Setien’s short of options for return
Barcelona went into Tuesday’s match without Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele, Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto due to injury and then lost Sergio Busquets and Arturo Vidal to suspension.
Their lack of strength in depth has already been shown up this season, but the absence of the two midfielders will be a blow for the return leg and suggests a midfield of Ivan Rakitic, Frenkie de Jong and Arthur is inevitable.
Quique Setien will be praying none of his midfielders picks up an injury ahead of the return leg and will also be hoping a late ankle knock to Gerard Pique is not too serious, particularly with El Clasico up next.
The Barcelona manager did say after the game he expected Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto to be fit to face Napoli at the Camp Nou and both could feature in the game too. Junior Firpo had a tough time at the Stadio San Paoloi, while Ivan Rakitic was poor and was hooked early in the second half.
Griezmann goal gives Barcelona the advantage
Barcelona struggled to cause Napoli any problems at all in a pedestrian first half in Naples that saw the hosts go in at the break ahead thanks to Dries Mertens’ fine curling effort.
3 - Barcelona have completed three touches in the opposite box in the first half vs Napoli, their lowest at the half time in a single @ChampionsLeague game since Rome in April 2018 (three). Harmless#NapoliBarca #NapoliBarcellona #Barcelona pic.twitter.com/mtufaygnQW— OptaJose (@OptaJose) February 25, 2020
Gennaro Gattuso spoke about Barcelona after the match and said “they didn’t hurt us, it barely tickled” with regards to the visitors’ attacking play.
Yet Setien’s side were better in the second half and grabbed a crucial away goal from Antoine Griezmann that leaves them as favourites to progress to the quarter-finals of the competition.
The Frenchman swept home a fine team move after good work from Sergio Busquets and Nelson Semedo to net his 14th goal of the season for Barcelona in all competitions.
Antoine Griezmann has now scored as many career Champions League goals as Luis Suárez, Paul Scholes, Gonzalo Higuaín and Luís Figo (24).— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 25, 2020
Barcelona grab the away goal. pic.twitter.com/64wOzpgz9z
Rather incredibly Griezmann’s goal saw him become the first Barca player, other than Lionel Messi, to score an away goal in the Champions League knockout stages since Neymar in 2015. It’s a telling stat and one that highlights Barca’s difficulties away from home in the competition.
Ter Stegen saves Barcelona from more away misery
Barcelona’s poor away record in Europe might have continued on Tuesday if not for another strong performance from their goalkeeper.
The Germany international could only stand and gawp as Mertens was given far too much time and space to curl a superb shot into the top corner for the opener but otherwise proved impenetrable.
Napoli had another three attempts on target after that goal (compared to Barcelona’s one) but could not find a way past Ter Stegen. He was quick off his line to prevent Jose Callejo restoring Napoli’s lead shortly after the equaliser and also did well to deny Lorenzo Insigne and Arkadiusz Milik.
Ter Stegen spoke to Mundo Deportivo ahead of the game about his contract and said he was in no rush to sign a new deal even though he’s happy in Barcelona. The club’s lack of planning has already been exposed this season and will be again if they don’t sign him up soon.