Napoli welcomes Barcelona as both sides look to advance to round of 16 of EL

Barcelona will travel to Napoli for the second leg of the Europa League playoffs after a 1-1 draw in the first leg at the Camp Nou.

Barcelona started the first half well in the first leg and created a decent number of chances that should have been put to bed as Piotr Zielinski punished them with the opening goal for the away side inside 30 minutes. Adama Traore once again proved to be a thorn in the opponent’s defence by winning a crucial penalty for Barcelona. 

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Ferran Torres made up for his previous misses as he slotted home the equaliser. Barcelona would go on to dominate Napoli as they were pinned back into their half. Dembele and Luuk de Jong’s arrival made a huge difference as both created two big chances, but Ferran Torres fluffed his lines on both occasions. 

Despite his equaliser, Ferran Torres had a night to forget after missing out on four clear chances that would have put this tie to bed. He will get another chance to redeem himself as the tie remains equally poised due to no away goal rule.

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This weekend, Napoli came from behind to secure a 1-1 draw against relegation-prone Cagliari after Victor Oshimen thumped his header in the 87th minute of the game. Spalletti’s men wasted a glorious opportunity to go top of the table as both Milan’s sides dropped points. Napoli will return home after two disappointing draws but will have to brush off their disappointments as they head into the second leg of the Europa League playoffs to seek their first-ever win over Barcelona in European competitions.

With a six-game unbeaten run in all competitions, the hosts will feel confident on home soil. However, Napoli has registered only two wins from their last six home games, which are concerning considering the away form of new-look Barcelona. Xavi’s side wasn’t clinical enough in the first leg. However, Barcelona bounced back outstandingly with a ruthless showdown against Valencia, as Aubameyang scored a hat-trick in his first start for the club in LaLiga with a 4-1 win. This win meant Barcelona are on a five-game unbeaten run in all competitions, having scored in all five games but just a single clean sheet in those games.

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Napoli has major fitness concerns as Giovanni Di Lorenzo was subbed off against Cagliari after the head clash incident. His replacement, Kevin Malcuit, also left the game with a calf issue. The hosts also find themselves without the services of Hirving Lozano, Matteo Politano, Stanislav Lobotka, Andre Zambo Anguissa and Lorenzo Insigne. Gerard Pique will replace Eric Garcia in the Barcelona backline alongside Ronald Araujo. Clement Lenglet and Memphis Depay will receive the green light to enter the squad as they return to training. Samuel Umtiti, Sergi Roberto, Ansu Fati, Alejandro Balde and Martin Braithwaite will all miss out on the visitors.

Despite the lack of options in the final third, Napoli can breach the shaky Barcelona defence, but any chances of advancing to the next round may be a little far-fetched. Another European exit will be disastrous for Barcelona, but if Xavi’s side replicates another clinical performance away from home, then they will get the job done.

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