UEFA Champions League Group F: Dortmund hosts Inter, ailing Barca seeks win over Slavia Prague

Barcelona will look to bounce from its weekend defeat against Levante, while Dortmund seeks revenge against Inter Milan in the Champions League.

Lionel Messi scored against Levante but it was enough to lift Barcelona to a win.   -  Getty Images

Barcelona may be one of Europe’s most devastating teams at its best but another collapse in La Liga last weekend has shown it can be a soft touch. The La Liga Champion's 3-1 defeat by Levante on Saturday reopened old wounds from Anfield and Rome and suggests it has not learned from either of those collapses.

Levante scored three times in seven minutes after half-time exposing Barcelona’s inability to regroup during a spell of intense pressure -- a familiar weakness since coach Ernesto Valverde came to the helm in 2017. Most clubs in Europe would gladly take winning two league titles and a Copa del Rey in that time but Barcelona is a team concerned with details, the small margins that could define a good season or a great one.

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Barca plays Slavia Prague on Tuesday in the Champions League, when victory at Camp Nou against Group F’s weakest team will ensure the frustration and failings from Levante swiftly fade. But fragility persists that can be exposed by elite opponents when it matters most, as Roma and then Liverpool so emphatically proved in the last two Champions League campaigns, when three-goal first-leg leads were squandered by the Catalan giants.

Barcelona has shown it lack steel when it is uncomfortable, not least away from home, where its record under Valverde has been disappointing. Barca's away record has not been good in Valverde’s three seasons. It has won only 25 out of 44 league matches on the road. By comparison, Manchester City has won 35 out of 44. In the Champions League Barca have only won five out of 13 away games.

Dortmund to sustain ‘feel-good’ factor against Inter

Borussia Dortmund and its under-fire coach Lucien Favre hope to maintain the ‘feel-good’ factor from back-to-back wins as they chase Champions League revenge at home to Inter Milan on Tuesday. A below-par performance saw Dortmund crash to a 2-0 defeat in Milan nearly a fortnight ago, sparking reports Jose Mourinho was waiting in the wings to replace Favre unless results improved, which the club subsequently denied.

The German media piled into Favre after forward Lautaro Martinez give Inter a first-half lead, then had a late penalty saved, before winger Antonio Candreva raced clear to seal Dortmund’s defeat at the San Siro Dortmund was short of ideas against a water-tight defence and only Roman Burki’s fine save from Martinez’s penalty attempt prevented a rout. However, Dortmund has since improved.

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A goalless draw at Schalke last weekend was backed-up by dumping Bundesliga leader Borussia Moenchengladbach out of the German Cup in midweek before trouncing Wolfsburg 3-0 on Saturday in the league. With one eye on Inter, Favre said it was “nice to see” his side has broken their habit of conceding late goals amidst nervous defending. Chief playmaker and Germany star Marco Reus, who also missed the away defeat in Milan, limped off in the first-half on Saturday and is out of Tuesday's clash with a knock to the foot.

Both clubs meet at Signal Iduna Park second in their respective league’s after Inter’s burly Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku scored twice in Saturday’s 2-1 win at Bologna to leave his side a point behind Juventus in Serie A. Despite two wins inside a week, Dortmund must take three points at home to Inter to calm fears of a group stage exit.

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