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Three talking points from Napoli 1-1 Barcelona | Champions League Round of 16



Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images

Barcelona and Napoli have locked horns in European competitions several times in recent years. The Catalans have come out victors in both their recent two-legged face-offs and were the favourites heading into the third such competition in the Champions League Round of 16.

The defending Spanish and Italian champions may both be in a state of jeopardy, yet, their display last night showed high-quality football with few errors. The two established marksmen – Robert Lewandowski and Victor Osimhen – both were on the scoresheet at full-time as the game boiled down to a 1-1 draw.

As is the case in the UCL, it is never over until it really is. Both sides head into the reverse fixture with similar chances of progressing and very little separating them.

Barça Universal brings you three talking points from Napoli 1-1 FC Barcelona.

Convincing at last

As the team travelled to Italy to take part in its first UCL knockout fixture in three years, doubts lingered over their ability to get over the line for multiple reasons. Their opponents, indeed, may not have been in the best vein of form, but the fact stood that Barcelona were not much better.

For starters, the Catalans have not had the best memories playing away from home in the UCL in recent years. Lisbon, Rome and Anfield are just a few of the terrors that still traumatise players and fans of the club.

To add to the poor record, Barcelona have not been convincing this season. The defending La Liga champions have been far from the solid unit they were last season, especially in a defensive sense.

Last night’s performance against Napoli, in many ways, showed a tangible improvement in terms of overall performance. The showing was still sizeably away from perfection, but progress is positive regardless.

The first half that Xavi’s men dished out saw complete and utter domination of Napoli at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium. The Italians were not offered one shot on goal, finished the half with an xG of 0 and were completely pushed into their defensive shell.

Barcelona’s defence looked calm and composed compared to previous outings, with Inigo Martinez’s addition making a tangible difference. The midfield was stable with a new pivot in Andreas Christensen while the forward line did come up with some concrete chances.

Of the eleven players on the field, Joao Cancelo and Robert Lewandowski stood out alongside Ilkay Gundogan. The Portuguese full-back dominated the left wing, creating chances for fun from out wide.

Lewandowski continued running with the rich form he has been in over the team’s past five games, as he added yet another goal to his tally with a bullet into the bottom corner.

The result as a whole may be disappointing, but there are plenty of positives for Barcelona to take home. They are far from the target but on the right track.

A story of one chance

The equaliser. (Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)

The Serie A champions were forced into passive gameplay by Barcelona’s outright attacking display and played a defence-centred game for most parts. For long parts of the game, a Napoli defeat was written on the wall as the Italians could not conjure a single solid chance.

The moment that turned the game around was one defensive error from Inigo Martinez that gifted Victor Osimhen a golden chance. It was Napoli’s first big chance of the game, their first shot on target, and unfortunately ended up being the equaliser on the night.

The goal not only levelled the scores but also gave Napoli renewed confidence in their ability to find a winner. Over the next ten minutes, they pushed forward voraciously in attack and created a few chances that they could not capitalise on.

The eventual result, a 1-1 draw, was thus unfair to Barcelona who were the better team by far. One error at the back nullified their hard work of 90 minutes and left them at par with their Italian opposition who were inferior.

All to play for

As is the case with UCL fixtures, the Round of 16 tie between Barcelona and Napoli is far from done. The 90 minutes that will be held at the Catalans’ foster home, the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys will decide the victor and it is safe to say that Barcelona have a slight advantage.

Playing at Montjuic may not be the same as playing at Spotify Camp Nou, but the Blaugranas will have the crowd behind their back regardless. Moreover, the fact that they head into the game without chasing a deficit further improves their chances.

With the away goals rule no longer in existence, Barcelona’s goal in Naples is not worth anything extra. Yet, one will back them to get the better of Napoli at home and advance to the quarterfinals, although it will be far from easy.

What is clear, is that there is everything to play for heading into the second leg. With La Liga no longer an amicable target, the team is expected to put its all towards the Champions League. And as Ilkay Gundogan recently explained, anything is possible once the team reaches the quarterfinal stage.

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