Barcelona came from behind to beat a resolute Inter 2-1 at the Camp Nou on Wednesday night.
There were just two minutes on the clock when Inter took the lead, catching Barcelona out with a quick free kick which pinged off a couple of players before being slipped through to Lautaro Martinez. The Argentine took his shot early and slotted it across Marc-André ter Stegen into the Barcelona net.
If there's one side you don't typically want to concede an early goal to it's one managed by Antonio Conte. The wing-backs dropped in deep, they defended resolutely and picked their moments to counter-attack, playing it out from the back in the process. It continued like this until half time, with Barcelona dominating possession in a frantic opening 45 minutes.
Barcelona equalised when second-half substitute Arturo Vidal crossed to Luis Suarez, who watched his sensational volley curve around Samir Handanovic
Suarez helped himself to a second in the 84th minute. Lionel Messi unsettled the Inter defence as he rushed towards them, crossing to the Uruguayan who found himself in space. His sublime first touch wrong-footed Diego Godin and Suarez tucked it away with his second touch to seal the victory.
Key Talking Point
Nelson Semedo's inclusion at left-back highlighted just how important Jordi Alba is to Barcelona, especially in attack. With the majority of Barcelona play coming through the middle, Semedo cutting back onto the comfort of right foot played into Inter hands. It took until the 53rd minute for Semedo's first left-footed cross.
The Portuguese was by no means the only player who looked uncomfortable in the first half, Griezmann struggled to influence the game from the left and Frenkie de Jong seemed to be longing for his more familiar role in the middle of the three.
Fullbacks are probably the most important position in football these days. Guardiola has spent almost 200m on them at City.— Adam (@AdamJAhmed) October 2, 2019
Barça have Roberto and Semedo starting in 2019
You can’t expect Griezmann to turn into Neymar if you play him at LW. He’s not that kind of a player so why even put him there in the first place? Barcelona need a wingback in January at all costs, you can’t always keep playing Semedo at LB when Alba isn’t fit. #BarçaInter— Hagrid ™ (@hagridmill) October 2, 2019
The young Dutchman's wish was granted when Arturo Vidal replaced Sergio Busquets in the 53rd minute. It wouldn't be too bold to say that the Chilean's introduction changed the game. The tactical switch saw Vidal move closer to the front three and Barcelona offered a far greater attacking threat, summed up by Vidal's cross for Suarez to finish.
De Jong looked better, but he did have Arthur for company - so not a complete return to his role at Ajax. Griezmann, meanwhile, was replaced by Ousmane Dembele and Barcelona were notably more fluid following their summer signing's exit. He has struggled to settle and this will do nothing to improve that.
Starting XI: ter Stegen (7), Roberto (6), Piqué (7), Lenglet (6), Semedo (6); Arthur (6), Busquets (6), de Jong (7); Messi (7), Suárez (8), Griezmann (6)
Substitutes: Vidal (8), Dembele (7).
STAR MAN: Luis Suarez
Who else? Barcelona's attacking three coughed and spluttered at times, but not Suarez. While Messi's fitness issues were evident and Griezmann looked like a man struggling to settle into his new side, Barcelona needed the Uruguayan to step up to the plate.
He obliged in style, equalising with that fantastic volley and showing composure to add the second goal. But it was more than just his goals, his work rate has always been a key component of his game and those energy reserves were needed here as Inter defended as a unit.
He will be hoping that Vidal's name is on the team sheet in the coming weeks, because Barcelona looked blunt in attack before his introduction. The front three might be world class but they can't do it alone - at least not every week - and Ernesto Valverde should think long and hard about his team selection ahead of the weekend.
Key Talking Point
Antonio Conte seems to have transformed Inter into a ruthless machine, in Serie A at least, with six wins from a possible six in the league.
The only blip this season came in their opening Champions League game, as a sluggish Inter rescued a point in stoppage time against Slavia Prague. So, how would they perform on their next European adventure?
It took just two minutes to find out. Inter were sharp as a tack, Barcelona were caught napping and it was 1-0 to I Nerazzurri before some had even taken their seats. With a lead to protect, they delivered a defensive masterclass for the majority of the game, the discipline of their defensive five and midfield trio was something to be admired.
Inter look a completely different animal under conte. Defend and attack aggressively.— Al (@up_the_ARSE_nal) October 2, 2019
While other teams might have been rocked by that piece of Suarez magic, Inter settled back into the game immediately as Conte barked instructions from the touchline.
The Italian's knack for a substitution was there for all the see following the equaliser. Roberto Gagliardini replaced Alexis Sanchez to add a body to the Inter midfield, with Matteo Politano entering to partner Martinez in attack once the tide had been stemmed.
Inter looked like they'd be leaving Camp Nou with a point, so Conte will be furious that a momentary lapse in concentration allowed Barcelona to score their second.
Starting XI: Handanovic (7); Godín (6), de Vrij (7), Skriniar (7); Candreva (7), Barella (7), Brozovic (6), Sensi (8), Asamoah (6); Martínez (8), Sánchez (7)
Substitutes: Gagliardini (6), D'Ambrosio (5), Politano (5)
STAR MAN: Stefano Sensi
A night like this called for cool heads and discipline in midfield. You can't fault any of the Inter trio for their application and concentration, but it was Stefano Sensi's desire to get forward that made him stand out from the crowd (and it was a very crowded midfield indeed).
He set the tone early on for his role in the opening goal and continued to press with tenacity, moving up to support the Inter attack.
When Inter countered it was by playing out from the back and Sensi was vital in connecting the defence with Sanchez and Martinez - epitomised by his pinpoint cross that the former headed just wide. He was unlucky to see his own shot sail over the bar just before half time.
Sevilla visit Camp Nou on Sunday, the (very) early La Liga pace setters looking to keep up their Champions League push before the international break.
Inter face their toughest Serie A test of the season on Sunday, as champions Juventus visit San Siro for the Derby d'Italia.