Following up from another exciting and enjoyable performance on the weekend against Valencia, Barça now travel away to Naples for the second leg of our Europa League play off game vs Napoli. The first leg ended 1-1 at the camp nou. Looking back on the game, we should’ve definitely scored a lot more goals than we registered. The second half performance deserved it and it would’ve put us in a much favorable position for this game. However, in a sense, maybe going away to Napoli without a lead is a good thing. We have experienced in the past that we’re not exactly great at keeping hold of a lead.
Both teams will have to come out and play, so neither side will be sitting back for the whole game. Also, there is no advantage for an away goal so it is as if we are playing a 0-0 game. Everything is up for grabs, and we have to ensure we are clinical with our finishing. We proved on Sunday against Valencia that we can be. 6 shots, 6 on target, 4 goals. Clinical. We just have to do that on a much bigger stage. It’s going to be a tricky game, in a very difficult stadium, but a positive outcome tonight is crucial!
Lessons learnt from last week
In terms of our opponent, they are and have been one of the strongest teams in Europe this season. Despite both teams being in the europa league, this encounter feels more like a champions league game. Last week at the Camp Nou, they initially made things tricky for us, but I don’t think we saw the best version of Napoli. They left a lot of space in behind, they were sloppy on the ball. And by far the biggest thing I discovered from the game, was that we seem to be a fitter team than them. Once it got to the 70th minute mark, the Italian side were struggling to keep up with our constant pressure.
The big difference this time around is that they’re going to be spurred on by their home crowd, which will make things more difficult for us. One thing to be optimistic about though is that so far under Xavi, our away form has improved a lot. Away against Napoli is a big test for us, but if we can perform anything like how we did last week. In the second half especially, then we’ll have a good chance at grabbing a good result.
Defensively, we have to ensure we are tight at the back. Against them last week, their one goal came from a lapse in concentration in the box. Ter stegen dealt well with the initial shot, but we weren’t able to close the rebound down quick enough, which put us behind in the game early on. Like I always say, scoring first is vital. Whoever scores first will dictate how the rest of the game goes. We need to ensure that that team is us! One other thing to be wary of is our control of the game during the last few minutes. Against Valencia on the weekend, despite leading them by 2 goals.
There was still a feeling that we could concede late on and possibly drop points. If it wasn’t for Pedri’s golazo, then those last few minutes would’ve been a lot tougher. When we’re chasing a goal, we are pretty good at keeping the intensity up in the final minutes. But when we are holding onto something, the final 15-20 minutes are always difficult to watch. Which is something we need to improve on. But that will of course come over time.
In terms of the lineup for tonight’s game, there may be one or two rotations. But I don’t expect a lot to change from the team we saw against Valencia. Alba had a fantastic game so he’ll be at Left Back. Although we haven’t got much choice either way. Dest was also really impressive against Valencia and earned praise from Xavi. So he throughly deserves to start against
Napoli, after starting on the bench in the first leg. Pique is all ready to return to the starting lineup too and Araujo is fully fit aswell which is a massive boost for this game. Pedri was of course rested for 60 minutes against Valencia, but I can see him returning back to the starting eleven. Quite frankly he has been world class since returning from injury.
And you notice when he’s no in the midfield. His creativity and ability to control the tempo of the game is vital for the way we play. Frenkie and Busquets will also probably start alongside him. The one big change I can see coming is the rotation of Ferran Torres. He’s played every single minute since arriving from Man City, recovering from a foot injury and covid. He’s been brilliant so far and was very unlucky last week against Napoli, so I can see him getting a well earned rest tonight.
To keep him fresh for our upcoming games. In his place, I think Gavi will return as the inverted left winger. Which is a position he plays very well in. After a great hat trick on the weekend, Auba will keep his place. The only question is who out of Dembele or Adama will start on the right hand side. Personally, I think it will be Dembele. He has performed really well recently. Made a great cameo last week and played a part in most of the goals on Sunday. So he deserves to keep his place.
Regardless of the lineup, a win VS Napoli is all Barça are concerned about. It’s going to be tricky, but all we can do is hope the team turns up again on a big occasion!
Dest – Araujo – Pique – Alba
Frenkie – Busquets – Pedri
Dembele – Aubameyang – Gavi