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Napoli vs Barcelona preview, match details, line-ups and prediction

Barcelona’s final quest for silverware begin in the Champions League round of 16 clash away to Napoli at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

pedri barcelona 2023

Barcelona’s final quest for silverware begin in the Champions League round of 16 clash away to Napoli at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

The 27-time Spanish Laliga Champions have had a rollercoaster season so far. From losing in the Spanish Supercopa final to arch-rivals, Real Madrid, to being knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Athletic Bilbao, while also facing defeat in the Champions League to the likes of Shakhtar Donetsk and Royal Antwerp.

Despite going unbeaten in their last four La Liga matches where they recorded two victories, the 3:5 loss at home to Villarreal and the disappointing 3:3 draw against 19th-place Granada squashed any title hopes for the Catalan giants who now sit eight points behind log leaders, Real Madrid.

In comparison to the previous two seasons where they crashed out of the group stages of the Champions League, this season’s campaign could be viewed as positive as the Blaugrana recorded four wins and two losses. Two leg victories against FC Porto and home victories against Royal Antwerp and Shakhtar Donetsk ensured Barca finished the group stages at the cusp of group H on 12 points.

They enter this fixture at the back of an enthralling 1:2 victory away to Celta Vigo at the Estadio de Balaídos. Both teams had an array of chances to score in the opening 45 minutes. Ronald Araujo produced a significant goal-bound clearance to stop Rafa Benitez’s side from taking the lead.

On the other end, Xavi Hernandez’s team constantly caused Celta’s defence problems, particularly from the right wing with Lamine Yamal pulling strings.

On the stroke of half-time, Robert Lewandowski produced an emphatic strike to give Barcelona the lead. Los Celestes responded in the second half after Iago Aspas’ strike took a deflection from Jules Kounde to find the back of the net.

Xavi’s team were awarded a stoppage-time penalty, with Lewandowski seeing his initial effort saved by Vicente Guaita. Lewandowski was tasked to retake the penalty after a review showed Celta’s goalkeeper came off his line.

The veteran striker made no mistake the second time as he slotted the ball at the back of the net to secure all three points for Barca.

While the performance was not vintage from all fronts, the five-time Champions League winners will hope to build on the momentum ahead of their crucial first-leg clash against Napoli.

Napoli on the other hand, are in an abysmal run of form. The defending Serie A Champions are also a direct opposite of the formidable team they were last season.

However, their Champions League group stage run could be tagged as impressive after losing twice to Real Madrid alone while also finishing second on ten points only behind Madrid who sit at the cusp of Group C on 16 points.

While the 1-1 draw with Union Berlin set the tone for the sacking of former manager, Rudi Garcia, their double leg victory over Portuguese side, Braga and the 0:1 victory away to Union ensured all ten points were enough to solidify Gli Azzurri’s place in second.

In the domestic phase, Napoli have endured a drastic run of results and could be completely out of contention for a spot in Europe next season. This implies that winning the Champions League is their only chance of making another appearance next season.

Since the 2:0 victory against Braga on 12th December, the Serie Champions have only won four matches out of their last twelve across all competitions.

Their victories came against Cagliari, Salernitana, Fiorentina and Hellas Verona while also suffering heavy losses to Frosinone, Torino, AS Roma and AC Milan. They also lost in the Supercopa Italia to Inter Milan.

Draws against Monza, Lazio and Genoa in their last 12 streaks of matches have seen them drop drastically to 9th place on 36 points, a whopping 27 points adrift Inter in first place.

They enter this fixture at the back of another disappointing 1:1 draw with Genoa where a late Cyril Ngonge strike spared Napoli’s blushes to earn a point after Morten Frendrup gave the home side the lead.

Napoli versus Barcelona promises to be an exciting game between two sides looking to regain their best form. Fans have been using a ticket marketplace to try and secure last minute tickets for the game as they look to cheer their teams to victory.

Match stats and head-to-head 

• Napoli are yet to win against Barcelona in a major European fixture, having previously recorded two losses and two draws. In their last Champions League encounter in the 2019/20 season, the Italian side lost 4-2 to Barcelona on aggregate

• Barcelona’s 4-2 victory against Napoli at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona was the joint-most number of goals any team have scored in an European competition away to the Italian side. Manchester City are the other team to also record four away to Napoli goals in the thrilling 4:2 victory in November 2017.

• Both Napoli and Barcelona have netted goals against each other in each of their past four head-to-head fixtures.

• Barcelona have either scored or conceded at least one goal in the first half in all their Champions League matches this season.

• Barcelona have only recorded victory in one of their last ten away fixtures in the Champions League knockout stages.

• Both teams previously met in the knockout stages of the Champions League and Europa League with Barcelona advancing on both encounters after recording a stalemate in the first leg.

• There has been at least one penalty awarded in the last three matches between Napoli and Barcelona.

•  Napoli have conceded first in their last three matches at home

• Barcelona are yet to keep a clean sheet in 12 of their previous away matches.

• Barcelona are winless in their last three Champions League matches against an Italian side.

Napoli v Barcelona team news 

There are no new injury concerns for Napoli with first-choice goalkeeper Alex Meret back to the team following an injury layoff.

Victor Osimhen and André-Frank Zambo Anguissa have returned from their participation in the African Cup of Nations and could feature in the match against Barcelona.

It is unclear who would lead the technical and coaching crew against Barcelona with Walter Mazzarri’s feature hanging in the balance.

The club are already in negotiations with the Slovakian Federation to recoup Slovakia’s head coach, Francesco Calzona alongside former long-serving player and captain, Marek Hamsik to take over the managerial reins at the club.

For the visiting team, Barcelona’s joint-top scorer in the competition, Joao Felix, is ruled out of this fixture due to an ankle injury.

Alejandro Balde is also facing lengthy spells on the sidelines following a hamstring injury he suffered in the Copa del Rey against Athletic Bilbao.

Sergi Roberto is also out for several weeks due to an Achilles issue.

Marcos Alonso and Ferran Torres are both out with a back and thigh issue respectively while Gavi remains a long-term absentee.

Predicted starting line-ups

Napoli predicted XI:: Meret; Østigård, Rrahmani, Juan Jesus; Di Lorenzo, Zambo Anguissa, Lobotka, Mazzocchi; Politano, Osimhen, Kvaratskhelia

Barcelona predicted XI: Ter Stegen; Koundé, Araújo, Martínez, Cancelo; De Jong, Christensen, Gündoğan; Yamal, Lewandowski, Pedri

Prediction

The Spanish and Italian Champions clash in what should presumably have been a blockbuster clash.

Due to the dwindling form of both teams, expectations for a thrilling encounter are somewhat degraded.

However, Barcelona are the better side heading into this contest and should do enough to record a significant victory against an inconsistent Napoli side.

Barcelona’s defence is also a cause for concern and Napoli would count on their lethal attacker, Osimhen to capitalise on Barca’s leaky defence.

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