-0 win over Cagliari).
Defensively, the Nerazzurri have pitched four shutouts in 11 matches and have given up just eight goals in those matches. That said, the defense wil be tested by the strong offensive presence of Barcelona who will likely have both Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho in the starting lineup.
With Nainggolan out, Lautaro Martinez could see his way to the starting XI — his first Champions League start — directly backing up Icardi. It is too soon to rule out Brozovic and Perisic, so it is conceivable they will start against Barcelona. If that is the case, expect Luciano Spalletti to continue with the 4-2-3-1 formation.
Projected lineup: Handanovic; Vrsaljko, De Vrij, Skriniar, Asamoah; Brozovic, Vecino; Perisic, Martinez, Politano, Icardi.
Barcelona team news
The biggest news out of Spain came out over the weekend when it was announced that Lionel Messi would miss this contest due to a broken arm.
It does present a challenge for Ernesto Valverde in deciding who will start in the 4-3-3 formation. Barcelona is also missing Samuel Umtiti and Thomas Vermaelen with injuries.
It is likely that Suarez will get the nod up top with Ousmane Dembele and Coutinho on the sides.
On defense, Clement Lenglet and Gerard Pique will be at the center for Barca. Nelson Semedo has played solidly over the last few weeks and will likely work on the right-wing of the defense, but Sergi Roberto could also get a call.
Even with Messi out of the match, Barcelona will still be a force to be reckoned with as Suarez has four goals and four assists in nine La Liga matches. However, he has yet to find the back of the net in the Champions League. But, Messi’s production (five goals — which leads the Champions League) will still be missed.
There is a bit of competition for a midfield slot as both Arturo Vidal and Arthur are battling for a spot alongside Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic. I see Arthur getting the nod Wednesday.
Projected starters: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Arthur; Dembele, Coutinho, Suarez.
This one is difficult. One might think that because Messi is out that would give Inter an edge, but not so fast. Barcelona still has plenty of offensive weapons at their disposal with Suarez and Coutinho up front. Barcelona’s defense is a bit of a question, giving up 14 goals since the start of the season, including two to Tottenham Hotspur, two to Sevilla, two to Girona and two to Leganes. I do think being at the Camp Nou coupled with the fact that Inter has been a team that has played better when coming from behind and one that starts late, gives Barcelona a slight edge. I will play it safe and call it a 1-1 draw.
How to watch
Date and time: 3 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018
Location: Camp Nou, Barcelona
TV/Streaming: In the United States, you can watch the match on Univision Deportes and Bleacher Report Live. In the United Kingdom, the match will be live on BT Sport ESPN and BT Sport Live. SKY Go Italia and RAI Uno will have the match in Italy.
Click here to check the viewing options in your area.
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