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Champions League: Barca’s Campaign Begins in Naples

Napoli vs Barcelona

The Stadio San Paulo welcomes Leo Messi and Barcelona to Italy on Tuesday, as Napoli faces up to one of the favourites to win this season’s big European competition.

Champions League: Napoli vs Barcelona is a clash between two in-form sides, both arriving on the back of three consecutive victories, and this is not a match the Catalans will be taking lightly. But in Messi they have that magical ingredient which gives them an advantage in every game, and after strolling through the group stages, this is where Barca gets down to business.

This tie has gone under the radar somewhat, with all eyes on the Real Madrid vs Manchester City clash but, rest assured, the San Paulo will be bouncing for one of those famous European nights under the floodlights.

 

Talking Points

Messi in devastating form

Barcelona warmed up for the Round of 16 clash by hammering Eibar 5-0 in La Liga, and Messi sent out yet another notice of his pure genius, scoring the first four goals before Arthur added a fifth.

We’ve run out of superlatives to describe the Argentine phenomenon, suffice to say he is one of the greatest players of all time. He makes goals for his team-mates as readily as he scores them and must be a delight to play alongside. Luis Suarez is out injured so Messi is likely to be joined by Antoine Griezmann upfront and that’s a terrifying prospect for any defence.

Barca are fourth favourites to lift the Champions League in May, with odds of 7.00 at SBOTOP, but little separates the top six sides in a wide-open competition. The Blaugrana are five-time winners of Europe’s premier competition and they’ll have their eyes on a sixth.

Napoli starting to click

Gli Azzurri have had a torrid season by their standards but, in recent weeks, they have looked back to their old selves and are in contention for a place in Europe next season.

They started to climb the table when a Dries Mertens goal gave them a 0-1 win away to Cagliari last week, and they followed that up with a 1-2 win away to Brescia on Friday night.

Can Napoli beat five-time Champions League winners Barcelona?
Dries Mertens celebrates after Napoli’s win against Inter Milan in the first leg of the Coppa Italia semi-finals

But with a rather different level of threat coming up, big centre back Khalid Koulibaly will be a key player if he’s declared fit to play alongside Kostas Manolas.

At sixth in the Serie A table, and nine points adrift of Atalanta in fourth, it looks like Europa League football for Gli Azzurri next season, unless they can win this competition.

Beat Barcelona and that will not be out of the question, but Gennaro Gattuso is under no illusions regarding the size of the task, saying: “We’re up against a great team of great players. We know it’s going to be difficult but…we shouldn’t have any fear: we have to respect them and play our own game.

 

History

The Blaugrana have had the better of the Napoli vs Barcelona results over the past decade, winning three to Napoli’s one. The meetings have all been friendly games, the last in August when Barca won 0-4 as Suarez scored twice and Griezmann was also on target.

Gli Azzurri were impressive at the Champions League group stage, finishing second in Group E and just a single point behind Liverpool, having beaten Jurgen Klopp’s Champions 2-0 in the opening fixture.

Meanwhile, Barca finished on 14 points to win Group F ahead of Borussia Dortmund. They won two and drew one away from home, finishing with a 1-2 win away to Inter Milan to register their 150th Champions League victory.

The Blaugrana have lost only two of their last 29 Champions League games, winning 18 and drawing nine.

Meanwhile, Napoli have won six, drawn three and lost three of their last 12 home Champions League games.

Both teams come into this clash with five wins in six in all competitions.

 

Betting Tip

??
Napoli vs Barcelona Barcelona 1X2 @ 2.19
February 26, 04:00 (GMT+8)

The Catalans are at 1.25 to advance to the quarter-finals with Napoli at 3.85, but the Napoli vs Barcelona betting odds are more evenly matched for the first leg when the Italians have home advantage.

Barcelona are slightly odds against to win the game, with the draw at 3.40 and Napoli at 3.15.

Gli Azzurri have been looking more like their old selves recently, but Messi in his current form will take some stopping, so I’m backing the Blaugrana to take a lead back to the Camp Nou.

A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR (??) BETS ARE WORTH:
?? = €20 (Highly confident) ?? = €10 (CONFIDENT) ?? = €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

 

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