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Barcelona 1-1 Napoli: Match Review

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Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images

Barcelona played in their first Europa League game in over a decade tonight, but against a Champions League-worthy opposition as Napoli took to the Camp Nou for the playoff game.

Xavi opted for a dynamic formation on the night. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was given his full debut alongside Ferran Torres and Adama Traore in the attack. Sergio Busquets was replaced by Nico Gonzalez in midfield, and Oscar Mingueza came in at right-back.

From the opening whistle, Barcelona pressed hard and high. The visitors were given no respite and continuously lost balls in vulnerable areas. In just the 5th minute, Pedri had a glorious chance to open the scoring. He picked up the ball in a tight space and sent a shot on goal. However, his attempt went just above the crossbar.

The biggest chance in the opening half came in minute 27 when Ferran Torres was played into open space by Aubameyang. With the goal at his mercy, the Spaniard slipped and sent the ball wide. What followed was an unfortunate set of events for Xavi’s side.

A scintillating combination between Piotr Zielinski and Eljif Elmas saw the former get a clear shot on goal. Though Marc-Andre ter Stegen cleared the first shot, there was nothing he could do about the rebound. Against the run of play, Barcelona trailed.

Napoli started the second half with the upper hand. The Italians took control of proceedings with their midfield clicking with wonderful sequences.

The 57th minute brought a gift to Camp Nou, though. Traore’s cross into the box hit Juan Jesus’s hand, and the VAR awarded the Catalans a penalty. Torres made no mistake from the spot, sending the keeper the wrong way.

Xavi looked at his bench soon after, bringing on Busquets, Gavi and Ousmane Dembele. While the Frenchman was undoubtedly less effective than Traore, the rest of the game seemed more in control for Barcelona.

Opportunities fell the Blaugrana’s way after minute 88. Ferran Torres had a flurry of chances through Pedri, Luuk de Jong, and Oscar Mingueza but failed to convert.

As it stands, Barcelona head into the second leg with no advantage. They will be relieved, however, that there is no away goal rule this season.

Final score: Barcelona 1-1 Napoli

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