Italian and Spanish clubs will clash when Napoli and Barcelona meet in the Champions League round of 16. With the first leg being hosted by Napoli, this match is especially important for the Italian club to try to build a lead against a Barcelona team facing questions in its attack.
Napoli vs. Barcelona Tune-In Information:
When: Tuesday, February 25
Time: 3:00 p.m. ET
Napoli finished second in its Champions League group, just one point behind defending champions Liverpool. The team comes into this match having won three straight domestic contests and will hope to continue its run of success in this match. Dries Mertens has scored five goals in the Champions League campaign for Napoli, putting him in the top 10 in goals scored in the competition thus far. If Napoli is able to surprise the perennial contenders for this tournament’s title, Mertens will be a key piece of the puzzle.
Barcelona finished atop its group, beating out the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Inter Milan to get the coveted top spot. However, Barca comes into the knockout stages with injuries to its strike force, most notably to Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele. While Barcelona is always dangerous with Lionel Messi on the pitch, it will require one of Barca’s best efforts to make up for the team’s absences up front. With a spot in the quarterfinals on the line against Napoli, the experience of Barcelona will be a key factor.
Barca had 70 per cent of the possession in the first half, but Quique Setien’s side were unable to muster a single shot on target in the opening 45 minutes.
Lionel Messi was forced to drop deep and without injured forwards Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele, the Catalans struggled to find spaces in and around the Napoli area.
Napoli’s forwards offered only an intermittent threat on the counter-attack, but Gennaro Gattuso’s side took the lead with their first real opportunity after half an hour.
Junior Firpo lost the ball to Piotr Zielinski and the Pole sent a low ball across to left side of the area for Dries Martens, who checked back and curled a shot past a static Marc-Andre ter Stegen from the edge of the box – although the Belgian’s effort took a slight deflection off Gerard Pique’s chest on its way in.
Barcelona improved after the break and equalised after 57 minutes, when Sergio Busquets played a pinpoint pass through to Nelson Semedo and the Portuguese in turn crossed low for Antoine Griezmann to net the equaliser from close range.
Messi almost went through with a couple of runs after that, but Barca had Marc-Andre ter Stegen to thank for a super save from Jose Callejon.
Barca went down to 10 men in the closing stages after Arturo Vidal was sent off for two yellow cards in quick succession, following a crunching tackle and a angry reaction in which he clashed heads with Mario Rui.
The Catalans will also be without Sergio Busquets for the second leg after he was booked and saw Gerard Pique limp off in the closing stages, leaving Setien’s side down to the bare bones for the return in three weeks’ time.