Napoli vs Barcelona: preview, team news, starting XIs
Barcelona face a tough task in the Champions League at the San Paolo against a Napoli side who have a daunting European record at home.
Barcelona and Leo Messi will take a step into the unknown on Tuesday evening when they take to the pitch at the San Paolo to face Napoli, in the first official meeting of the clubs in history. Quique Setién will oversee his first-ever Champions League game after taking over at Camp Nou in January while for his side the spectre of previous Italian jobs looms large: Barça have not won in Italy since April 2006 – a 1-0 win over Milan – losing four and drawing once in their subsequent five visits and failing to score at all in the last 360 minutes they have endured on Italian soil. On their last visit, Ernesto Valverde refused to fiddle while his Champions League ambitions burned in Rome.
For Messi, the game holds greater resonance. The Argentina star is revered the world over but in Naples there is only one god and his name is Diego. The Barcelona number 10 will have to avoid the shadow of the Napoli great in the San Paolo, although he will doubtless be reminded of his predecessor in that shirt for Argentina at every possible opportunity – Maradona may even make the trip, which could prove mildly distracting.
See also: Insigne won't compare Messi and Maradona
Barça’s players have had some practice at turning a blind eye over the past month, with off-field institutional faux pas coming thick and fast as Messi and others have barely managed to keep things together on the pitch. Last weekend was cathartic for the Blaugrana: a 5-0 drubbing of Eibar, with Messi in sublime form, was tonic enough for the Setién’s side but Real Madrid’s unexpected defeat at Levante handed Barça the initiative in LaLiga.
Setién will have to carry the mood generated at Camp Nou on Saturday over to one of the most partisan stadiums in Europe, where Napoli have a daunting record of having scored in all but one of their last 20 home matches in the Champions League and are unbeaten in seven at the San Paolo in European competition.
Napoli starting XI vs Barcelona
Ospina, Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Maksimovic, Mario Rui, Fabian, Demme, Zielinski, Callejon, Mertens, Insigne.
Barcelona starting XI vs Napoli
Ter Stegen, Semedo, Piqué, Umtiti, Junior, De Jong, Busquets, Vidal, Rakitic, Messi, Griezmann.
Napoli vs Barcelona: injuries and suspensions
Kalidou Koulibaly has played only one game for Napoli in 2020 and is a serious doubt with a thigh issue alongside full backs Faouzi Ghoulam and Elseid Hysaj. Right back Kévin Malcuit is a long-term absentee, potentially leaving Gattuso with an issue at the back with only Di Lorenzo available for that role.
The wafer-thin nature of Barça’s squad has been well-documented in recent weeks and new arrival Martin Braithwaite is ineligible for Europe, leaving Setién with little in reserve. Sergi Roberto, Jordi Alba, Ousmane Dembélé and Luis Suárez are all out meaning that Barça B players Ronald Araújo, Riqui Puig, Alex Collado, Sergio Akieme and keeper Iñaki Peña all make the trip.
Napoli vs Barcelona: what the managers said
“We know we’re going to be playing against an extraordinary team tomorrow and we’re well aware that it’s going to be very tough, but that said I don’t want to see any fear from the players. We have maximum respect for Barcelona, but I want us to show no fear and play positively. The most important thing for me is that we continue to play as a team, as we have been recently.”
“It's a game that I think will be exciting – I hope that it goes down in history because we have played well and shown personality. I always tell the players that we have to expect the best version of our opposition. Every team needs to give their all and this match will be no different. I know what Napoli are capable of doing.”
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