Nobody could have NHL jerseys predicted Champions League Group F would be so tight with just two matches left but all four sides are still very much in with a chance of qualifying for the last 16 and the clash at the Nou Camp on Tuesday is huge.
Inter Milan top the section and they could place Barcelona, the defending champions, in a world of trouble were they to triumph on Spanish soil. I’m sure Jose Mourinho, the Inter coach, would take a point but nerves are sure to be frayed and with Rubin Kazan entertaining Dymano Kiev earlier in the evening both will know exactly where they stand.
The pair met on Matchday 1 when playing out a fairly uneventful goalless draw at the San Siro and this group has featured just 18 goals to date. That’s a little over two per match and with so much at stake for this pair I predict the trend to continue.
The onus will be on the hosts on Tuesday, one point adrift of Inter, but they dare not lose and this could well be a game of few chances. The attacking talent on display is not in question but the two giants are far more resolute defensively than most give them credit for and I’m surprised to see under 2.50 goals available to back at 1.91 with a few firms.
Inter currently sit five points clear in Serie A, thanks to a 3-1 win at Bologna on the weekend, and while they are not facing the likes of Barcelona every week their ability is not in doubt. Every Jose Mourinho side is difficult to beat, Inter have lost just once domestically all season, and in Walter Samuel and Lucio the Portuguese has vast experience to call upon too.
That duo protect another South American in the shape of Julio Cesar in goal and while Samuel Eto'o’s return to Spain to face his former club will dominant much of the pre-match discussion, Inter have plenty more about them than just the Cameroon striker.
Eto’o is partnered in attack by Diego Milito but the duo are set to face one of the brightest young defenders in Europe in Gerard Pique and the Spain international is likely to be partnered by Carlos Puyol in defence.
Pep Guardiola’s men have slipped a point behind rivals Real Madrid in La Liga on the back of a 1-1 draw at Ahtletico Bilbao on the weekend but their defence is rarely breached in front of their own fans and it is likely to take something special to beat Victor Valdes in the home goal.
With an injury doubt still surrounding star playmaker Lionel Messi, Barcelona will look to Zlatan Ibrahimovic for inspiration but he’s been quiet in the past few weeks after an excellent start to his new career and Samuel, in particular, will know all about how to deal with the tall Swede.
This looks like a low-scoring encounter every way you look at it but I’ve no idea which way it will swing. Barca certainly look on the short side, at around the 1.80 mark, but at a bigger price it is the unders that gets the call.