Yesterday’s clash opposed Barcelona to Napoli at the Camp Nou in the second leg of the last 16 in the Champions League. The game finished 3-1 in favour of the Catalans, with goals from Lenglet, Messi and Suarez while Insigne scored for Napoli.
The game had it all. From the very start, the clash announced itself exciting, and worrying for Barcelona. It’s already after the first minute that Napoli had the first big opportunity of the night, through Mertens. Luckily for the hosts,the shot landed against the post.
The mental scars of the first Origi goal at Anfield was visible on the player’s face. Napoli dominated possession throughout the game, a rarity for Barcelona. Luckily for the Catalans, it’s amidst the chaos that the first goal of the night was scored. A corner in the tenth minute ended in header in Ospina’s goal by Clément Lenglet.
Taking control on the game
The Blaugranas took a breath- an important goal was scored. The Catalans seemed relieved, and Napoli was determined to win.
As Barcelona didn’t allow any play in the centre, it’s on the flanks that Napoli was dangerous. With 78% of play through the wings for Napoli, Barcelona’s fullbacks were challenged. On one side, Semedo. Mario Rui & Insigne create the 2v1 superiority against the lonely Semedo. Roberto was unable to help Semedo as Zielinski prevented him from moving towards wide areas. The dilemma followed throughout the game: Who to press? The portuguese first tried pressing Rui. This was quickly abandoned, as the ball would go back to Koulibaly who sent it long, to Insigne. The latter now unmarked and therefore free. As a consequence, Semedo preferred to man mark Insigne. This led to a free Mario Rui, resulting in a number of crosses in the box, i.e the disallowed goal.
The situation wasn’t much better for Semedo’s left counterpart, Jordi Alba. A 3v2 superiority created by Napoli on the left hand side. However, Alba enjoyed Frenkie, even if insufficient. Lozano, Ruiz and Mertens created the majority while Zielinski was the target man in the box. Luckily enough, Lenglet’s performance prevented Zielinski from receiving the ball in dangerous positions in the box. Once again, as if history was repeating, it’s out of nowhere that Barcelona scored the second goal through Messi.
The little magician dribbled past four defenders before putting it past Ospina (30’). Now two goals behind, Napoli had to score two goals in order to ensure qualification in the quarterfinals. The chaos was only about to start, as the first half would finish on a 3-1: Suarez scored for the Blaugranas, while Insigne converted on the spot after Rakitic gave the penalty away.
Second half – scary times
The second half was asking for subs. Ansu & Riqui, who supposedly “didn’t play the play-offs in order to be preserved for the UCL” never came on, not a single minute. New players was what we needed. ot only do have fresh legs – but due to the lack of creativity and width that we saw on the pitch. Riqui & Ansu were perfect. Instead,the first sub was Monchu (84’) at five minutes before the end and then Firpo. Two introductions who were far from perfect. Numerous players disappeared or had very little impact, such as Roberto, Rakitic or Griezmann, especially in the second half.
Can Setien handle the pressure?
The lack of substitutions might just show Setien’s lack of plan B once again. The plan didn’t work, and there were no changes. At the end, Barcelona ended with 47% possession and only around 1.3xG while Napoli had 53% of possession and a 2.35% xG rate. It surely isn’t in that manner that Barcelona will be able to win or resist against Bayern Munich next Friday.