Xavi knew that his Barcelona side had a mountain to climb if they were to progress to the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League. Oddschecker, which compares odds and provides free offers on football, had expected the Blaugrana to do well in Europe this season. Those expectations were elevated over the summer when the club spent over £100m in transfer fees – despite being a reported €1bn in debt – to bring in the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, and Jules Kounde.
But a riveting 3-3 draw with Inter Milan in Camp Nou on 12th October meant that the Catalonians had it all to do in order to secure progression. They had to beat both Bayern Munich and Inter Milan and hope that Czech champions Viktoria Plzen did them a favour in the San Siro. Those hopes were extinguished before their game against the German champions had even got underway, however, as goals from Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Romelu Lukaku and an Edin Dzeko brace secured a comfortable 4-0 victory for the Nerazzurri.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar gets underway on 20th November, meaning that Europe’s top leagues will have to endure a midseason break for the biggest sporting party of the year. When the campaigns return shortly after Christmas, Inter Milan will be gearing up for the knockout stages of the Champions League for just the second time in ten years, while the six-time champions from north-eastern Spain will be preparing for a second consecutive trip to the UEFA Europa League.
Results home and away against Barça crucial to progression
The aforementioned 3-3 draw in Spain was an incredible result and, arguably, should have been three points rather than just one. The visitors twice led in Camp Nou thanks to goals from Nicola Barrella, Lautaro Martinez, and an 89th-minute strike from Robin Gosens. If Simone Inzaghi’s side held on, they would have secured their spot in the last 16 there and then, but Robert Lewandowski’s 92nd-minute equaliser was enough to earn his new side a share of the spoils.
But the real performance which all but sealed their spot in the knockout rounds came a week prior in the San Siro. It was a game that Barcelona dominated, but – just as they did in 2010 under Jose Mourinho – the hosts held firm. They were rewarded for their defensive resilience on the stroke of halftime when Hakan Çalhano?lu’s thunderbolt gave them the lead. And it was a lead they would hang onto, securing a massive three points in terms of the group.
On Wednesday, their tussle with Plzen was one of this week’s early kick-offs, meaning that Barcelona could be sent packing without so much as kicking a ball. And that’s exactly what happened.
Inter will now look ahead to further ties with Europe’s elite, while Barça will be worriedly reviewing their financial structure. It is thought that progression to the latter stages of the Champions League was essential to their plans and further financial difficulties could be on the horizon.
What’s next for Inter?
The 2021 Italian champions have a tough period ahead of them domestically. They travel to an out-of-form Juventus on 6th November. The Bianconeri – just like Barcelona – will also be heading to the Europa League next season after a 4-3 defeat to Benfica in Lisbon. That’s providing Maccabi Haifa doesn’t throw a spanner in the works.
A week after their trip to Turin, another difficult test awaits away at Atalanta. The Bergamo club have been one of the best teams in Italy for a number of years now and currently lie in fourth place, five points behind early pacesetters Napoli.
Inter meanwhile, are currently languishing down in seventh place in Serie A, and a second Scudetto in three seasons looks a million miles away.
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