FC Barcelona – Internazionale (2-0): Messi-less Barcelona dominate both the conservative and high-pressing sides of Inter’s game
Barcelona’s new “Arthur-system” passed a difficult test by dominating Internazionale even without Messi, as Barcelona showed both defensive stability and an intelligent attack. Inter shifted from its more conservative first half game plan to a high press in the second half, without being able to make a dent in Barcelona’s defense.
FC Barcelona’s manager Ernesto Valverde seems to be slowly turning the tide after a somewhat chaotic season start. Valverde began this season with a higher-tempo game plan that used Ousmane Dembelé on the left wing and Messi on the right. However, Barcelona conceded counterattacks too easily in that system.
Valverde thus introduced a significant tactical change in Barcelona’s previous Champions League victory against Tottenham. He dropped the talented but at times disorderly Dembelé in favor of central midfielder Arthur Melo, moving Philippe Coutinho to the left wing. Barcelona now prevents counterattacks far more easily and the team can finally enjoy some defensive stability and a more-well defined offensive structure. However, Lionel Messi’s elbow injury against Sevilla offered an unexpected and harsh test on this nascent system, as Internazionale and Real Madrid were the following two opponents.
The Inter of manager Luciano Spalletti also seemed to be finding their way after a difficult start to the season, stringing seven wins in a row between domestic league and European matches. Spalletti has created a team whose main attacking mechanism is