Napoli vs Barcelona, Champions League match announcement and forecast

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Champion of Italy vs Champion of Spain. Such a match should be central to the 1/8 finals of the Champions League, or at least arouse very high interest. Actually, he will, but for the wrong reasons. Both teams have almost forgotten that the champions have gone through so many storms and disappointments this season. “Napoli” changed their coach the day before yesterday.

November 21. 22:00. Champions League. 1/8 finals. The first match

Naples. “Diego Armando Maradona Stadium”

Napoli – Barcelona

Chief referee: Felix Zweyer (Germany)

Command status

For the first time in 27 years, Napoli have three head coaches in the same season. That is, for the first time during the reign of Aurelio De Laurentiis. The reason for this is the pace of the team’s worst season in Serie A for 15 years, the worst of any reigning champion of Italy by some calculations by 32, by others by 59. It is ninth in the league and closer in points to the relegation zone than even to second place, not to mention the first one.

Walter Mazzarri replaced Rudi Garcia, lasted the same number of league rounds (12), and scored six points less (15:21), and also shamefully flew out of the Cup with a 0:4 home loss to Frosinone. At the same time, he repeated that everything was fine, that the team was playing well and would play even better, and that it was creating a lot and deserved many more points.

In her last 11 matches in all tournaments, she won only three times. 3:0 over Fiorentina in the semi-final of the Super Cup – a powerful victory, although with the score 1:0, the opponent did not convert a penalty and this score stood until the 84th minute. But the other two are at home, against outsiders, with comebacks in the end. In the end, they managed to salvage a draw at home against league newcomers Genoa on Saturday.

Overall, the team seems stuck, lacking order, ideas, and even desire. The desire awoke only at the end of the last three matches when three defeats were turned into a win and a draw and seriously strained Milan. She has been playing well in top matches lately. But he doesn’t score on them. 0:1 from Inter and Milan, 0:0 from Lazio without shots on target for the Romans.

55-year-old Francesco Calzona is called upon to lead the team out of the crisis. He never coached a top-division team as a manager but spent 18 years as an assistant to Maurizio Sarri, including three years at Napoli. Then he worked for the same team for a year as an assistant to Luciano Spalletti, and in 2022 he left to coach the Slovakian national team, leading it to Euro 2024.

He still works in Slovakia, that is, he will do both. And his contract with the Neapolitans is only until the end of the season.

At Barcelona, the coach also leaves at the end of the season. Xavi has already officially announced this. Moreover, they can also change the coach before this. There is talk that they will change in the event of relegation from Napoli. There are rumors that they wanted to change him quite recently, but it was after Xavi’s announcement that Barca began to get results. She scored ten points and scored nine goals in the last four rounds of the league.

It is too early to celebrate the end of the crisis. 3:5 from Villarreal was recent, 1:4 from Real Madrid not so long ago. In the round before last, she barely pulled out 3:3 at home with outsider Granada, and in the previous round, 2:1 away with outsider Celta. Moreover, with goals in the 80th and 97th minutes. That is, like Napoli, it wakes up in the end. And Xavi, like Mazzarri, to the bewilderment of everyone, declares that he plays well.

With an eight-point gap to Real Madrid and elimination from the Cup and Super Cup, the Champions League becomes an even more important tournament. In which you want to rehabilitate yourself after two seasons of elimination in the group tournament.


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Both teams lead their leagues in ball possession by a decent margin. Mazzarri even stated that he was sick of opponents who put up barricades and he was glad for Barcelona, ​​which would not do this. The Neapolitans are also first in their league in shots on goal, the Catalans are second in theirs. That is, a bright, sharp attacking game? Considering the state of both teams, this is not at all a fact.


The main question for Napoli is Victor Osimhen. Due to the African Cup and poor condition after it, he did not play for the club in 2024. Today, it is believed that he will be able to play no more than an hour at best. So, will Giovanni Simeone come out again? Or will Calzona be pulled out of deep reserves by Giacomo Raspadori?

To the right of the forward, winter newcomer Ngong, who scored against Genoa, could make his debut in the starting lineup. Pushing Politano to the bench. On the left, a lot is demanded from the best player in Serie A in the previous season, Khvichi Kvaratskhelia. He scored with a great shot from distance three rounds ago, but overall he hasn’t done much this season.

The weakest position in the team now is that of the three defensive midfielders. Zielinski is not included in the squad for the Champions League playoffs due to a quarrel over a new contract. Winter newcomer Traore has just started, and summer newcomer Cajuste is very weak.

Calzona is primarily called in because he is familiar with the club and is also a fan of the 4-3-3 formation that Garcia and Mazzarri were keen to change. This means that out of the central defenders Estigor, Rrahmani, Jesus, and Nathan, we need to choose two. On the left, you can even choose from three – Rui, Olivera, and Mazzocchi.

The first goalkeeper Meret returned, moving Gollini.

Barcelona has much fewer options due to injuries to Ferran Torres and Felix. The latter returns, but not in the starting lineup. Lewandowski, Roque, and Yamal played together in Vigo, but for such a match, it is believed that Xavi will not dare to field such an adventurous squad. It is expected that Roque will go into the reserves, and Pedri will move from the center of the field to the flank. Although there is also a flank player named Rafinha.

Gundogan, De Jong, and Oriol Romeu will remain in midfield. Although they even say that Christensen could move there from the center of defense. Gavi is missing.

Sergi Roberto is back but hardly ready to start.

Araujo has some problems, but most likely he will be ready to play.

Napoli: Meret, Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Jesus, Olivera, Anguissa, Lobotka, Traore, Politano, Osimhen, Kvaratskhelia

Barcelona: Ter Stegen, Kounde, Araujo, I. Martinez, Balde, Christensen, De Jong, Gundogan, Yamal, Lewandowski, Pedri

Direct speech

Xavi Hernandez, Barcelona head coach: “It is not easy to prepare for an opponent who resorts to such a change. But in any case, we must dominate and show character. We do not play to silence critics, but for the fans and for those who wish the best for the club. I don’t feel that my immediate future is in danger. There is always a lot of pressure at Barcelona.

We are playing against the Italian Champion. Politano, Osimhen, and Kvaratskhelia are top players, they form an excellent attacking force and can decide the fate of the match. It is fundamentally important to defend well and not miss their counterattacks. We are playing the second match at home, so now we have to be a little more careful. At the same time, defend with the help of possession of the ball. But I think Napoli will also want to own it.”

Francesco Calzona, Napoli head coach: “We are starting a new journey today, pressing the reset button on everything. I told the players that there were no more excuses, we needed to add immediately. We must be a team first.

“Barcelona is one of the best teams in Europe with a great coach and players, but we are not afraid of anyone. I am not worried and confident in my team because they are the Champions of Italy and had a very good group stage in the Champions League. They have lost confidence in themselves, and you need to return it.

We will not play for a draw. If Barcelona forces us to do this, we will give them credit, but we want to play to win.”

Figures and facts

  • Barcelona and Napoli have met four times. In the 1/8 finals of the Champions League of the 2019/20 season, the first team won at home with a score of 3:1 and drew 1:1 away. It also turned out to be stronger in the 1/16 finals of the Europa League 2021/22 season. 4:2 away and 1:1 at home
  • Napoli finished second in their Champions League group with ten points. Results – 2:3 at home and 2:4 away from Real Madrid, 1:1 at home and 1:0 away against Union Berlin, 2:0 at home and 2:1 away against Braga
  • Barcelona finished top of their Champions League group with 12 points. Results – 2:1 at home and 0:1 away against Shakhtar, 5:0 at home and 2:3 away against Antwerp, 2:1 at home and 1:0 away against Porto
  • Napoli have won one of their last five matches in all competitions (two draws, two defeats) and three of their last 11 (three draws, five defeats). He didn’t score in seven of those 11 and three of those five.
  • This season, both in the league and in all competitions, Napoli’s away performance is better than at home. 22 points in 17 matches in Naples, 24 in 15 outside. Super Cup matches in Saudi Arabia do not count
  • Barcelona have won six of their last seven away matches in all competitions, excluding the Super Cup in Saudi Arabia. The only match without a win during this time was elimination from the Cup in extra time by Athletic Bilbao
  • Barcelona have conceded in their last 11 away matches in all competitions, Napoli have conceded in five of their last six home matches
  • In the match against Celta, Robert Lewandowski scored a double and reached 50 goals for Barcelona. He scored them in 79 matches. In the 21st century, only Samuel Eto’o and Luis Suarez have achieved this figure faster
  • For the first time in 27 years, Napoli will be coached by three coaches in one season. Rudi Garcia and Walter Mazzarri have been fired, Francesco Calzona will make his debut today

Prediction: Napoli – Barcelona 1:2

Both are unreliable, problematic, and nervous. And the change of coach at Napoli is generally unclear how it will affect it. But still, his season is much worse than Barca’s. Yes, and she is initially stronger. In addition, they play powerfully away, while the Neapolitans are trembling at home. You can bet on the poor defense of both teams and a victory for the guests.

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