FC Barcelona vs Internazionale: UEFA Champions League - Preview and Prediction
FC Barcelona will host Italian outfit Internazionale at the Camp Nou as both clubs are looking for their first UEFA Champions League win of the season.
Barca have had a difficult start to the season, losing two of their opening seven La Liga games and holding on for a goalless draw at Borussia Dortmund in their opening Group F game.
Inter also drew their opening game at home to Slavia Prague, but Antonio Conte's side sit top of Serie A with six wins from six - and the Nerazzurri should offer the Blaugrana a real contest in Catalunya.
Considering that Group F is unanimously tipped to be the toughest, each and every point matters enormously.
Ernesto Valverde’s men will have to make the most of this fixture, considering that the venue is Camp Nou.
But the job would not be easy for sure. Antonio Conte’s men have been the best in Italy so far this season. They have even overtaken the mighty Juventus in the race to the Scudetto.
The two sides have met eight times in Uefa competitions. Barca dominate with four wins to Inter's one, and three draws.
The two sides met in last season's group stages - Barca won 2-0 at Camp Nou, and drew 1-1 in Milan.
Barca's slow start to the La Liga season has already seen them slip behind rivals Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, while a poor performance in this game and a good result for Dortmund could put them on the back foot in their bid to recapture the Champions League.
Although he is in training for this game, Lionel Messi is set to join Ousmane Dembele, Ansu Fati, Samuel Umtiti and Jordi Alba in missing this crunch match at the Camp Nou.
Another player needing a big performance is Antoine Griezmann, with the Frenchman yet to really make his mark for Valverde's side following his big summer move from Atletico.
Barca will need to maximise the creativity of Frenkie de Jong and Arthur and the pace of Griezmann, Carles Perez and their full-backs if they are to force openings and secure a win.
Despite that draw with Slavia Prague, Inter have been faultless under Conte's management thus far this season and look to be heading in a positive, upward trajectory once again.
The Nerazzurri have conceded just twice in Serie A, with Stefan de Vrij and Milan Skriniar at the heart of a very strong 3-5-2, with Marcelo Brozovic and Stefano Sensi pulling the strings in midfield.
To try to secure a win at the Camp Nou, Conte's side will have to stick to that 3-5-2 and hold their shape, crowding Barcelona in the midfield and keeping the pitch narrow.
Also integral will be the wing play of veterans Antonio Candreva and Kwadwo Asamoah, who will be essential alongside Sensi in switching defence to attack and providing opportunities for Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku up front.
A big boost for Inter will be the fact that Conte has a fully-fit squad, which allowed him to rest players at the weekend and have a variety of tactical and structural options at his disposal for this key game.
Messi's adductor problem will be a big blow for Barcelona as he is so important to the way they play and because it further limits Valverde's options.
The Argentinian may be fit enough for a spot on the bench but he is unlikely to be fit enough to start and the same goes for French winger Dembele.
Lenglet is likely to retain his place alongside Pique in defence, despite his red card at the weekend, while Nelson Semedo could come into the team to replace Sergi Roberto.
As aforementioned, Inter have the entire squad available for this game, which means Conte could make a couple of changes.
Summer signing Diego Godin could slot into defence alongside De Vrij and Skriniar, with Matias Vecino available should Conte want to go for a more defensive formation.
Valentino Lazaro could also come into the side for his pace, although Alexis Sanchez may be confined to the bench after his dismissal against Sampdoria.
Potential starting lineup:
FC Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Firpo; Busquets, De Jong, Arthur; Griezmann, Suarez, Perez
Internazionale: Handanovic; De Vrij, Godin, Skriniar; Candreva, Gagliardini, Brozovic, Sensi, Asamoah; Martinez, Lukaku
Antoine Griezmann vs Diego Godin
Sparks are bound to fly at the Camp Nou when former Atletico Madrid teammates Antoine Griezmann and Diego Godin lock horns with each other.
The French striker is looking to make a terrific first impression on the Catalan side, and will look to make light work of an Inter defence which has the Uruguayan Godin, right at the heart of it.
Griezmann has three goals and two assists from seven La Liga encounters, and in the absence of Lionel Messi, Valverde will banking on him to turn up with good returns.
Godin, on the other hand, has played only three Serie A games, and already has 2.5 clearances and 1.8 tackles per game.
It will indeed be a full-fledged tactical battle when the duo faces off tomorrow night in Barcelona.
Gerard Pique vs Romelu Lukaku
Another interesting mini-encounter will witness former Manchester United players Gerard Pique and Romelu Lukaku clashing against each other.
Pique joined the Blaugrana a long way back, and the Belgian striker was only very recently recruited by the Nerazzurri.
The Spanish defender enjoys dominating strikers left, right and centre, and is excellent in the air. Lukaku has a good aerial prowess also, and hence it will be exciting to see the duo fighting it out for winning each and every header that comes their way.
Pique has had 0.9 tackles and 3.3 clearances per game out of the 7 games so far. Lukaku has had a fruitful start to his life in Milan, having scored 3 goals in 5 games so far. He boasts of 2 shots per game also.
This match will by no means be a breeze for Barca given their current injuries, and if Inter put in a real performance, they could leave Camp Nou with their heads held high.
However, Barca are usually in pristine form at home, and this might be enough for the Blaugrana to end up with a useful win.
Predicted Score: Barcelona 2-0 Internazionale