FC Barcelona and Atletico Madrid both face must-win Champions League matches on Wednesday night to have a chance of reaching the knockout stage of the competition.
Barca are at home to Inter Milan, who beat them 1-0 in Italy a week ago, and the Catalans are still upset about a late penalty decision that didn’t go their way when VAR failed to see a clear handball in the Inter area.
The defeat leaves Xavi Hernandez’s side with just three points from a possible nine and another loss to Inter would effectively end their chances of reaching the last 16 and deal a significant blow to the club’s delicate economy.
Refereeing controversies aside, Xavi will be worried by a dip in form in the past three matches as a string of injuries have limited his options. Jules Kounde, Hector Bellerin, Franck Kessie, Ronald Araujo and Memphis Depay will all miss out on Wednesday, while other players, such as Robert Lewandowski, Pedri, Gavi, Raphinha and Ousmane Dembele, have played in every league match so far this season and their energy levels dipped on Sunday as they clung on to win 1-0 at home to Celta Vigo.
Xavi is likely to continue with Alejandro Balde at right-back, while Gerard Pique and Eric Garcia continue as his only fit options in central defense.
Atletico Madrid are in a similar position to Barca after losing their last two away matches in the tournament, with the last of those defeats a 2-0 loss away to Club Brugge.
The Belgian side travel to the Metropolitano Stadium as surprise leaders of Group B with nine points from a possible nine, and can assure their place in the next phase if they can take a point.
There was good news for Atletico on Monday when Antoine Griezmann re-signed until 2026 after Atletico and Barca reached agreement to make his loan deal permanent, and he will start on Wednesday night.
Sergio Reguilon, Felipe and Marcos Llorente are all out through injury, and Stefan Savic and Jose Gimenez will play in defense, while Alvaro Morata partners Griezmann.
Atletico coach Diego Simeone will be looking for Joao Felix to return to form in this match, and with over 70,000 fans expected in the Metropolitano, now would be a good moment for the talented but erratic Portuguese to take a step forward. ■