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Napoli - Barcelona Prediction: The Catalan Side a Slight Favorite to Qualify

15.2.2024 19:00 GMT

Kvara Osimhen goal
Kvaratskhelia and Osimhen needs to find each other more than ever against Barcelona. Pic:

Perhaps the most interesting UCL round of 16 knockout fixture kicks off at Diego Armando Maradona Stadium on 21st of February when Napoli host's Barcelona.

Currently sitting at number three in La Liga standings, Barcelona has played a mixed season thus far. Many had higher expectations for Xavi’s squad compared to current results. 

Although Barcelona finished number 1 in the group stage, the road to this accomplishment wasn’t convincing. Barcelona lost to much weaker teams in the way, as Royal Atwerp defeated the Catalan side 3 - 2, and Shakhtar Donetsk beat Barcelona 1 - 0.

Barcelona managed to complete a transfer when the January transfer window opened, as Vitor Roque arrived to strengthen the Catalan’s squad in a transfer which was confirmed already during last summer. 

Similar hype is surrounding Roque’s transfer as did Neymar’s 10 years ago. Could he be the player that turns the tide against Napoli?

Vitor Roque goal
Vitor Roque, a future talisman for Brazil and Barcelona? Pic:

Vitor Roque could bring exciting energy from the bench, but i don’t consider him as the player who will make a difference in the Champions League playoffs.

Robert Lewandowski has scored 10 goals in La Liga this season, but managed only hit the net once in the UCL. 

It’s clear without a shadow of a doubt that he needs to find his form if Barcelona fancies to go all the way this season. Lewa’s movement and agility has recessed in the later stages of his career with the Catalans.

Barcelona’s midfield engine Gavi has been injured since November. Due to this Barcelona’s attacking build-up play has suffered drastically, although Ilkay Gundogan is doing a decent job in Gavi’s role.

In a familiar fashion Barcelona has given the spotlight for the future talents. One of these players is only 16-years old Lamine Yamal, who arrived to the senior squad this season with a storm.

Napoli’s season has been a complete disaster. The Neapolitan side is at risk missing even the less prestigious European cup’s next season, as they have fallen in the Serie A midtable this campaign.

However they still have a chance to salvage their faces in the UCL. It's still realistic, although far away from probable.

Victor Osimhen and Kvicha Kvaratskhelia are the stars for the Italian club. You could never underestimate their value for the club as Kvara was named Serie A’s MVP last season, while Victor Osimhen scored the most goals in the league.

Napoli lives and dies with these gentlemen. Both had a difficult first half of the campaign, but I believe they’ll find last season’s form eventually. Napoli’s attacking play hasn’t been the same as the two stars have played out of form.

Partenopei’s bigger issue relies on the defense. Last season Napoli was infamous for a solid defense but this season the case has been a complete opposite.

Last season’s defensive cornerstone Kim Min-Jae was transferred to Bayern Munich which left a big hole in the reigning scudetto holders, as Napoli didn’t replace the Korean giant with any signing.

It also didn’t help the matters when Kosovo’s national team player Adil Rrahmani was injured during autumn.

Napoli’s lack of depth became obvious in the first half of the season but they were busy in the January transfer window.

New signings were important as the bench players couldn’t carry the burden when Kvara and Osimhen were out of form. 

The top stars are also consistently involved in the rumors to leave the club. At least Kvara is heavily linked to a transfer for Newcastle in England.

I believe that we will see a match-up where both teams approach the game with attacking minded football. Both side’s have some fragility in the defense which the attackers try to expose.

Napoli and Barcelona have a pretty much equal shot to qualify, although Barca is slightly the favorite.


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