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AC Milan

Inter Milan 1-0 Barcelona: Europa League looms large after latest Champions League loss for Xavi – The Warm-Up


Wednesday’s big stories

Xavi Hernandez’s Barcelona have lost again in the Champions League – this time 1-0 to Inter Milan after Hakan Calhanoglu’s injury-time, first-half strike was enough to separate the two sides.

And after the defeat at the San Siro in Group C, the four-time winners sit in third place, staring down the ignominy of a second-straight demotion to a Europa League campaign. Barcelona have home games against the Nerazzurri and Bayern to come before finishing with a trip to Viktoria Plzen. Their plight is not terminal, but it is illustrative of the club’s decline – and also that the return to the elite level of European football is not a linear one, even for a club as big as Barca.

Transfers

‘We will see’ – Xavi does not rule out Messi returning to Barcelona

A DAY AGO

The concept of Barcelona not qualifying from a Champions League group seemed – not so long ago – inconceivable. The Spanish club, in fact, hold the record for the most consecutive first-place group stage finishes in Champions League history. Between the 2007/08 and 2019/20 campaigns they topped their group 13 straight times.

Yet, since their semi-final defeat to Liverpool during the 2018-19 season, they have got progressively worse: they lost to Bayern at the quarter-final stage during the 2019-20 season, to PSG at the last-16 stage during the 2020-21 season and were knocked out at the group stage – finishing behind Bayern Munich and Benfica – last season.

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Granted, Barcelona could deem themselves unlucky to lose to Inter. In fact, their boss Xavi deemed it an “injustice”. He railed after Pedri had a goal ruled out by VAR for an Ansu Fati handball and then saw his side denied a penalty late on, with Denzel Dumfries appearing to handle the ball inside the area.

Xavi had a point. His side, on the balance of play, deserved to win. Pedri was, again, superb. They dominated the ball, but were unable to convert that into the currency of goals. In isolation, that would be unfortunate and frustrating, but given the loss against Bayern – in a match they probably deserved a result from too – they are now on the precipice of the Europa League. An ignominy with the wider ramifications unknown.

In August, Joan Laporta said he found the club “clinically dead” in March 2021 when he was re-elected as president, adding that it was then still in “ICU”.

In reaction to that, Barcelona activated some – well documented – financial levers, in the hope that overhauling the squad now would reactivate Barcelona as an elite-level club, and, as such, provide the boost their coffers so desperately require. The success of this method, while not contingent on winning the Champions League, will presumably have expected qualification for the knockout stages.

And yet, for Barcelona, the Europa League looms large once more, illustrating their decline on the pitch, but it could also have far-reaching consequences for the long-term health of the institution.

Taken out by an Xbox

Courtney Baker-Richardson has been in fine goalscoring fettle for Crewe Alexandra this season. Having moved from Newport County over the summer, he has scored six goals in 10 League Two games. That’s exactly half of their total of 12.

He is, however, in a race against time to be fit for his side’s match against Gillingham on Saturday after injuring his hip playing the Xbox.

“He did it in an innocuous way, which is about right for us with injuries at the moment,” boss Alex Morris told BBC Radio Stoke’s Graham McGarry.

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“He did it playing on his Xbox. Dropped his leg on the sofa and tweaked it.

“It’s an area of his body where he’s had issues before. There’s nothing we can do about it, but he’s having treatment and hopefully it settles down.”

Chelsea FC: A winning machine

The honours section of the Chelsea FC wiki page needs an update as they have another trophy to launch into that bulging cabinet.

They have been awarded with the Private Equity Deal of the Year. Presumably it comes with a trophy.

HAT-TIP

The world of football finance is complicated. Amortization this, football receivables that.

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Thus, it is always enlightening to have the Swiss Ramble pop up on one’s Twitter feed to simplify the on-goings at Europe’s elite clubs.

This week, it is Real Madrid’s turn.

COMING UP

Another glut of who’s who of European football on offer from the Champions League.

Eurosport.co.uk will be hosting minute-by-minute commentaries of the following games: RB Leipzig v Celtic, Benfica v PSG, Chelsea v AC Milan, Juventus v Maccabi Haifa, Man City v Copenhagen, Real Madrid v Donetsk and Sevilla v Dortmund.

Champions League

How to watch Inter Milan v Barcelona in the Champions League

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YESTERDAY AT 14:33

Liga

Lewandowski scores only goal as Barcelona overcome Mallorca

01/10/2022 AT 18:12



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