FC Barcelona vs Napoli: Preview, Team News and Prediction

Xavi’s troops go into the biggest game of their season looking to enter the Champions League Quarter Finals for the first time since 2020.

FC Barcelona v Real Mallorca - LaLiga EA Sports
FC Barcelona v Real Mallorca - LaLiga EA Sports / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

1310 days after defeating Napoli in the 2nd leg of the RO16 tie in the UEFA Champions League at a Covid rendered empty Camp Nou, Barcelona embark on a similar mission against the same opposition at the same stage of the competition in front of their fans in a makeshift home stadium. A lot has changed since that victorious night at Barcelona. There has been a complete squad overhaul, with Marc-André ter Stegen being the only common player in the two team sheets. Financial crisis, managerial changes, squad overhauls, financial levers and the unwilling departure of a certain Leo Messi has heralded the controversial state of the club in the past 4 seasons.

With only a solitary league title, Copa Del Rey and Spanish super cup to show for their efforts in the past 4 years, the Catalan Club has been experiencing an extended transition period and just when the team seems to be embarking on the right track, injuries or poor results dampen the spirits of the players, staff and supporters alike. The 8-2 drubbing at the hands of Bayern, failure to make past the group stages in 2 successive UCL appearances and getting knocked out relatively early after being demoted to the Europa League, big European nights have failed to bring the best out of the manager and his players.

That being said, Barcelona have a realistic chance to put their recent misery to a rest when they face the visiting side from Naples on Tuesday. The Catalans have shown defensive solidity, having kept 3 clean sheets in a row and that part of their game would assume immense importance if they are to keep a Napoli side full of promising attackers at bay.

Blaugrana have fizzled out in the attacking third in their previous two games. They seemed to be heading towards a second consecutive scoreless draw but for a late, wonderful strike from their 16-year-old sensation last weekend, which was enough to secure 3 points for the club. Xavi would be counting on his other forwards to offer Lamine a helping hand to see Napoli through. Napoli, on the other hand have huffed and puffed in recent weeks, defeating the likes of Juventus and Sassuolo but being held to a 1-1 draw in their most recent Serie A fixture.

The return leg at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium saw the team from Spain play some of their best football this season. They dominated in attack and were rock solid in defence for three quarters of the game and had enough opportunities to bury it by then. Failure to convert their chances and a lapse in concentration from Iñigo saw Osimhen score with Napoli’s first actual shot on goal to cancel out Lewandowski’s earlier effort and to leave the tie delicately poised at 1-1.

Barcelona have shown glimpses of their potential in the past few weeks, have had promising talents come out of their academy but have also lost two of their best midfielders to injuries. Napoli at home followed by Atlético away this weekend marks the most crucial week in Barcelona's season and Xavi's army should be ready to give it their all to come out unscathed and to enter the international break with everything still to play for. The players must be ready throughout the course of the game for even a minor lapse in concentration and their Champions League ambitions would come to a premature end.



There were concerns surrounding Raphinha and Lamine after both suffered knocks during their clash vs Mallorca. While Lamine has received clearance to make the starting 11, the team will decide on Raphinha's availability in the morning of the game. Ferran Torres has returned to training after recovering from a hamstring injury and should be fit enough to make an impact off the bench. Xavi will have to take a bold call, choosing between Cubarsí and Iñigo in center defence and the harsh nature of the competition might just make the manager opt for experience over youth. Raphinha, if passed fit for this game, might assume the number 10 role. Vitor Roque and Fermin were lively in attack coming off the bench and would be useful additions when called upon by the manager.

The absence of Pedri and Frenkie De Jong would be something the club of Naples would look to take advantage of it in the center of the park. The two players were instrumental in most of Barca's forward runs in the return leg and Xavi would be distraught to not have them at his disposal. However, Christensen has adapted brilliantly to his makeshift pivot role and Gundogan in recent weeks has replicated his Man City form with his attacking instincts and shrewd passes. The two of them would be confident of yet another strong showing to ensure Barcelona doesn't end up missing their injured trio.

Predicted XI (4-3-3);

Marc-André ter Stegen, Joules Kounde, Ronald Araújo, Iñigo Martínez, João Cancelo, Andreas Christensen, İlkay Gündoğan, Fermín López, Lamine Yamal, Robert Lewandowski, João Félix


Napoli have no fresh injury concerns of their own and would count on their entire roster to earn a ticket to the UCL quarter finals for the second successive season. Osimhen and Kvaratskhelia, the two pillars of their title winning squad last season, are back to their very best and have been scoring goals for fun. The duo have scored 4 goals each in their last 3 appearances and would be looking to add to that tally at the Catalan capital. The defense led by their captain Di Lorenzo is as solid as ever and has conceded more than one goal only once this year. Francesco Calzona, since his appointment last month, has had a positive impact on the team and dressing room and would be optimistic about his chances in Spain.

Predicted XI (4-3-3);

Alex Meret, Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Amir Rrahmani, Juan Jesus, Mathías Olivera, André-Frank Zambo Anguissa, Stanislav Lobotka, Hamed Traorè, Matteo Politano, Victor Osimhen, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia


Barcelona have not won any of their past 8 European knockout matches (four each, in the Champions League as well as in Europa League) losing half those games. On the other hand, Barcelona are undefeated in the knockout stages against Napoli and have enjoyed their best nights in both those competitions against the team from Naples. The game isn't gonna be easy; the team is not bereft of injuries and the manager is not always spot on with his tactics. However, this is the best moment for the Catalans to bury the ghosts of their past shortcomings and announce their redemption in front of the entire world. With a packed house spurring their team on, we are in for a cracking UCL night in Barcelona.