A potential thriller awaits at Camp Nou on Wednesday, not just because it pits La Liga’s champions against one of Serie A’s heavyweights, but also as it could go a long way in deciding who wins Group B. Both teams have a full haul of six points and will be keen to open-up some daylight at the top of the table.
Let’s go right away to Twelve’s Leader Board comparing players of both teams during this Champions League season. It’s no surprise to see Lionel Messi as the best performer. From the Neroazzuri side, Mauro Icardi stands out as the best performer.
Without Messi, who’s going to save Valverde?
Messi suffered a fractured arm after an awkward fall in Barcelona’s 4-2 win over Sevilla on Saturday and he stands to miss some crucial matches as a result. If we only take a look at Messi’s Champions League shots on Twelve’s Leader Board, we can understand the size of the loss to Ernesto Valverde.
He shot 12 times, with 10 on target (83% accuracy) and five goals scored. Messi scored one goal for each two shots on target. A superb performance, and even more so if we realize he shot five times on target per match on average. The Argentinean will score at least two goals per match if this continues.
Phillipe Coutinho is the nearest player on shot performance at Barcelona to substitute in for Messi’s hunger of scoring. The Brazilian midfielder shot five times, with three on target (60% accuracy) and one goal scored. Half of Messi’s production, that’s the gap.
Asymmetric Barca vs Aggressive Inter
Andres Iniesta was the main element of Barcelona’s attacking midfield. His play-making ability and dribble-cuts in the defence created many chances for his team. His possible replacement, Arthur, is no less well equipped. But the difference is that the Brazilian is more of a central defensive midfielder. Secondly, he has operated from the centre of midfield mostly in his own half.
The defensive nature of Arthur in the centre along with the two other defensive midfielders – Busquets and Rakitic – will strengthen Barcelona’s midfield defensively, thus freeing up the front line to execute attacks. That’s how Barcelona can evolve it’s 4-3-3 shape with the addition of depth and defensive elements in the midfield.
On Twelve’s data, Arthur has scored 672 points on attack actions in only 99 minutes played. That’s a decent average of 6.78 points per minute, but the former Grêmio man has potential to be more aggressive with the ball.
Barça’s assumed 4-3-3 shape this season was less evident than expected and instead a more asymmetric setup arose consistently throughout the game. While Coutinho held his left-wing position or pushed up in support of Suárez, Messi, in contrast, drifted into the middle of the pitch, looking for space.
Both full-backs, Alba and Semedo, pushed forward typically to provide their team width in attack. This system sometimes resembled a diamond-shaped midfield with Messi at its peak.
It’s expected that Ousmane Dembelé will play the roll of Messi in this assymetric 4-3-3, with more intensity and speed than Lionel. But, of course, with less technical accuracy. The French international has scored 1,370 points on Twelve’s leader board, with an average of 16.5 points per minute.
Winning the “Derby della Madonina” against AC Milan makes Internazionale mentally stronger to visit Barcelona. In his time at Inter so far, Luciano Spalletti has alternated a 4-2-3-1 with a 4-3-3 structure, with the prolific forward Mauro Icardi as the focal point of the team’s attacking play within the final third.
Similar to his time at Zenit, Inter have used two defensive midfielders and a number 10 within the central lane. Two from Marcelo Brozovic, Matias Vecino and Roberto Gagliardini provide solid central protection in the defensive midfield roles, while summer signing Radja Nainggolan – he will miss the match after suffering a sprained ankle in the derby – provides ideal central support to the lone striker, Icardi.
Croatian play-maker Brozovic scored 3,779 points on Inter’s leader board, thanks to good work with the ball on the offensive side, and important defensive work near his box.
Inter’s full-backs often fly forward in attack, particularly as they set up with two defensive midfielders who rarely venture ahead of the ball. Sime Vrsaljko and Kwadwo Asamoah are two very offensively minded full-backs who can provide effective attacking crosses into any opponent’s penalty area.
A clash without favourites
If Busquets is a master on defensive organization, Politano has already created seven chances in the competition. If the Pistolero Suárez is always ready to shoot, Icardi is a dangerous machine with two goals scored. Ter Stegen and Handanovic are both great goalkeepers.
The conservatism of Valverde against the strategic mind of Spaletti. Two of the greatest football schools of Europe clashing as they have done so many times before, always without favorite. A great match to decide the leadership of Champions League Group B. Unmissable!