FC Barcelona visited the San Paolo in Naples today in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16. Setien switched the formation a bit, surprisingly opting for Rakitic over Arthur in the middle, along with Busquets, De Jong and Vidal as an attacking midfielder. Firpo, Umtiti, Pique and Semedo rounded out the back line, with Greizmann and Messi the lone strikers.
The first half was one to forget for Barcelona. An absolute terrible first half from the Catalan side with no sense of urgency and a style of play that was too one dimensional. Credit to Gattuso’s Napoli, who’s plan was clearly to sit back and wait for a counter attack opportunity. Nonetheless, Napoli converted their first real chance from a counter attack and the first half ended 1-0 with many needed changes in the second half.
The second half began with the same players as the first. A nasty challenge from Busquets, in which he received a yellow card, means he will miss the return leg. Setien made his first substitution in the 56th minute, Arthur coming on for Rakitic. The goal came immediately after the switch. Busquets delicately found a seam in the tight Napoli defense which Semedo was able to square across goal and Greizmann was able to pass it into the back of the net to make it 1-1. From there on out, Barcelona dominated every facet of the match, but wasted many chances to take a lead. Just as the match was about to end, Vidal was booked twice and will miss the return leg at the Camp Nou along with Busquets.
Overall, the result was much better than the performance today. A Barcelona side that was full of confidence was unable to come into Naples and get a crucial away win. One thing is clear, Arthur made a huge impact and needs to be in the starting lineup. Barcelona will now host Napoli on March 18th, with an even shorter roster than usual. Next match will be in the Bernabéu this Sunday, against rivals Real Madrid.