FC Barcelona will look to clinch a berth in the Round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League when they visit Inter Milan at the San Siro on Tuesday night.
Ernesto Valverde’s men will be looking to continue their good form of late, having won their last five matches in all competitions and this with the likely addition of Lionel Messi. The Argentine has missed Barcelona’s last four matches, including the 2-0 win against Inter at the Camp Nou. However, he has been included in the squad list despite not receiving the green light as of yet.
Messi’s absence has coincided with the rebirth of Luis Suárez, as it’s the number 9 who’s been carrying the goal scoring load. The Uruguayan has netted six goals since Messi went down with his shoulder injury (three of which came in the clasico against Real Madrid) and is back to his best.
Yet despite regaining his form, Suárez finds himself not having scored a single goal in the Champions League this season. That is one thing which he, along with his team mates and fans, will hope he can tick off of his list for the campaign.
His form had dipped but he’s now looking as sharp as ever and if Barcelona want to come away with anything in Italy, Suárez will have to torment Spalletti’s back line just as he did (despite not scoring) the first time around in Barcelona.
However, the revelation of the season at the Camp Nou may not be Suarez but the Brazilian, Arthur. Along with Suarez, the former Gremio man has been grabbing all the headlines with his fantastic performances. With Messi, he stole the show against Tottenham in the Champions League and in the first match against Inter in Barcelona, he was arguably man of the match (even if Twelve did not think so).
Fans have been calling him the heir to Xavi, someone who can control and drive the midfield forward. He seems to have finally earned the trust of the coach after being benched for the start of the season and if he can continue with his wizardry, he will no doubt light up the San Siro the same way he illuminated Wembley against Tottenham.
It’s not just in midfield and attack where things have gotten better for Valverde’s team. Barcelona have shown their defensive frailties lately but Frenchman Clement Lenglet has stepped up when his team has needed him the most.
When Samuel Umtiti went out injured, the pressure was on Lenglet to partner Gerard Pique in the heart of the back line. But pressure makes diamonds and Lenglet has proven to be just that. Even managing to score the only goal in the team’s Copa del Rey win against Cultural Leonesa, Lenglet has proven that he is up to the task and more than capable of becoming a starter for his club.
Securing a spot in the next round with a win on Tuesday will no doubt help with the rotation of the squad. The remaining two matches against Tottenham and PSV Eindhoven would be used to rest players and give a chance for others to shine.
But before that, they would have to get all three points and it won’t be an easy task against an Inter side which just put up five goals against Genoa. The players to watch would have to be Luis Suarez, Arthur and Lenglet for Barcelona.