Barcelona vs Napoli Preview and Lineups – UEL Round of 32

Napoli’s record-equaling ninth appearance in the Europa League knock-outs pits them against resurgent La Liga heavyweights Barcelona. If they are to stand any chance of making it out of this mouth-watering knock-out play-off tie, the Partenopei will have to be at their best at Camp Nou on Thursday.

Coming into this first-leg showdown, Napoli held reigning Serie A champions Inter to a 1-1 draw last time out, ending a run of three consecutive domestic triumphs. Excluding extra-time, they are unbeaten in all seven competitive matches in 2022 (W4, D3), scoring 2+ goals on four occasions. 

However, Luciano Spalletti’s men have secured their place in the Europa League knock-outs by the skin of their teeth. A ‘goal-friendly’ 3-2 home victory over Leicester City handed the Partenopei a runner-up finish in Group C at the expense of the Premier League side. The Napoli boss also believes that Diego Armando Maradona would support his side against Barcelona (via beIN Sports).

On the other hand, Barcelona’s first failed attempt to make it out of the Champions League group stages in 17 years offers them a huge opportunity to avoid another trophyless season. In addition to bowing out of two domestic cup competitions, the Blaugrana are on the verge of missing out on the La Liga crown following a topsy-turvy campaign. 

Back to Europe’s second-tier competition for the first time since the 2003/04 season, Barca carry a reputation as one of the hottest favourites to claim the prize. Motivation should not be lacking as the Catalans aim for their first-ever triumph in the UEFA Cup/Europa League. 

Barcelona vs Napoli Head-to-Head

Barcelona ousted Napoli from their most recent European two-legged tie, coming out on top of their 2019/20 Champions League last-16 showdown. Following a 1-1 first-leg draw in Naples, Lionel Messi-inspired 3-1 return-leg triumph at Camp Nou catapulted the Spaniards to the competition’s quarter-finals.

Barca have racked up a decent 50% win ratio against Italian clubs in major European competition (GP60 – W30, D18, L12). However, they have been nothing short of exceptional in UEFA-sanctioned home meetings with such rivals, boasting a resounding 89% unbeaten rate (W19, D5, L3). 

Meanwhile, Napoli’s recent European record against Spanish sides reads indifferently (W6, D6, L8). But the Partenopei have struggled on Spanish soil of late, suffering seven defeats in their last ten visits to the country (W3). It gets worse, as Napoli lament an embarrassing all-time two-legged tie record against La Liga teams, having won one of their eight such engagements (L7).

Barcelona Preview

Luuk de Jong’s last-gasp equaliser gave Barcelona a hard-earned 2-2 draw against Espanyol at the weekend, extending their unbeaten run in domestic football to three games (W2, D1). Moreover, since falling to a 1-0 defeat to Real Betis in early December, the Blaugrana have won back-to-back home matches in La Liga despite conceding precisely twice on each occasion.

But there is a silver lining for Napoli here. In addition to Barca’s recent defensive woes, they have lost three of their last five European home outings, all of which yielded three-goal margins. What’s more, Xavi’s men have only netted two goals in six European fixtures this season, highlighting their underwhelming start to life after Messi. 

Yet, a raft of top-class January signings gives Barcelona plenty to look forward to in the remainder of the season. The signings of Adama TraoreFerran Torres and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should help Xavi address his side’s scoring problems. 

Napoli Preview

Despite reaching the Europa League knock-outs, Napoli’s performances in the competition have flattered to deceive. The Italians shipped an average of 1.66 goals in the Europa League group stages, while in Serie A, they boast an impressive record of 0.68 goals conceded per game on average. 

High scoring was a common theme in the visitors’ Europa League group fixtures this season, with all three seeing 3+ goals and both teams on the scoresheet. So an exciting, action-packed affair is not off limits. Napoli can draw confidence from their recent away showings, having won their last two league matches on the road by an identical 2-0 scoreline. 

Spalletti will turn to highly-rated striker Victor Osimhen to deliver the goods in the final third after coming back from injury. The Nigerian star has clocked up four goals in just 168 minutes of Europa League action this season, while his header served to open the scoring in a 2-0 victory at Bologna in Napoli’s more recent road trip. 

Barcelona vs Napoli Predicted Line-ups

Barcelona (4-3-3): Marc-Andre ter Stegen; Sergino Dest, Gerard Pique, Eric Garcia, Jordi Alba; Frenkie de Jong, Sergio Busquets, Pedri; Gavi, Luuk de Jong, Adama Traore.

Napoli (4-2-3-1): David Ospina; Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Amir Rrahmani, Kalidou Koulibaly, Mario Rui; Fabian Ruiz, Zambo Anguissa; Matteo Politano, Piotr Zielinski, Lorenzo Insigne; Victor Osimhen.