Just eight days after collecting his record sixth Ballon D’or Award as the world’s top footballer, FC Barcelona legend Lionel Messi will sit out of a UEFA Champions League match for the first time in eight years, according to a report by Forbes.com correspondent Tom Sanderson. That leaves an opening for Serie A leaders Inter Milan to gain an essential victory in their final Group Stage match — a victory the Nerazzurri absolutely must have to guarantee their advancement to the knockout stage.
Sitting tied on points at seven with Germany’s Borussia Dortmund, a club Inter faced in October and lost, Antonio Conte’s side is staring at what the Italian press is terming “an opportunity of gold” in a Barcelona side that will not only be without Messi, but will feature several bench players — including Brazilian goalkeeper Neto — in his official debut for the Catalan club.
Inter Milan will have the advantage of playing in front of their home crowd at the San Siro, but no matter where the games have taken place, Barcelona has historically dominated the matchup. The two European giants have met nine times and Barcelona has won five of those games, with Inter gaining the full three points only once.
Despite this history — and because Barcelona will play a weakened side — Inter enter the match as favorites, with a moneyline of -159, according to Sports Betting Dime.
That means that a bet of $159 would bring a $100 profit if Inter manage to win the game. Barcelona’s moneyline odds on the road have been set at +310. In other words, a bet of $100 pays off $310 plus the original $100 wager. The line on a draw is +370, according to the Sports Betting Dime site.
Dortmund also plays on Tuesday, taking on Czech champions Slavia Prague. While that match would seem like a relatively easy three points for the Bundesliga side, Prague did hold Inter to a frustrating 1-1 draw at the San Siro in September.
Despite playing a depleted, Messi-less side, according to a Daily Mail report, Barcelona Coach Ernesto Valverde remains likely to pair Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann up front, along with 21-year-old Spanish winger Carles Perez.
That lineup would maintain the “three-pronged” attack that has made Barcelona a seemingly unstoppable goal-scoring force this season — as they are every season, it seems. Barca lead Spain’s La Liga with 41 goals in 15 matches, while tallying seven in five Champions League matches so far in the 2019-2020 competition.
The Inter Milan vs. FC Barcelona match will be televised in the United States starting at 3 p.m. EST on the TNT network.