Barcelona v Napoli: Italians can spring Nou Camp upset

The problems have been mounting up for Barcelona of late and Napoli look capable of springing an upset in their Champions League last-16 clash on Saturday...

Barcelona v Napoli
Saturday August 8, 20:00
Live on BT Sport 2

Lionel Messi, prior to the first leg of this tie in February: "The way we are at the moment, I don't think it's enough to win the Champions League."

The game ended 1-1 with Napoli the better side.

Lionel Messi, last month after a home loss to Osasuna handed Real Madrid the Spanish title: "This game represents the entire year. We have been an erratic and weak team. The feeling on this team is that it tries but it cannot get the job done."

The criticism from Barcelona's star man prompted speculation about his future, talk he has since quelled.


Barca problems run deep

But halting the inconsistency which has plagued Barca this season may be harder to achieve.

This clearly is not a happy, confident camp right now.

Barca's domestic title hopes went up in smoke after the season resumed. They held a two-point lead over Real when lockdown arrived but by the end of the campaign they were five points behind their great rivals, having won only five of their last nine games.

They arrive at this game having not played for three weeks and, notably, with plenty of selection problems for boss Quique Setien to ponder.

He's had some good news with Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele having both returned to training ahead of the second leg, but it is further back where the worries will lie.

World Cup winner Samuel Umtiti will again be absent from the heart of the defence due to a knee injury although at least Clement Lenglet is likely to be fit after a groin problem.

Still, that back-line won't be as well protected with midfielders Sergio Busquets and Arturo Vidal (pictured above) both suspended.

That will deprive Setien of some real grit and doggedness in the engine room of the team and it is surely an area Napoli will look to exploit.

Insigne doubtful

The Italians have hardly been in top form either, winning only three of their last seven in Serie A - they finished seventh.

They may also be without forward Lorenzo Insigne, although this is a squad blessed with attacking talent, including the first-leg scorer Dries Mertens, who looks sure to trouble the home defence.

Napoli have regularly raised their game against the better sides this season - they've beaten Juventus, Lazio and Roma in Serie A, and defeated Juve again, on penalties, in the Coppa Italia final.

You can also add the scalp of Liverpool to that list with the Reds having lost 2-0 in Naples back in the autumn.

Napoli's best results have admittedly come at home but they also held Liverpool 1-1 at Anfield, while they triumphed away to Inter in the Coppa Italia semis.

A Nou Camp minus the usual 99,000 fans will be far less intimidating and the visitors will surely draw great heart from their first-leg performance which saw them defend deep - and well - but still create chances.

Similar tactics can be expected from boss Gennaro Gattuso, who insisted Barca "didn't hurt us" in the first game, adding: "They tickled us".

Napoli look tempting

Whether they get a similar result remains to be seen - the draw is at 4.30 with Barca firm favourites at 1.67 to win in 90 minutes.

However, given Barca's clear problems, Napoli look tempting at 5.80.

Tempting that is if you are prepared to put Barca's record home run in the competition to one side - they are unbeaten in their last 35 Champions League matches at the Nou Camp.

Still, they haven't headed into many of those 35 games with the doubts that currently hang around the team like a bad smell and I'm keen to side with the visitors in some way.

The handicap markets immediately spring to mind but the concern there is that if Napoli are on course to win a bet, trailing by one goal, they will be piling forward in search of an equalising goal (possibly a winning, away one). That could see them get caught on the counter late on.

Instead the draw-no-bet option looks the one to take at 4.40.

Italian defence can shine again

Remember 0-0 takes Barca through, with 1-1 sending the game into extra time. Either result would see stakes returned.

In terms of goals, the value probably lies in under 2.5, although that clearly carries risk given how often over 2.5 has landed in Barcelona's Champions League games over the years.

Under 2.5 - available to back at 2.40 - delivered in the first leg and if Napoli are able to replicate the success they had in dealing with Messi and co in that game, it can do so again.

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