Barcelona is on the verge of another Champions League group stage exit after a 3-3 draw at home against Group C opponents Inter Milan.
Despite two late goals from Robert Lewandowski, the hosts capitulated in the second half, unable to secure a key winner in Catalonia.
Xavi’s team seemed to be on the verge of triumph following Ousmane Dembele’s first-half strike, but Inter fought wonderfully after the break, with goals from Nicolo Barella and former Barcelona transfer target Lautaro Martinez.
Barcelona avoided loss on the night thanks to two equalizers from Lewandowski, each side of a cool finish from Robin Gosens, but they will be eliminated if Inter win either of their next two group games.
Barcelona’s veterans brutally exposed
The inquest into Barcelona’s demise at the Camp Nou is likely to include some firm home truths for their experienced stars.
Xavi opted to stick with Gerard Pique in central defence, with skipper Sergio Busquets anchoring the midfield, on the night.
Nicolo Barella caught Pique off guard for Inter’s first equalizer, while Busquets was too sluggish in possession in the buildup to Lautaro Martinez’s goal.
Busquets was hooked after that, with Pique scraping through the 90 minutes, and the two look to be nearing the end of their careers at Barcelona.
Gerard Piqué could have played his last Champions League game against Inter. [relevo] #fcblive ❌— barcacentre (@barcacentre) October 12, 2022
Neither has a lack of big-game nous or experience, but Inter has consistently exposed them in transition, and the feeling is that the end of 2022/23 will be their final act at the Camp Nou.
Lewandowski covers for La Blaugrana’s Champions League flaws.
On most Champions League nights, a late brace from Lewandowski would have been enough to secure a win for Barcelona, but his heroics were overshadowed at full time.
Despite missing chances he would have expected to score before the break, he showed a razor sharp instinct to keep the hosts in the game, as their back line fell apart.
The former Bayern Munich star has scored five of Barcelona’s eight Champions League goals so far this season, and without him, they would already be dead and buried in Group C.
Robert Lewandowski's game by numbers:— Squawka (@Squawka) October 12, 2022
18 touches in opposition box
10 duels won
4 shots on target
4 fouls won
2 chances created
Barcelona's saviour. 👑 pic.twitter.com/WNRhdsTm2d
Martinez demonstrates to Barcelona what they missed5
Lewandowski’s performance showed why Barcelona pushed so hard for him this summer, but his opposite number, Argentinian international Martinez, showed why Barcelona wanted him back in 2021.
Despite the Catalans interest, Inter held firm on Martinez, and rejected a possible exit from the San Siro.
Without outshining Lewandowski, his link up play caused headaches for Barcelona all night, to confidently slot past Marc Ter Stegen, and lay on a late assist for Gosens.
Barcelona’s over reliance on Lewandowski is plain to see and the presence of a reliable back up was shown clearly by Martinez’s solid display,
Lautaro Martinez has now scored 105 goals in club football and his 8th in the Champions League.— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) October 12, 2022
What a turn-around from Inter. 🇦🇷 pic.twitter.com/q3gP8bTA2Q