European football is finally back. We pick right off from where we left in December, and the business end of the tournament is here and so is the exhilarating – now or never nature of knockout!
Finally, midweeks would be interesting as Champions League and Europa League are back.
Barcelona will play against Napoli in the round of 16 ties, but not in the champions league, but in the Europa League. Barcelona finished third in the group behind Bayern and Benfica, and as a result, have entered Europe’s second chance at glory.
It’s not as shinny as the champions league, but it’s still a European trophy worth fighting for.
And Barcelona’s first fight is against Napoli at home.
Napoli finished 2nd in their Europa League group and qualified for the round of 16. They will look to capitalize on their incredible Serie A form this season and channel it against the side from Catalonia.
It’s FC Barcelona vs SSC Napoli at the Camp Nou on Thursday night, and it’s going to be a fierce battle.
This will be the 5th meeting of both these sides on the European stage. The previous 4 encounters heavily tilt towards Barcelona’s favor.
They have defeated the Italian side on 3 occasions and once, points were shared between the two sides. So, Napoli has never defeated Barcelona as we head into the 5th meeting.
The aggregate scoreline of the 4 previous games is Barcelona 10 and Napoli 3.
Barcelona under their new coach Xavi has won only twice in the last 6 matches. in the remaining 4, they drew twice and lost twice.
They are 4th on the table but the recent victory against Atletico Madrid will surely serve as a boast heading into Thursday.
Napoli on the other hand is 3rd on the table and are very much the contenders to win the Serie A, along with the Milan clubs.
They have won 4 of their last 6 matches, and the two results that went south included a draw against Inter and a defeat in the Coppa Italia against Fiorentina.
The previous match between Barcelona and Napoli in a major European competition saw Barcelona defeat the Italians in the UEFA Champions League Last 16 round in 2019-20. Barcelona won the second game 3-1 at Camp Nou after the first match ended 1-1 in Naples.
Barcelona’s last 191 games in European competition, excluding qualifiers, the Supercup, and the Club World Cup, have all been in the UEFA Champions League, with this being their first match in Europe’s secondary competition since 2003-04 when they were eliminated by Celtic in the UEFA Cup’s Last 16. Both legs were started by Barcelona manager Xavi.
Victor Osimhen of Napoli has scored four goals in just 168 minutes of UEFA Europa League play this season, scoring in each of his last three games despite not starting two of them. He is averaging a goal every 42 minutes, which is the best rate of any player who has scored at least two goals this season.
This one is hard to predict anything can go down in this contest. Napoli is in a good form this season and they won’t be afraid of going to Camp Nou to get a result.
Barcelona on the other hand has found some new hope under their new man in charge Xavi. They are in 4th place in La Liga, and the way things were, a couple of months back, a top 4 standing is commendable.
Both the sides are in good form and the result will probably be close. But since it’s the Camp Nou, we would say the odds are slightly in favor of Barcelona in this first leg.
But only slightly!