Barcelona were held to a surprise goalless draw at the Nou Camp by Sparta Prague. The Catalans failed to score at home for the first time in 46 games.
Yet Barca still remain atop Group F by a single point after Borussia Dortmund came from two goals behind to win a thrilling contest against Inter Milan.
With apologies to Group E, here’s a look at where we stand after 4 matches in the real Group of Death.
Champions League Group F Odds
The next few weeks will decide who survives in the group of death. Here’s how oddsmakers at DraftKings NJ see it:
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Valverde’s Team Lacked Cutting Edge
Manager Ernesto Valverde was without the injured Luis Suarez, and Barcelona made a lacklustre start to the game. The team was struggling throughout to really penetrate the resolute visitors.
And things could have been worse for the home crowd if Sparta’s Peter Olayinka had connected to a through ball in the opening few minutes of the game.
The Czechs also had a goal disallowed for a clear offside just before half time.
Lionel Messi’s influence grew as the game progressed. However, this time he was unable to produce a moment of magic that would separate the two teams.
The 17-year old prodigy Ansu Fati was introduced on 65 minutes for Ousmane Dembele, but still the deadlock could not be broken.
The Blaugrana did have 14 shots on target in contrast to their opponents’ four. Although Sparta did have opportunities to threaten from set pieces with nine corners.
The performance left Barcelona defender Gerard Pique questioning whether his team has what it takes to win the UCL after the game. In the last two seasons Barcelona have blown comfortable leads against Roma and Liverpool in the quarter final and semi final stages respectively.
Dortmund Overturn Two Goal Deficit
A second half brace from Moroccan Achraf Hakimi completed a memorable comeback for Borussia Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion.
In the first half, Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan started brightly. Inter were ahead after just five minutes following Lautaro Martinez’s close range strike.
Matias Vecino then doubled the Italians’ lead five minutes before the interval with some brilliant build-up play.
Unreal team goal by Inter 💯
— Bleacher Report Live (@brlive) November 5, 2019
The 21- year old Hakimi, who is in his second season on loan from Real Madrid, pulled a goal back after 51 minutes. He then slotted the winner in the 77th minutes after combining in a move with England international Jadon Sancho.
Perhaps surprisingly, the defender has scored four out of the five goals for Dortmund in the UCL so far this season. Hakimi’s brace came either side of Julian Brandt’s equalizer for the hosts.
Two Games to Play in Toughest of Groups
When the draw for the Champions League was made, Group F was instantly christened the “group of death.” Three of the four teams drawn in the pool are historically powerful squads to meet at such an early stage.
Officials from Sparta Prague openly laughed when they found out that such relative minnows would face Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and Inter Milan.
Now with just two games to play, it remains up in the air who will qualify for the second round knockout phase.
- Barcelona lead the group with eight points, one ahead of Dortmund with Inter Milan on four points, and Sparta Prague almost out of contention on two points.
- Barcelona face the toughest run in, as they have to play Dortmund at home and then an even more difficult test away to Inter Milan at the San Siro.
- The games remaining will compound Barca’s disappointment. The result at home to supposedly the weakest team in the group raise further questions about the team’s mentality.
So far Barcelona’s form has been patchy despite still sitting jointly on top of La Liga on 22 points. Barca’s form away from home has especially been suspect. They have three defeats on their travels, the latest one being last Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at Levante.
Influential defensive midfielder Sergio Busquets was missing in all of those reverses, highlighting how important he is in certain games. The 31-year-old with two UCL winners medals will be first on Valverde’s team sheet protecting the back four when they visit Milan.
Inter Milan have been in fine form this season. Ironically, they have won every away game they have played in this season, apart from the 2-1 defeat to Barcelona in the Nou Camp early last month.
Romelu Lukaku has made a blistering start to life in Italy following his move from Manchester United. So far, he has repaid Conte’s faith in paying £74 million for his services. And his pace and power could be very dangerous to Barcelona’s more technical centre half pairing of Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet.
Dortmund will be looking to win at least a point in their clash with Barcelona, before their final game in group at home to Sparta Prague. They will be confident they can beat the Czechs having overcome them 2-0 in Prague.
Despite their comeback against Inter Milan, if they finish on the same points as the Italians then they would be leapfrogged in the group table by them. Inter beat them 2-0 at the San Siro, leaving them with a better goal difference head to head.