The Champions League has been a silver lining in an otherwise dismal season for Napoli. At least up until New Year. After finishing second in the Serie A last season, it was expected that they would challenge Juventus for the title again. Things went south under Carlo Ancelotti though leaving Gennaro Gattuso to pick up the pieces.
In recent weeks there have been signs of improvement with a win against Juventus being one of three wins from their last four league matches. Coupled with their triumph against Inter in the Coppa Italia makes one wonder, whether an upset could be on the cards here? Amazingly it is the first time Napoli and Barcelona face each other in a European tie. Perhaps Diego Maradona will be watching wherever he is on Tuesday night? Napoli came from behind to defeat Brescia in their Serie A clash at the weekend.
Naturally, a match against Barcelona is a completely different kettle of fish than facing Barca. A win is still good for morale though. Unfortunately for the home side, they will be without centre-back and Tower of Power Kalidou Koulibaly for this first leg. Barcelona made it four wins in a row in La Liga. They were able to comfortably beat Eibar by five goals to nil on Saturday in little more than a training-session.
Lionel Messi was in imperial form scoring four of the five goals. He will need to lead his side well in the absence of Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele. New signing Martin Braithwaite is unable to feature in the Champions League. Barcelona has won 4 and drawn 1 of their last 5 Champions League matches. They have scored at least 2 goals in 4 of their last 5 Champions League matches. Both teams have scored in 4 of Barcelona’s last 5 Champions League matches.
Napoli has won 5 and drawn 2 of their last 7 home Champions League matches. Liverpool has been among the victims at San Paolo this season. Napoli has scored the first goal in 9 of their last 11 home Champions League matches. Napoli has turned their form around under Gennaro Gattuso but this will be a real test of their credentials.
Hosting Barcelona is about as tough a visitor one can get. The Spanish champions have shown signs of improvement themselves of late. Perhaps players are taking to the tactics of their new manager? Napoli kept things really tight in recent big matches against Juventus and Inter. They will go for similar tactics here and we don’t think goals will be flowing freely.