There’s a star-studded lineup on Tuesday in the Champions League, and one of the biggest stars could make his return earlier than expected.
Lionel Messi was included in the Barcelona squad that visits in-form Internazionale on Tuesday, and while he’s not expected to start, he could make his return from a broken arm that has kept the superstar out for the last two weeks. Messi was expected to miss more time, but was included int he squad despite confirmation that he is training despite not yet receiving clearance from the medical staff to play.
With or without Messi, Barcelona visits Inter in a scintillating matchup of in-form sides. Barcelona leads La Liga and hasn’t lost in any competition since a late September miss at Leganes. Meanwhile, since a mid-September loss to Parma, Inter’s only defeat has come to this Messi-less Barcelona team in the reverse fixture two weeks ago. They have beaten good teams such as AC Milan, Lazio, and Tottenham over that time. A draw or win would confirm Barcelona as through to the next round, while a win for Inter would do the same, although both teams appear all but clearly on their way.
Mauro Icardi was rested for the 5-0 thumping of Genoa last time out, but the Argentine has five goals in his last three Serie A matches and is white-hot form. Meanwhile, Luis Suarez is on a similarly torrid streak, with six goals in his last three league games, including an El Clasico hat-trick.
Elsewhere, Napoli hosts Paris Saint-Germain. Napoli brings good goalscoring form into the match, with at least two goals in four of its last five matches across all competitions. PSG is steamrolling the French league again, but sits third in Group C and desperately needs a win to feel better about advancing. Kylian Mbappe did not score in the 2-2 draw the last time these teams met, but has bagged seven goals in his last four Ligue 1 matches and hopes to bring that form with him into Champions League play.
Borussia Dortmund heads west to visit Atletico Madrid with both teams far and away the leaders in Group A. Similarly to the Barcelona vs. Inter game, a draw or win would see the German side officially advance, while Atletico would go through with a win or potentially could confirm advancement with a draw plus help. England youngster Jadon Sancho is the man to watch in Madrid, having pushed Christian Pulisic for Dortmund minutes thanks to his ridiculous form, with four goals in the 18-year-old’s last four matches across all competitions, including a tally in the 4-0 Dortmund win over Atletico in the reverse fixture two weeks ago.
Liverpool travels east to Serbia to take on Red Star Belgrade, leaving Albanian-born Xherdan Shaqiri behind “to avoid any distractions” with the political discord between the parties and “focus on football.” The Reds hammered Red Star at home, but playing in Eastern Europe is a different prospect. Liverpool needs all the points it can grab with PSG and Napoli hot on its heels, and can put pressure on the rest of the group with an early 12:55 p.m. ET kick.
Tottenham hosts PSV Eindhoven at Wembley Stadium in dire need of a result, with just one point through three matches in group stage play. Spurs likely need to win at least two of the next three to have any hope of reaching the knockout stage, and with Barcelona and Inter the two remaining opponents, this is as much of a must-win as it comes. Still, Spurs are winless in their last five European matches and will be without captain Hugo Lloris after he was sent off in the dying minutes of the reverse fixture. That’s just the beginning of Mauricio Pochettino‘s squad troubles, with Danny Rose, Eric Dier, Mousa Dembele, Jan Vertonghen and Victor Wanyama all out injured.
AS Monaco and Club Brugge both meet in France needing a win to have any hope of catching the Group A leaders. Schalke hosts Turkish side Galatasaray with Group D still completely up in the air. On the other side of Group D, FC Porto welcomes Russian side Lokomotov Moscow to Portugal.