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Following the emphatic 5-1 opening day win against Viktoria Plzen, but then the disappointment of 2-0 defeat at Bayern Munich, the Tuesday 9pm CEST kick-off at the Giuseppe Meazza/San Siro, Milan, has become a red-letter day for FC Barcelona's Champions League prospects.
Inter also lost to Bayern, in their case at home, and also defeated the Czechs at the Doosan Arena. With the Germans looking very well poised to take one of the two places in the second round, the clashes between the Italians and the Catalans, first today and then at the Spotify Camp Nou in eight days' time, are likely to be decisive for deciding which of the two teams advances to the last sixteen.
Barça have been in rampant form in the domestic championship, but a series of injuries sustained in the international break have done nothing to help their cause. But the 2021 Serie A champions have worries of their own. Simone Inzaghi's side have not started 2022/23 the way they would have liked.
Inter's last 6 Serie A games
Lazio 3-1 Inter
Inter 3-1 Cremonese
AC Milan 3-2 Inter
Inter 1-0 Torino
Udinese 3-1 Inter
Inter 1-2 Roma
Inter have won four and lost four in the Italian league so far season, and have just suffered back-to-back defeats away to Udinese and at home to Roma. It means they are currently down in ninth place, eight points adrift of joint leaders Napoli and Atalanta. It's the blue-and-black's worst ever start to a top flight campaign.
Contrast that with Barça's rampant form. After a run of six straight wins, they go into this game as LaLiga leaders for the first time in over two years after rivals Real Madrid slipped up at home to Osasuna on Sunday. With 19 goals scored and just one conceded in seven fixtures, the unbeaten blaugrana will be eyeing the chance to grab all three points in Lombardy to give them some breathing room in a tight Group C.
International week brought one piece of bad news after another. The Dutch duo of Frenkie de Jong and Memphis both picked up hamstring problems in the game with Denmark. But it’s in defence where things are looking particularly messy. Ronald Araujo noted pain in an adductor in the first minute of Uruguay’s friendly with Iran and has required surgery, while Jules Kounde returned from the French camp with an Achilles tendon issue. And to make matters worse, right-back Héctor Bellerín hurt his calf during training back in Barcelona.
Inter Milan have concerns of their own. The absence of creative Croatian Marcelo Brozovic in midfield has been sorely noted, and they are also without the world-class striker from Belgium Romelu Lukaku. Left-back Dalbert is also out with a cruciate injury.
Did you know?
This is the fifteenth competitive meeting between the sides, and history is very much on Barça's side. The Italians have only won two previous games with the Catalans, most recently in the 2010 Champions League semi-final, when Jose Mourinho's side went on to win a famous treble.
Having recently met in the 2018 and 2019 group stages, these sides are no strangers. Barça won three of the four games, including the first victory away to Inter since 1959, while the other game at the Giuseppe Meazza ended in a 1-1 draw.
No fewer than 19 different players have represented both Barça and Inter in their careers, including such legends as Luis Suárez (the Spaniard), Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Xavi will be looking to finally win away to Inter after failing to do so three times as a player. The only ground where he fared worse was Stamford Bridge, where he was winless in five games.
Nobody needs to be warned about Inter striker Edin Dzeko. He scored in his last three games against Barça (all while at AS Roma).
Xavi's thoughts ahead of the game
Xavi faced the press along with Marcos Alonso prior to the squad's training session. Here are some of his thoughts:
“The game against Inter is very significant for us. It will be very important, although not definitive. Both sides need the three points after losing against Bayern.”
“We showed we could compete again in the game in Munich. We just weren't effective. We are doing things right, we are LaLiga leaders, but tomorrow's game is another story. So, we want to prove to ourselves that this is the time to perform in this competition"
Marcos Alonso echoed the boss' thoughts by stating, "We are on a good run and we have to take advantage".
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