Napoli vs Barcelona. Prediction and Preview. Probable Lineups, Team News, Stats, and more

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Both sides claimed the league title last year, but are in crisis now. Who is more motivated to advance further?

SSC Napoli will host FC Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 match at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona. The fixture will take place on Thursday, February 22, beginning at 01:30 IST.

Parimatch News will tell you everything you need to know ahead of the upcoming match.

Napoli News & Current Form: 

Last season’s Napoli vs Barcelona poster would have been worthy of a Champions League final. Then Xavi triumphantly took the national championship, revived Catalonia from the ashes. And Luciano Spalletti simply dominated in Italy, winning Serie A incredibly easily for Napoli. 

But the situation has changed since then. Probably, this is the most problematic pairing among all the others at the Champions League 1/8 finals stage. It is unlikely that the teams will show meaningful football, worthy of the playoffs, but the Eurocup remains their only chance to save the failed season, so a very fundamental struggle awaits us.

With Walter Mazzarri things were going very badly, so the management shook things up by inviting a new coach a day before the match in the 1/8 finals of the UCL. Francesco Calzona became the 3rd coach for the season. Last season this specialist worked in Luciano Spalletti’s coaching staff, so he is familiar with Napoli players and will be able to find a common language with them.

Recently appointed coach of SSC Napoli – Francesco Calzona

The club bosses required the previous 2 coaches to play a 4-3-3 scheme, vertical football with a fluid and active offense. Calzona is a perfect fit, it’s his favorite tactic. There is a prospect of a productive game – despite the negative performance, the Neapolitans are 3rd in Serie A in xG with 38.

Napoli, last year’s Champions League quarterfinalist, faced another Spanish grandee Real Madrid CF in the group stage (2-3 home and 4-2 away). However, the Blue and White easily defeated SC Braga and FC Union Berlin to take second place in the C quartet. 

The Blues have fully experienced all the syndromes of the post-championship season. If at the beginning of last year Napoli’s tactics were copied by top European teams and the team deservedly became Serie A triumphant, now the club is only 9th in the overall standings with 1 game to spare and 5 points behind the European Cup zone, with a 27-point gap from first place. Since the beginning of 2024, the club lost in the Supercoppa Italiana final to FC Inter Milan(0:1) and have won just 2 times in the last 6 rounds.

A week ago, the Parthenopeans lost away to AC Milan (1:0), and last weekend they drew with Genoa CFC (1:1) in the 25th round of Serie A: the opposition took the lead on 47 minutes thanks to Morten Frendrup, but Cyril Ngonge restored parity in the end. 

As a small consolation, this draw kept the Neapolitans’ unbeaten streak at home intact: they have not lost any of their last five Serie A matches at the Stadio Maradona. 

At the moment, the club has no serious personnel losses, so the coaching staff can not help but be happy. However, there is some uncertainty about the readiness of key striker Victor Osimhen, who only recently suffered a setback in the CAF African Cup of Nations final with Nigeria

In any case, wingers Matteo Politano (6 goals and 3 assists) and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (6 goals and 3 assists) will operate on the flanks of the attack. Last weekend, Alex Meret, who has been injured since late December, returned to the gate for the hosts. During the January transfer window, Eljif Elmas (2 goals in 11 games) moved to RB Leipzig due to lack of game practice in Italy.

Barcelona News & Current Form: 

The Catalans are going through very troubled times. Their financial situation is catastrophic. If it does not improve by the beginning of next season, the team will have to either look for a foreign investor or sell their top players. 

Chaos also reigns in the camp of the team – it is noticeable both by the results and news in the Spanish media. The club is banally lacking confidence in the future, because despite the fact that Xavi announced his departure at the end of the season, Joan Laporta can change the coach in case of a departure from Napoli. Obviously, there is a huge amount of pressure on both coach and players in such circumstances.

Having won the Champions League five times in their history, Barcelona have returned to the playoffs of the competition after two years of not being there. The Blaugrana made it to Group H and lived up to expectations by finishing in 1st place: with a record of 4 wins and 2 losses, the Catalans were ahead of FC Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk and Royal Antwerp FC.

In the national championship, the blue-granates are 8 points behind leading Real Madrid in the race for the title and are third in the standings. Barcelona are also unstable when looking at the 2023/24 season as a whole. However, in this particular stretch, Xavi’s team looks confident – they have 10 points in the last four La Liga rounds. 

Having suffered a fiasco in the final of the Supercopa de Espana and eliminated from the Copa del Rey at the quarter final stage, Barça did not lose in the last 4 rounds of the championship (3 wins and 1 draw). After a 3:3 draw with Granada CF, Xavi’s men struggled to take a 1:2 lead over crisis-stricken RC Celta last weekend. 

Robert Lewandowski gave the Catalans the lead on 45 minutes, but right after the break the hosts equalized: Iago Aspas scored on 47 minutes. The victory of the blue-granates brought a double Lewandowski, in the seventh minute he successfully scored a penalty.

Failures this season are due to the adaptation of opponents to Xavi’s style. The coach decided to restructure, 3-4-3 is an innovative scheme that does not bring results, but contributes to the attacking game. Barcelona are more often than anyone else in La Liga, leading in the number of chances (89), while Robert Lewandowski remains the best in terms of expected goals – 14.6 xG.

The Catalans are also feeling more optimistic about the return of Marc-Andre ter Stegen to the field after a serious injury. The main goalkeeper of Blaugrana took part in 4 official meetings between Barcelona and Napoli. He failed to keep his goal intact even once.

Goalie of FC Barcelona Marc-Andre ter Stegen returned to the field after after recovery from a serious injury

Gavi is absent from Barça’s squad (cruciate ligament tear), the same goes for left midfielder Alejandro Balde. Experienced Marcos Alonso and Sergi Roberto, as well as Portuguese Joao Felix and Ferran Torres are still unavailable. 

In total, the upcoming opponents played eight face-to-face matches, but only four were official – two each in the UEFA Europa League and Champions League. In the 1/8 finals of the Champions League 2019/20 Napoli of Gennaro Gattuso worthily opposed to Barcelona of Quique Setién in the first match, which ended in a 1:1 draw, but at Camp Nou the Catalans closed the question of the winner of the pair even in the first half – 3:1.

Two years later, the teams crossed paths at the 1/8 finals stage, but now in the Europa League. A 1:1 draw in the first leg again kept the intrigue before the return match, but in the end the story of two years ago was repeated – after the first half Barcelona led 3:1, and after the break the teams exchanged goals and the match ended with a confident victory of the Spanish with a score of 4:2.

So, for four official matches Napoli has never beaten Barcelona – two draws and two defeats with a total score of 5:9. Already on the 22nd of February Italians have the opportunity to take revenge on the Catalan team to leave it out of the European tournament at the third attempt.

Napoli form guide: W-L-DW-L-D

Barcelona form guide: L-L-W-W-D-W

Napoli vs Barcelona Head-To-Head Record:

  • August 8, 2020: Barcelona 3 – 1 Napoli (UEFA Champions League);
  • February 17, 2022: Barcelona 1 – 1 Napoli (UEFA Europa League);
  • February 24, 2022: Napoli 2 – 4 Barcelona (UEFA Europa League).

Napoli vs Barcelona Predicted XI:

Napoli’s possible starting lineup (4-3-3): Meret; Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Jesus, Rui; Anguissa, Lobotka, Cajuste; Politano, Osimhen, Kvaratskhelia.

Barcelona’s possible starting lineup (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Kounde, Araujo, Martinez, Cancelo; De Jong, Gundogan, Pedri; Yamal, Lewandowski, Roque.

Statistical preview of the match Napoli vs Barcelona:

  • Napoli’s First XI average age is 27.4 years, Barcelona’s First XI average age is 27.8 years.
  • The total value of Napoli’s squad is 535 mln euros, while the total of Barcelona comes up to 863 mln euros.
  • Felix Zwayer has been appointed as the center referee. The referee has already served 23 games this season, showing an average of 4.65 Yellow Cards and also whistles 22 fouls per game. 
  • Barcelona have not lost to Napoli in the last 6 head-to-head meetings in all tournaments.
  • In 8 previous duels in different competitions, the Catalans suffered only 1 defeat in regulation time.
  • In 5 past clashes Napoli celebrated only 1 victory.
  • Napoli earn an average of 0.24 penalties per game (8 in 33 matches), while Barcelona earn 0.14 (5 in 36).
  • Barcelona have made at least 14 shots on the opponent’s goal in 23 of 36 (63.8%) matches.  
  • Napoli are averaging 6.21 corners, while Barcelona are averaging 6.03. 
  • Barcelona managed to qualify for the Champions League playoffs for the first time since the 2020/21 season.
  • In the Champions League group stage, Napoli received an average of 1.83 yellow cards, while Barcelona received 2.13. 

What has been said before the match:

“I thank Walter Mazzarri, a friend of the De Laurentiis family and of Napoli, for having supported the team in a complex moment. He will remain in the hearts of the Neapolitans and of our family. Welcome back to Francesco Calzona, who has already worked with us both with Sarri and with Spalletti,” said the Napoli President Aurelio De Laurentiis.

Midfielder Ilkay Gundogan about playing in Barcelona and upcoming meeting with Napoli in Champions League fixture:

“I love this kind of pressure. Every game starts from zero. The fact they have just changed managers won’t make it any easier for us. If anything, it makes it even harder.”

“There are other teams in the competition with more of a chance and better experience, but if we can reach the quarter finals, we are entering special territory. I am a realist, but I also know it’s difficult for everybody.”

“Xavi played a huge role in me coming to Barcelona. If our conversations had gone another way, I wouldn’t be here. He made the difference and I’m grateful for that. I didn’t expect him to announce he was leaving at the end of the season but I respect his decision. He should get a lot of credit. He thinks about his family, the players and the club before himself. Xavi loves Barça.”

“I knew I was coming to one of the biggest clubs in the world. With thousands of fans and opinions about all kinds of things. I try to strike some kind of balance.”

Napoli vs Barcelona Prediction:

For both clubs, the Champions League is the last chance to save a turbulent season. Two extremes will collide in this match: Napoli fail to win in 6 consecutive head-to-head meetings against the Blaugrana, while Barça have problems with results in the away matches in the European Cups (they have won only 6 from their recent 16 outings; 4 losses and 6 draws).

Compared to last season, the level of play of the teams in defense has decreased, while the spearhead of the attack on both sides is still represented by top strikers – Victor Osimhen and Robert Lewandowski, who can produce goals from the half moments, sometimes out of nothing. 

Barcelona have conceded three goals or more three times in their last six matches. Marc-Andre ter Stegen has recovered from injury, but has yet to gain the necessary fitness, and without his saves, the Catalan defense is a rather disappointing spectacle. The modest Granada provides a testament of this. Barcelona are unlikely to take the initiative in an away game, but a furious Napoli are maximally motivated to play first fiddle. A change of coach could have a favorable effect on the hosts, as well as the return of the attacking leader. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia also hasn’t shone for a long time. It seems that in the match against Barcelona it is time for Napoli’s elite strikers to step up. We expect a productive game from the attack-minded teams with at least 2 goals, where the Italians will at least be able to hold on for a draw. 

Parimatch News staff prediction:

We say: Napoli will not lose and the total of the match will be over 1.5 – Yes.

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