Barcelona takes huge step towards last 16 of Champions League

MADRID, Nov. 24 -- Reigning Champions FC Barcelona took a huge step towards qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League following a 2-0 win at home to Inter Milan.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Barcelona's Pedro Rodriguez (C) celebrates with teammates Dani Alves (R) and Sergio Busquets after scoring against Inter Milan during their Champions League soccer match at Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona November 24, 2009.

First half goals from Gerard Pique and Pedro Rodriguez were enough to give the Catalans all three points and the result leaves them top of Group and needing just a point from their trip to Kiev in two weeks time to assure a place in the knockout stage.

The run up to the game had been dominated by speculation as to whether Barcelona duo Leo Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovich would be able to shake off injuries in time to start.

Messi was struggling with a groin strain picked up in Bilbao on Saturday, while Ibrahimovich had a hamstring problem.

In the end both started the game on the substitutes' bench with Pedro Rodriguez and Thierry Henry in the starting 11. Eric Abidal was also a surprise starter after having recovered from his case of Swine Flu.

The news of the 0-0 draw in the other Group F game between Rubin Kazan and Dynamo Kiev, which had kicked off two hours earlier, took some pressure off Barcelona, meaning a win would take Pep Guardiola's team back to the top of their group.

Had Rubin won in Russia, a defeat in the Camp Nou would have seen Barcelona out of the competition.

Buoyed by that news Barcelona started strongly forcing three corners in the first 10 minutes. From the third of those Pique opened the scoring: Xabi Hernandez crossed, Thierry Henry got a touch and Pique finished at the far post.

Inter remained true to its defensive style of play and the game ran the risk of getting out of control as the Italians committed a series of fouls in the middle of the park.

Pedro Rodriguez doubled Barcelona's lead after 25 minutes, volleying home a cross from right back Dani Alves.

If Inter had any hopes of getting back into the match in the second half, they were soon to disappear. Although Jose Mourinho's side tried to pressure further up field, Barca remained in control.

With Xabi and Iniesta back to their best, Barcelona was able to move the ball around to the frustration of the Italians.

The fact that Inter only managed three shots in all of the game says everything about Barcelona's control and that will give Guardiola's men the perfect morale boost for the visit of Real Madrid next Sunday.

Elsewhere Dragutinovich's own goal at the end of the first half saw Sevilla slip to its first European defeat of the campaign away to Rumanian side Urinrea Urziceni.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Barcelona's Thierry Henry (C) heads the ball between Inter Milan's Lucio (R) and Walter Samuel during their Champions League soccer match at Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona November 24, 2009.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Inter Milan's Samuel Eto'o (R) argues with Barcelona's Carles Puyol during their Champions League soccer match at Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona November 24, 2009.