A spot in the coveted Champions League quarter-finals will be on the line this Saturday afternoon as Barcelona take on Italian side, Napoli.
The first leg was played back in February with Napoli as the home side. The Italians did well to hold off a high-octane attack from Barcelona, even taking a 1-0 lead. Ultimately, Barca did end up scoring a crucial away goal, with the tie set at 1-1 heading into the final leg at the Camp Nou.
Barca had a dismal end to their domestic season in La Liga, and haven’t inspired all that much confidence since the restart. They lost out on the title to Real Madrid, and they’re in grave danger of ending this season without a single trophy to their name. That’s certainly something that just doesn’t happen with Lionel Messi around. A big focus has been placed on the final stages of the Champions League, and it will be interesting to see how Barca come out and play Saturday.
For Napoli, they too endured a rollercoaster-like campaign. Managers were in and out, and ultimately they fell well-short of lofty expectations. Their offensive firepower remains solid, but the biggest focus for Saturday has to be limiting Barcelona’s time and space on the ball.
After an intense first match between these sides, the second-leg should bring out the best from both of these talented sides. After down seasons, you better believe both Napoli and Barcelona are looking to have success here to erase some bad memories of the past year. Keep reading on beneath the posted odds for a game preview and betting prediction. Enjoy!
Barcelona vs. Napoli Betting Odds:
Over 3 (+105)
Under 3 (-116)
*Betting odds provided by BetOnline.ag
Barcelona vs. Napoli Pick:
Despite all of Barcelona’s well-documented struggles in the final weeks of the La Liga season, this is still a team loaded with world-class talent. It also helps that their captain, leader, and best player in Lionel Messi recently called out this group and the entire franchise that it needs to be better. With Messi’s contract almost up, the Argentinean hinted at a potential shock exit. Surely, Barcelona cannot have the career talent depart so late into his storied career, and will want to do everything to appease him – including a solid Champions League run.
As a result, look for a refocused and hungry Barcelona squad looking to salvage their campaign. It may not be as easy as expected though as Barcelona are still missing some key pieces from their lineup. Key midfielders Arturo Vidal and Sergio Busquets are suspended, but Croatia’s Ivan Rakitic is a competent replacement.
Barcelona will likely line-up in a versatile 4-3-3 formation, and play at a frantic pace trying to secure early goals. With the likes of Messi and talented French striker Antoine Griezmann playing up top, look for Barca to routinely activate their offensive-minded fullbacks in Jordi Alba and Nelson Semedo. Their speed and crossing ability should add width to the Barca attack and stretch a weakened Napoli back-line quite thin.
For Napoli, manager Gennaro Gattuso emerged relatively unscathed in terms of his team’s health. They’re close to fully fit and should trot out their best 11 in Barcelona. The key for Napoli will be their play without the ball. They’ll try to mirror Barcelona’s 4-3-3 formation, and likely stack 10 defenders behind the ball at all times. Look for Gattuso to emphasize heavy pressure from 30 yards out, and in order to be successful – he’ll need central midfielder Diego Demme to be a beast in the centre of the field.
Up top, Napoli is led by a dangerous striking tandem of captain Lorenzo Insigne, along with Dries Mertens and Jose Callejon. It’s a group that can score with ease in Serie A, but the Barcelona back-line is a different beast entirely. If that group is held off the scoresheet by the likes of Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet – a dominant partnership, it’s hard to envision a route to victory for the visitors.
With it seeming like the walls are caving in on Barcelona, that’s traditionally when Messi and his teammates rise to the occasion. There is renewed focus and optimism within the camp, and a fully fit Barcelona squad remains one of the top-3 sides in the world. Expect a motivated Messi to do just enough to progress his team forward into the quarter-finals. A narrow Barca win is good value for Saturday.
Pick: Barcelona 3-1