Barcelona held by Inter Milan in pulsating 3-3 draw, risk missing out on UCL last-16

Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Xavi_Hernandez_-_30827264903.jpg

Barcelona could be playing in the Europa League knockout stages for the second campaign running after a 3-3 stalemate with Inter Milan at Camp Nou on Wednesday (12 October).

The La Liga giants are third in Group C after picking up four points in as many games, and they will not be playing in the Champions League last-16 should the Serie A side defeat Viktoria Plzen when they play later this month (26 October) due to head-to-head rules.

Barca lost to Inter when they met at San Siro in the first-leg, with Hakan Çalhanoglu’s first-half strike making all the difference.

They needed to win the second-leg to keep their hopes of playing in the competition’s knockout stages alive, and things appeared to be going according to the script after Ousmane Dembele put them ahead five minutes from the break.

However, Inter got back into the game 10 minutes after play restarted as Nicolo Barella drew them level after Gerard Pique opted against defending Alessandro Bastoni’s cross into the box.

Things got worse for Xavi’s side 13 minutes later after Lautaro Martinez put the visitors ahead with a deft strike after beating Eric Garcia.

The Catalans continued to fight and eventually got themselves back into the game through Robert Lewandowski in the 82nd minute.

However, Simone Inzaghi’s side were not done as a perfect counterattack saw Robin Gosens restore their lead in the 89th minute.

That did not last long, though, as Lewandowski drew Barcelona level again with a fine header in the 92nd minute, but there was no time for either side to grab a winner, with the Inter manager getting sent off in the 97th minute for protesting a decision.

Barca host Bayern Munich next, but it could be a dead rubber clash for them if Inter win their own game – which takes place two hours and 15 minutes earlier.

Should the Italians fail to win against the Czech Republic side, Barcelona will need to defeat the Bundesliga giants and Plzen and hope Inter drop points against Bayern for them to secure a last-16 berth.

The chances of all that happening appear to be very slim, and it will take a miracle for the Catalans to be playing in the Champions League early next year.

While they are second in the La Liga table after nine games and just three points behind leaders Real Madrid, Barca have not been particularly solid under Xavi, winning 28 games and losing 10 of the 50 games he has overseen.

They ended last season without silverware and it will not be surprising if that happens again in 2022-23 despite the huge amount they spent on new players during the summer transfer window.

Inter Milan are struggling in the Serie A this term after missing out on the title by just two points last season, and they are currently seventh in the table after picking up 18 points from their opening 10 league games.

They may not be one of the favourites to win the Champions League, but they will fancy their chances of making it to the last-16 after the results against Barcelona.