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Barcelona have been solid defensively at the Camp Nou this term, and we fancy them to keep another clean sheet.
Back Inter to score under 0.5 goals in this Champions League match on Wednesday.
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For the first time in 21 years, Barcelona were eliminated in the group phase of the Champions League last season. Under the stewardship of Ronald Koeman for the majority of their continental campaign, the Blaugrana finished below both Bayern Munich and Benfica to drop into the Europa League, which they exited after a surprise aggregate defeat by eventual winners Eintracht Frankfurt. In short, Barcelona did not fare well in Europe last term.
They have had a tricky start this time around too. A 1-0 defeat by Inter last week means Barcelona have lost two of their first three games in Group C. That leaves them with work to do at the midway point of the first round.
It has not all been bad news for Xavi Hernandez’s side in this competition. Barcelona thrashed Viktoria Plzen 5-1 on matchday one, with Robert Lewandowski notching a hat-trick at the Camp Nou. They then turned in a good performance against Bayern Munich a month ago, yet suffered a 2-0 defeat anyway.
There were fewer positives to take from the loss to Inter last week, one which puts Barcelona under a degree of pressure ahead of the reverse fixture. It is true that the visitors to Milan were unfortunate to have a goal disallowed in the second half, a decision which Xavi branded as a “real injustice”.
At the same time, Barcelona were below their best at the San Siro. They did not get going until the hour mark, by which time they had already fallen behind to a Hakan Calhanoglu goal. They did improve in the closing stages, but it was ultimately a case of too little, too late. Barcelona are now in the position where another defeat on Wednesday would leave them on the brink of elimination.
Simone Inzaghi’s game plan worked a treat last week. He knew his team would struggle to dominate possession, even on home turf, so the focus was instead on keeping things tight at the back and launching quick, sharp counter-attacks when control of the ball changed hands. Inter did get fortunate with that decision to rule out Pedri’s ‘equalizer’, but perhaps they earned that slice of luck through their all-round display.
Inter were outclassed by Bayern Munich in a 2-0 defeat on matchday one, but they have recovered well from that early setback. Before beating Barcelona they ran out 2-0 winners against Viktoria Plzen, and they now know that a draw here would leave them in a strong position in the group.
However, the Nerazzurri have a poor recent record at the Camp Nou, having lost five away games in a row to Barcelona. And given that they must also go to the Allianz Arena before the group phase ends, Inter are far from home and dry.
The Serie A side will have to get the balance right on Wednesday. Just as they did in the first meeting between the teams, Inter will cede possession and set up in a deep, compact defensive shape. But they must ensure they commit sufficient bodies to attack when the opportunity presents itself. If not, they will struggle to leave Catalonia with a positive result.
This is not quite a must-win game for Barcelona, but anything other than a victory would leave them in a precarious position in the Champions League. The fact that only one result will do might not be a bad thing, though: the task could hardly be clearer for Xavi and his players, who will be fully focused on picking up all three points when Inter come to town.
In La Liga at least, Barcelona have been hugely impressive defensively so far this season. They have kept a clean sheet in each of their four matches at the Camp Nou, showing the sort of solidity that few expected from a defense that is much changed from last term.
Inter’s problems this season have largely been in the defensive side of the game rather than the attacking one, but the worry is that they will adopt an overly cautious approach on Wednesday. That, combined with Barcelona’s much-improved defensive resolve, is why we recommend backing the away team to draw a blank.
That is our favored bet for this match in part because there is little value in tipping a straightforward Barcelona win. To learn more about how to bet the moneyline, including how it works and recommended strategies, check out our guide.
|Teams||Barcelona vs Inter|
|Location||Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain|
|Time||Wednesday, 12 October 2022, 15.00 PM EST|
|How to watch||Paramount+|
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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