in ,

Champions League preview: Napoli and Barcelona in turmoil ahead of key clash

A Champions League last-16 tie between the reigning champions of Italy and Spain should be mouth-watering, but Napoli and Barcelona both head into this encounter shrouded in uncertainty.

Napoli needed a late goal to salvage a draw against Genoa in Serie A last weekend, and that seems to have been the final straw for interim coach Walter Mazzarri, who is expected to be replaced by Slovakian coach Francesco Calzona in the near future.

It’s no surprise that Napoli are making a change, given that they sit ninth in the table domestically, a massive 27 points behind leaders Inter.

The Neapolitans will be hoping that a big European shock can provide a welcome distraction as they bid to reach the quarter-finals for only the second time.

But having won just two of their last 16 meetings with Spanish sides (D5 L9), the home fans could be in for more pain.

This is the third time in five seasons that these two teams have met in the last 16, and Barcelona have won both previous ties.

Xavi’s side will be looking to make it a hat-trick in Italy, and they arrive in Naples on the back of a four-match unbeaten run domestically (W3 D1).

However, their hopes of retaining the La Liga title appear to be over, as they currently trail Real Madrid by eight points.

That at least allows the Blaugrana to focus on Europe.

With the Champions League final being played at Wembley this year, the Blaugrana will be keen to reach it, having already won the title twice at the famous stadium.

Getting to the quarter-finals would be a good start, though, as the club hasn’t been there since 2019/20, and with Barca having won just one of their last 10 away knockout matches in the Champions League (D4 L5), they will have their work cut out to achieve that.

Players to watch: Napoli captain Giovanni Di Lorenzo provided the assist for the equalizer last weekend, taking his tally of direct goal contributions to nine this season (2 goals, 7 assists). He will have his hands full trying to contain Robert Lewandowski, who has scored four goals in his last three games.

Hot stat: Since Matchday 6 of the Champions League group stage, Napoli have only scored before half-time in two of their 12 matches.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

GIPHY App Key not set. Please check settings

Inter Milan final training session before Atletico Madrid clash

Barcelona eye Khvicha Kvaratskhelia as future target