Catenaccio is alive and kicking
Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve just witnessed a calamity. In the year of our Lord, 2022, Catenaccio is still going strong. FC Barcelona got done in by the oldest trick in the book, and they didn’t even look threatening while doing it.
When Bayern Munich faced Barca at the Allianz Arena, the Catalans could go away knowing that they missed clear-cut chances. The same cannot be said about this game. Maybe Dumfries had a handball that could’ve been given by VAR, but Xavi and his men can’t complain about VAR all the time. Inter Milan put on a defensive masterclass, and it left the lesser FCB gasping for room to breathe.
Stefan de Vrij stuck to Robert Lewandowski like he owed him money. Ousmane Dembele constantly dribbled into a waiting defender. Pedri couldn’t find a hint of space to pass into. Honestly, as a Bayern fan watching this game, I had to wonder how our team got past this juggernaut of an Inter defense. And we did it TWICE, in a game most fans thought was mediocre.
Maybe Lewandowski is regretting his choice of destination?
Xavi has no plan B
When things aren’t going their way, Barcelona don’t seem to have a way to respond. It happened against Bayern and it’s happened against Inter. Both teams scored first and stood resolute in defense, and Xavi’s side were unable to find any answers to some tough questions.
What exactly is the plan when Ousmane Dembele can’t find Robert Lewandowski with a cross? What happens if Pedri cannot roam into the box to provide support to the offense? What do you do when Lewy is marked so tightly that he’d find more space inside a black hole? Apparently, Xavi’s Barca has no idea.
They lack the brilliance of a player like Leo Messi, who could unlock defenses with a kind of magic no one else can muster. In more mortal terms, they lack the creative brilliance of a player like Thomas Muller or Kevin de Bruyne, who can find their way through thickets of defenders with some unorthodox plays.
When faced with Inter’s stout defending, Xavi’s Barcelona resorted to crossing inside the box, hoping Lewandowski gets to it. Effective in most situations, but hardly the most creative solution. He will want a proper answer before next week’s game at the Camp Nou.
League form =/= Champions League form
Group C’s teams are defying expectations in their CL campaign so far. Barcelona are flying in La Liga, but they’ve lost twice to both of the heavyweights in Group C and stand a decent chance of being knocked out. Inter are struggling in Serie A, but they played a decent game against Bayern and just pulled off a heroic win vs Barca at the San Siro. And of course, poor Viktoria Plzen — they haven’t even lost a game in the Czech league, but they’re looking outclassed in this group stage.
It just goes to show, football can be a really complicated sport.
Group C is looking a lot more interesting
Honestly, as a Bayern fan, it feels nice to be sitting high and dry at the top of the group with nine points, because we can look down and laugh at the dirty peasants beneath us. Of course, Inter just made things very spicy in the group. After MD2 of the Champions League, it looked like the Nerazzurri were practically destined for the Europa League, with the two FCBs set to duke it out for top spot. Now, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Barcelona will fall back to their home ground fortress for now. Assuming everyone takes their remaining points off Viktoria Plzen, that leaves Bayern with 12, Inter with 9, and Barca with 6 points. Even if Barca beat Inter at the Camp Nou, head-to-head or goal difference could become important tie breakers, and there’s always the chance that Bayern could lose to Inter in which case Barca would need a result against the Bavarians as well.
Currently, it looks like Bayern are favorites to qualify out of the group, but this does create a scenario where both Barca and Inter could pip Nagelsmann’s men to the Round of 16. If Barca beat Inter and Bayern lose their last two games (vs Barca and Inter respectively) then all three teams would end up on 12 points each. In that case, tiebreaker rules would apply, and the head-to-head would become important.
The “Group of Death” is living up to its billing. Julian Nagelsmann cannot afford to relax just yet.
What happens to Barca’s finances?
This is more morbid curiosity than anything else, but if Barca fail to qualify for the Round of 16, what happens to them financially? I’m sure I’m not alone in asking this question, because even Julian Nagelsmann questioned the Catalans’ financial dealings back in the summer.
If the unthinkable happens, and Barca drop into the Europa League, will they have to make some hard choices? Sell Pedri/Gavi? Pull more levers? Who knows. For now, let’s focus on the games in front of us.
Hey, interested in more Champions League content? Well why not check out our postgame review of Bayern Munich’s 5-0 win over Viktoria Plzen? Listen to it below or on Spotify.
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