Barcelona must beat Inter to avoid another early exit – Winnipeg Free Press

MILAN (AP) — Barcelona could be on the verge of another humiliating exit from the Champions League group stage.

With Barcelona and Inter Milan seemingly in contention for second place in Group C, behind a perfect Bayern Munich, it’s an advantage for the Italian side after their controversial 1-0 win at the San Siro last week.

Another Inter win at Barcelona on Wednesday would mathematically qualify the Nerazzurri for the knockout stages and lead Barcelona to an early exit from the competition for the second consecutive year – unless Bayern lose to Viktoria Plzeň in what would be a major upheaval.

Barcelona’s Robert Lewandowski controls the ball during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Celta Vigo at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, ​​Spain, Sunday, October 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Joan Monfort)

Barcelona will look to Robert Lewandowski for inspiration. The former Bayern Munich striker scored a hat-trick against Pilsen but remained silent against his former side and remained largely anonymous in the opener against Inter.

“It’s an important game in which we’ll have everything at stake,” said Barcelona defender Marcos Alonso after the Catalan club beat Celta Vigo 1-0 at home on Sunday for their seventh successive Spanish league victory.

Inter will be hoping victory over Barcelona will mark a turning point in their season after a lackluster start to the domestic campaign that saw them lose four of their first eight Serie A games before that important Champions League win.

Simone Inzaghi’s side have secured back-to-back wins with a 2-1 victory at Sassuolo on Saturday.

“We showed in the last game against Barcelona that we had turned a page,” Inter midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan said after the Sassuolo victory. “We are Inter and we have shown that we never give up.”

Inter will still be without injured forwards Romelu Lukaku and Joaquín Correa.

Here’s what else to look for in the fourth round of games, which sees a reverse match since last time out:

WHO CAN QUALIFY?

Besides Bayern and Inter, a number of other teams can secure their place in the next round with two matches to play if they win this week. Napoli handed Ajax their worst Champions League defeat last week with a 6-1 rout to stay perfect and will be confident of progress when they host the Dutch club on Wednesday. Club Brugge, Real Madrid and Manchester City have also won all three matches and face Atlético Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk and Copenhagen respectively. Borussia Dortmund could also progress with a home win against Sevilla on Tuesday.

CHELSEA IMPROVING

Chelsea started group play with a shock loss quickly followed by the sacking of their manager. The London club seem to be back on track. A 3-0 win over AC Milan in Group E last week was a sign that Graham Potter – Thomas Tuchel’s replacement – was making his mark on Chelsea. Another win on the same scoreline, at home to Wolverhampton in the Premier League on Saturday, confirmed that. It was even achieved without strikers Raheem Sterling and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who were rested by Potter in the likelihood of returning to the San Siro on Tuesday. Among other English sides, Liverpool can strengthen their position in second place in Group A with a second straight win on Wednesday against Rangers, who have lost all three games so far. Group D, containing Tottenham, looks wide open with the four teams separated by three points. Tottenham and Eintracht Frankfurt are level on four points ahead of their match in London on Wednesday.

SEVILLE CHANGE

Sevilla have another manager in charge for their trip to Dortmund on Tuesday after Jorge Sampaoli replaced Julen Lopetegui following last week’s 4-1 home loss to the German club. Sevilla need to beat Dortmund to have a realistic chance of advancing to Group G, but have just one win in 11 appearances after drawing 1-1 with Athletic Bilbao on Saturday in Sampaoli’s opener in charge. Atlético are also looking for a win, against Group B leaders Brugge, to get back into position to advance after back-to-back defeats at the Belgian champions and Bayer Leverkusen. Atlético, Leverkusen and Porto are tied on three points, six behind Brugge.

THE LEVERKUSEN WOW EFFECT

Bayer Leverkusen’s loss to Porto last week turned out to be manager Gerardo Seoane’s last game. Xabi Alonso took over the following day for the former Liverpool and Real Madrid great’s first managerial job. “It was a little wow effect,” said Leverkusen midfielder Robert Andrich. Alonso celebrated his debut on Saturday by leading Leverkusen to their second league win of the season. The 4-0 win over Schalke was also the highest victory for a Leverkusen manager on his Bundesliga debut. “We were focused today, but we have to show it all the time, Wednesdays and Saturdays, always,” Alonso said. Now it’s all about doing better against Porto than their predecessor to get Leverkusen’s Champions League campaign back on track. Alonso won the competition as a player with Liverpool and Real Madrid.

FIGHT FOR THE TOP

Paris Saint-Germain and Benfica will fight for top spot in Group H again on Tuesday as they both have seven points while Juventus are in third place with three. Benfica will be feeling confident after their 1-1 draw with PSG as goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma had to make a number of crucial saves to prevent the Portuguese side from winning. PSG also performed poorly in a 0-0 draw with lowly Reims in the French league on Saturday but nonetheless remained unbeaten in all competitions this season. There is another clash between a Portuguese side and a French side as Sporting Lisbon host Marseille on Wednesday. Marseille are fourth but just three points behind Group D leaders Sporting.

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Christy J. Olson