It’s unnatural that the usually radiant city of Barcelona be draped in a cobija of weariness. Football is the life of the city and Barcelona - its heart. When the heart chokes, the body is mired in pain.
At the epicentre of proceedings is the frowning gaffer of La Blaugrana, Ernesto Valverde. Despite having led the Catalan side to the Spanish title for two consecutive seasons,many among Barca faithful believe that the former Athletic Bilbao manager has run his course in the hot-seat.
In effect, the Lionel Messi-led team has had an indifferent start to the current campaign. Winning just four out of their opening seven games, they sit fourth in the league table, albeit two points behind Real Madrid.
However, it’s the nature of the defeats to teams who would normally be swept away by a Barca tide that has irked the supporters. Dismantled by Granada and barely scrapping past Villarreal in the following match, the Valverde has lots to ponder over after a much criticised stop-start beginning of the football calendar.
Even in the Champions League, Barcelona had Marc-Andre Ter Stegen to thank after he pulled off a brilliant save to deny Marco Reus from the penalty spot. Much of Barcelona’s troubles have risen from an over-dependence on Messi, who has endured a torrid start to the season with an injury.
Valverde will know his position at the Camp Nou stands firmly on shaky ice.
Inter Milan pose a new threat to the Spaniards. But this time, the encounter must be used as an opportunity by Valverde to shun all doubts on his side. The Nerazzuri have been flawless in the league racking up 18 points in six games and could be in the mood to cause an upset in one of football’s holiest stadiums, kick-starting their UCL season.
The 55-year-old coach needs to take a crash course in understanding how to get the best out of Antoinne Griezmann. Pressure will also be on the coach to understand what his best starting XI is itself, ahead of a crucial test from the Italian side.
With questions being asked of Valverde, a win against Inter Milan is vital for the Catalan club.