Way back in February, when life was much simpler, Napoli and Barca played out a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their last 16 clash at the San Paolo in Naples.
Little did they know that the second leg would take them the guts of four months to complete. I don’t think anyone could have guessed this, but here we are with Champions League knockout football in the middle of the summer. Let’s try and enjoy it. After all, it’s not every night in the summer you get to watch Lionel Messi play football.
MORE TIPS: Chelsea face a battering away at Bayern
How do we go about approaching this one from a betting perspective? Let’s start with the respective finishes to their domestic seasons.
Barca were soundly beaten in their two-horse title race by lifelong rivals Real Madrid and, in all honesty, they made a mess of the return to football, allowing Madrid to build an unassailable lead early on.
Things are not rosy in the Camp Nou on many levels and this is spilling out on to the pitch. Question marks hang over players’ attitudes and especially over the future of manager Quique Setien, who only took over in January of this year having been at Betis the three seasons previous.
On the face of it, Napoli finishing 7th in the league is appalling. They’ve not given themselves a chance at European football next year through their league position. However, they have finished the season in decent form, albeit to little too late to take a European spot.
Both teams’ form in Europe, on the other hand, is nothing to be ashamed of. Both teams’ last defeat suffered at the hands of the Champions of the World – Liverpool!
So, how will Saturday night in Barcelona play out? At the time this goes to print Barca are odds-on favs to win the match in 90 minutes. This will, of course, send them through to the next round.
When we look at the likely starting 11s for both sides, I worry that Barca will be very soft in the middle of the park. Both Arturo Vidal and, more importantly, Sergio Busquets are suspended. This, to me, is the key to the game and where Gennaro Gattuso’s men will look to take advantage of a likely midfield trio of Frenkie De Jong, Sergi Roberto and Ivan Rakitic.
Napoli have a slight doubt about Lorenzo Insigne, but he hasn’t been ruled out as of yet. There will be goals in this game as neither side are prolific clean-sheet merchants.
Napoli’s top goalscorer in the UCL this season, Dries Mertens, will likely have plenty of chances playing in the middle of the front three and I think he’ll take one of them to score anytime.
Boring, I know, but both teams to score looks a banker here so we will play at the bigger prices of 11/4 for both teams to score in the first half.
And lastly, with the soft underbelly of Barca exposed I don’t see why Napoli can’t come away from the Camp Nou with a win so we will also play on Napoli to win by exactly one goal.
Tips for Barcelona vs Napoli on Saturday at 20:00
- Our Trader’s 17/2 Top Treble For This Weekend’s Ties
- All the latest football previews from across the English football and Europe are just a click away
- Placing bets is easier than ever with Paddy Power News’ live odds banners