Sergio Busquets passionately defends Barcelona team-mate Malcom

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Barcelona's Malcom

Sergio Busquets has jumped to the defence of team-mate Malcom after the 21-year-old scored his first Barcelona goal in the 1-1 draw with Inter Milan.

Malcom has endured a nightmare start to his Blaugrana career following his summer switch from Bordeaux.

The €41million signing was making just his fourth appearance for the club after rising from the bench at the San Siro on Tuesday evening.

It was his first game since a poor outing in the 1-0 Copa del Rey outing against Cultural Leonesa, however, Busquets has praised the attacker’s attitude.

“It’s not fair that he’s judged on one game in the cup because he had hardly played all season before that,” Busquets said. “It’s impossible to have any sort of rhythm [when you aren’t playing regularly]. There was a lot of unjust [criticism] about the players that played in the cup.

“We’re all happy for Malcom. His tears were emotional. He’s not getting the minutes he wants, but in training he’s working really hard. He really wants to turn things around.

“He’s a great kid. He’s done really well and the goal will do him good. He is going to help us a lot.”

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Inter Milan 1-1 Barcelona: Talking points as Malcom makes his mark

Andy West 7/11/2018
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Barcelona were held to a 1-1 draw despite a dominating performance against Inter Milan in a rain-soaked San Siro.

Malcom gave Barca a deserved opener after several close calls in the latter stages, but Inter grabbed an unmerited leveller through Mauro Icardi with their first shot on target.

The game yielded plenty of food for thought – especially considering the identity of Barca’s goalscorer.

MALCOM MAKES HIS MARK 

With Lionel Messi still out of action in the latter stages of his recovery from a fractured arm, the captain’s absence on the right wing gave Ousmane Dembele another chance to prove his worth.

The former Borussia Dortmund youngster didn’t really take his opportunity, though, producing another intensely frustrating performance that combined occasional flashes of excellence with more poor decisions and wasteful deliveries.

In the end, head coach Ernesto Valverde decided to freshen things up by introducing summer signing Malcom, who has been in danger of becoming frozen out after not starting a game all season.

Remarkably, Malcom immediately thrust himself to the forefront of Valverde’s consciousness by netting a well-taken opener. And although he didn’t spend enough time on the pitch to show whether that was a freak occurrence or a representative indication of his abilities, his goalscoring contribution is sure to open the debate over whether he should now leap ahead of Dembele in the Barca pecking order.

Messi will probably be back in action for Sunday’s league meeting with Real Betis, so the starting XI will look after itself. But the first bench option is very much up for grabs, and Malcom has finally become a part of that equation.

BARCA FLEX THEIR MUSCLE 

Ernesto Valverde and Arthur

Ernesto Valverde and Arthur

The season started with Messi publicly asserting in an unusually forthright manner that Barca were furiously focused on regaining the Champions League title for the first time since 2015, and everything they have done so far in the competition shows the captain’s words should not be taken lightly.

Almost without exception, Barca have reserved their best performances of the season for the Champions League, making light work of an apparently tough group to leave themselves on the brink of qualification with two games spare.

And after conceding a chance to Inter in the opening 30 seconds, they immediately settled into a highly impressive performance. From front to back, Barca looked compact, organised and well coordinated, comfortably smothering Inter’s attempted attacks and always posing problems in possession – and this, remember, was without Messi.

They should have been well ahead before half-time, with Luis Suarez going close on no less than four occasions as Inter’s defence was stretched to the maximum. When Malcom finally pounced to give his team the lead it looked like a well-deserved victory and, although Inter somehow snatched a point, a total of 26 efforts on goal told its own story for the dominant visitors.

LENGLET POSES A PROBLEM 

Inter Milan's Matteo Politano (L) and Barcelona's Clement Lenglet

Inter Milan’s Matteo Politano (L) and Barcelona’s Clement Lenglet

Barca boss Ernesto Valverde has been forced to cope without the services of World Cup-winning central defender Samuel Umtiti for the last few weeks, and at first that appeared to present a problem because the powerful Frenchman was undoubtedly one of the key factors behind Barca’s title triumph last season.

However, the ease with which Clement Lenglet has settled into the team has more than compensated for Umtiti’s absence, and given Valverde a selection dilemma when Umtiti returns to action in the next few weeks.

Lenglet, a summer signing from Sevilla, has looked calm and composed throughout his nine-game stint in the team, playing with a mature assurance which belies his lack of experience at the highest level.

On this occasion the 23 year-old former Nancy player was up against one of the game’s most highly rated forwards in the form of Mauro Icardi, but the Argentine international was kept extremely quiet by Lenglet’s intelligent positioning and sharp anticipation.

And although he will probably lose his place in the starting side when Umtiti returns to fitness, on current form he is not making that decision easy for Valverde.

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Inter Milan 1-1 Barcelona: Player ratings from the San Siro as Malcom and Milan Skriniar impress

Andy West 7/11/2018
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Mauro Icardi slots home Inter's equaliser

Barcelona were held to a 1-1 draw despite a dominating performance against Inter Milan in a rain-soaked San Siro.

Malcom gave Barca a deserved opener after several close calls in the latter stages, but Inter grabbed an unmerited leveller through Mauro Icardi with their first shot on target.

Here’s our player ratings for both sides from Milan.

INTER MILAN (4-2-3-1)

Handanovic 7. Made a steady stream of saves to keep his team in the game. None of them were spectacular but he avoided mistakes well.

Vrsaljko 5. Consistently pushed back by Coutinho, who gave him constant problems, and unable to many any attacking impact.

De Vrij 5. A poor early error to give Dembele a chance but and he struggled to contain Suarez throughout. Relieved to hear the final whistle.

Skriniar 7. Made a couple of key interventions to snuff out dangerous situations, and was probably Inter’s best outfield player without much competition.

Asamoah 6. Fired over after a rare venture forward but was otherwise forced to concentrate on defending against Dembele.

Vecino 5. Came close after 30 seconds but that proved to be the high point for both himself and the team. Overrun in midfield.

Brozovic 4. Ponderous in possession and slow to close down space, this was a really poor performance from a player with a big reputation.

Politano 5. Sent Inter’s best chance wide with a free header from the penalty spot, but otherwise made little headway down the right.

Nainggolan 4. Virtually invisible before being replaced an hour into the game, having made no significant contributions.

Perisic 6. Very quiet early on but grew into the game, delivering a dangerous second half cross to give Politano a decent chance.

Icardi 6. Barely had a kick in the first half as Barça cruised, and continued to do nothing until pouncing for the leveller.

SUBSTITUTES 

Valero 6. Offered a fresh dose of creativity to a previously pedestrian side, showing some flashes of attacking intent.

Candreva 5. Little chance to make an impact after appearing from the bench for the latter stages.

Martinez 6. Came on to bolster the attack in the latter stages and played his part by teeing up Icardi for the equaliser.

Malcom celebrates his opener

Malcom celebrates his opener

BARCELONA (4-3-3)

Ter Stegen 7. Had virtually nothing to do as his team bosses the game, but his few calls to action were executed well.

Roberto 7. Reliable coming forward and industrious in defence, this was a solid display to show why he is still first choice right back.

Pique 8. Almost flawless in the centre of defence, including an outstanding block on a rare chance for Icardi. Back to his best.

Lenglet 7. Anticipated well and acted decisively to snuff out Inter’s attacks, although one loose clearance created danger for his team.

Alba 7. Gave an injury scare as he hurt his back stretching to reach a through ball but recovered for another energy-packed display.

Rakitic 7. Kept things moving in midfield and drilled a low first half strike just wide. Provided a good link between midfield and attack.

Busquets 8. Imperious in the centre of the field, seeming to know what was happening two seconds before everyone else.

Arthur 7. Looked out of sorts in the early stages but soon settled to exert a cool control over possession, before being replaced by Vidal.

Dembele 6. Threatened in the opening minutes, but proceeded to deliver another hot and cold performance and was eventually replaced.

Suarez 7. Came close on four occasions in the opening half and always looked dangerous. Will be wondering how he didn’t score.

Coutinho 7. Regularly linked well with Suarez, coming close with a series of powerful long range efforts. Assisted Malcom for the opener.

SUBSTITUTES 

Vidal 6. Added for the last 20 minutes for some more midfield muscle, and did his job in an unusually controlled manner.

Malcom 7. Given a very rare outing as a late substitute for Dembele and made the most of it with practically his first touch, netting the opener.

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