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Wednesday October 24 2018
Radja a bigger miss than Messi

Barcelona used their alternatives to Lionel Messi well, but Inter did not adequately replace Radja Nainggolan, writes Richard Hall.

Luciano Spalletti confessed Barcelona would be an easier prospect to face without injured Lionel Messi, but it turns out La Pulga was simpler to replace than Radja Nainggolan.

Milanese fans who travelled to Catalunya tried to put the Treble memories to their back of their minds once they saw the Catalan line-up. Inter have often been guilty of starting games at their opposition’s pace, but they looked controlled and at times a match for their illustrious opponents.

As the game went on, the Spanish showed their quality even without their revered Messi, as they gained more of the possession and became increasingly dangerous. This was made evident when ex-Inter loaner Rafinha opened the scoring for Barcelona.

Under the bright lights at the Camp Nou, it was hard to see what Inter could do more as a collective, but as time went on, Luciano Spalletti must have started to realise that his team had one huge deficiency. Borja Valero, despite his age, can show his class and technical ability against lesser opposition, even changing a game. When facing elite teams, it’s a different story. The drive, industry and power of Nainggolan was the obvious miss in the Milanese squad.

Put simply, Barcelona missed Messi and had options. Inter missed Nainggolan and potentially had options, but didn’t use them.

Spalletti’s side are growing and came away from the Camp Nou with pride intact, albeit without the result. What do they take from this? Potentially, quite a lot. The Catalans have often destroyed better sides, and yet Inter kept them relatively quiet. Are they as good as Barcelona? Of course not, but the game showed that Spalletti’s side could go to Spain’s most intimidating ground and compete in the Champions League.

Inter have been for many years been desperate to be back where they say they belong. Well tonight, despite the result, they justified that and played with competence, whilst exhibiting a good structure. There was no ‘Vecino time’ but that not a realistic long-term prospect, if we are honest with ourselves. Instead, Inter look professional, progressive and pragmatic, Barcelona respected them. Sometimes you can move forward in defeat if you show you are a worthy combatant.

What certainly was impressive for Inter in their defeat, was that Spalletti has made the Milanese pragmatic, physical and what is more tactically astute. It is something Inter and their fans should perhaps embrace.

Yes, it is true that the Massimo Moratti always wanted that ‘little bit of Alvaro Recoba’ magic, that chance to leave their fans thunderstruck by signing Ronaldo, or trying but failing with countless other ‘mercurial talents’.

Historically, their success has come from stoicism and good defending. Helenio Herrera, Giovanni Trapattoni and Jose Mourinho, this is when they have risen to the incredible heights and this arguably is where they are going again. Yes, they lost to Barcelona, but this does not mean they haven’t improved by doing so.

Have your say...
Two steps forward - 1 step back. Positive result. I mean we did face Barcelona. If it were Fulham and lost 4-1 or we tied Benfica 0-0 at home and Benfica were in 9 men then that would be a horror result.
on the 26th October, 2018 at 7:08pm
On the positive note, I think Inter did well. Spalletti had the guts to put more strikers and risks being exposed at the back and conceded another goal, which we actually did. But it shows that we'd like to play Barca on equal footing, clear sign of progress.

Remember even the treble Inter also lost 2-0 away in group stage back then. Now let's put another brave performance in our home and push barca to the limit. A draw would be enough, but with fully fit Radja, even a win is very much possible
on the 26th October, 2018 at 4:21am
Old Valero is gifted in passing and dictating the tempo, but he doesn't have the legs as AMF. He should play as CM and Inter needs to go with 433. That shows we don't really have backup option for Radja, and couldn't play 4231 w/o him.

The moment we replaced Valero, we surrendered the control back to Barca again, as our Mids are overrun. IMO, Keita/Martinez should replace Perisic first and push up the winger closer upfront and join Icardi for crossing situation. Take off valero after 75 mins
on the 26th October, 2018 at 4:13am
Inter did lose, but they showed that they can come to Camp neu and give a fight, and it's true the nenja was irreplaceble for inter unlike Messi for barca, that and that inter had many new players and they need to gel more, this inter side have a lot of potential in players like Politano and Lutaro. To all doubters, let's wait for the next match in San Siro and see!
on the 25th October, 2018 at 11:55pm
Inter looked formidable, I was impressed. There was a purpose about their passing especially from the back at times. We kept losing to the likes of Galatasaray on our return to CL from exile. Give these guys a break. If Inter pace themselves and not expend resources to hammer teams 4-0 they'll be in good shape come crunch time.
on the 25th October, 2018 at 10:28pm
Inter will not be beating barcelona anytime soon buddy lol
on the 25th October, 2018 at 6:49pm
So many negative comments. Inter fans that actually watched the game are calm, because we looked good at times, it took a masterclass pass from Suarez to open us up and we were brave enough to play with 4 strikers in the last part of the game. They missed Messi we missed Nainggolan. We need more in midfield but I'm positive. In Milan we'll have De Vrij, Vrsaljko Politano and Ninja starting and we can beat them.
on the 25th October, 2018 at 4:27pm
@Anonymous If you really think Politano is Candrva 2.0, then you haven't been watching. And the only really irreplaceable player Inter has is Nainggolan.
on the 25th October, 2018 at 4:19pm
This was pre transfer window Inter. The one that struggled to qualify for champions League last year. Politano seems like Candreva 2.0 so far and Valero replaces Nainggolan. It's enough to show us the current depth of the squad.
But they need to play against Europe elite to improve their self-esteem.
on the 25th October, 2018 at 12:55pm
The issue is that other than Valero Inter had no midfield options whatsoever. Fielding a second striker (Lautaro) is something out of 1990s football and doesn't work.

The team simply does not have enough midfielders in the CL squad to compete. Qualifying for the knockout stages will be overachieving for this side. January reinforcements are not going to happen as Inter could only loan with option to buy, which clubs now know means "loan and not buy" (Keita will be the next example)
on the 25th October, 2018 at 10:40am
Knew Inter were going to be nothing in this game. They couldnt even sweep aside an uninspiring Milan side at the Derby but for the gift that Musacchio & Donna gave.

I still think that Italian teams in Europe are unconvincing. A win here and there just does not cut it. Requires consistent performances against top performing opponents before we can say Italian teams are a threat.
on the 25th October, 2018 at 9:54am
Inter were pathetic.They played a Barca side who have struggled in the league and were without Messi yet couldn't even get a draw.
on the 25th October, 2018 at 8:56am
Oh the irony...Rafinha comes back to haunt Inter. Why dint Spaletti keep him? San Messi game...cant ask for better chance. Shame Candreva has become useless and no longer scores let alone assist on goals anymore. Politanoi is a joke. Start him on the bench. Spaletti needs 1-2 good moves in January and Inter good do well. nice to see them back in CL.
Napoli on other hand blew it again. Could of all but eliminated PSG with win. Secured them and L’pool to next round.
on the 25th October, 2018 at 6:21am
Well, i watched the whole ninety minutes carefully. In naked eyes its barca, but i saw mettle in this inter side. If they were tiki-tika we were the great wall. And for the first time in a long times facing barca is just the beginning for us. Now i exactly know where we stand. To sum it up in a one line i would say, just by protesting we went that far, what will happen when we will hit back. I recommend de vriz, varsaljco and further dalbert to stretch our back line more. And vecino MUST step up to be the leader of the team. Rest can automatically improve by the end of the season. Spalletti is all good and understanding but he lacked one thing that is carlitto!. Come on, be brave enough. Like pre season, use lautaro behind. Valero at this age using in the hole is grave grave mistake...
on the 25th October, 2018 at 1:36am
No way. If Messi played it would have been 5-0
on the 25th October, 2018 at 12:53am

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