SportsJuana is your ultimate home for the latest news, in-depth analysis with an abundant variety that leaves you hungry for interesting and path-breaking content.

Lionel Messi will look to make his mark in the Champions League. (Image Credit: Twitter)
Champions League Football Latest

Champions League: Lionel Messi holds key as Barcelona take on Napoli in decider

Lionel Messi will look to make his mark in the Champions League. (Image Credit: Twitter)
Lionel Messi will look to make his mark in the Champions League. (Image Credit: Twitter)

It’s always an exciting prospect when Barcelona battle it out against any Italian side, with an engrossing contest on the cards. One of the biggest matches in the upcoming UEFA Champions League round of 16 deciders, features a clash between the Blaugranas and Napoli at the Camp Nou.

The first leg witnessed Dries Mertens scoring his 121st goal for Napoli, moving level with Marek Hamsík as the club’s all-time leading goalscorer, who he soon surpassed. Mertens was later forced off through injury, opening up an avenue for Barcelona. Antoine Griezmann duly obliged, turning in Nelson Semedo’s cross for a Barcelona equaliser.

FC Barcelona enter the clash on the back of an excellent performance at Alaves, which ended 0-5 on the night. Despite poor calls by the referee, Barcelona were able to astutely break their opponents down in the final third, ending the league on a high.

The Blaugranas are further unbeaten in 35 UEFA Champions League home matches, a run that started in September 2013. Not only this, Barcelona have avoided defeat in their last 15 Camp Nou clashes against Italian visitors, with 12 wins. Lionel Messi’s sublime performances have been a major factor in ensuring the same.

Napoli’s poor record against Spanish sides

On the other hand, Napoli have emerged victorious in only seven of their last 21 matches in the tournament. Their record against La Liga sides further leaves much to be desired, having failed to register a single win in the last seven matches.

Setien’s Barcelona has flitted between a traditional 4-3-3 set-up and a more-solid looking 4-4-2. Riqui Puig has been handed a regular starting berth in midfield, with Frenkie de Jong available again. The Blaugranas will look to maintain possession and isolate Dries Mertens who relishes an opportunity to make their presence felt on the big stage.

Gattuso-led Napoli on the other hand, will be expected to deploy a solid 4-3-3 system with Diego Demme handed the responsibility of shielding the defence. There will be emphasis on ensuring little space for opponents to exploit the space between defence and midfield. Fabian Ruiz and Piotr Zielinski, will look to get the ball down to the likes of Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens as astutely as possible.

The highlight of the game however will be the offensive masterclass which maestros like Lionel Messi and Dries Mertens are capable of. The duo can change the game in a few seconds, with Messi rested, determined and ready to make a difference at any cost.

“If we want to win the Champions League we’ll have to improve massively otherwise we can lose against Napoli,” thundered the Argentine superstar, in an open challenge.

Potential Lineups:

FC Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Piqué, Lenglet, Alba; Sergi Roberto, Rakitić, De Jong; Messi, Súarez, Griezmann.

Napoli: Ospina; Hysaj, Di Lorenzo, Koulibaly, Mário Rui; Fabián Ruiz, Demme, Zieliński; Callejón, Mertens, Insigne.

Sergio Busquets, Arturo Vidal are suspended with Ousmane Dembele and Samuel Umtiti battling injuries. Antoine Greizmann, Ronald Araújo, Clement Lenglet are further racing against time to prove their fitness.

Kostas Manolas misses out for Napoli with Nikola Maksimović (ankle) and Lorenzo Insigne (adductors) doubtful.

Written By: Elton Gomes.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *