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Napoli test begins seven days that could shape Barcelona’s season

Three critical games for the Catalans

SPAIN-BARCELONA-FOOTBALL-SPANISH LEAGUE-FC BARCELONA VS ATLETICO DE MADRID Photo by Pablo Morano/Xinhua via Getty Images

Make no mistake, the next seven days will be crucial to the outcome of Barcelona’s season.

Napoli, twice, as well as Valencia are three tough tests in the space of a week, and the Catalans arguably need to win two of the three at least to keep confidence levels high, and belief that silverware is still within reach.

Hosting the Italians was always going to be a tough ask, and that was before Ronald Araujo’s injury, and the decision to omit Dani Alves from the Europa League squad.

Not to mention the other players that remain on the sidelines, and all of whom aren’t expected to make the league game against Los Che too.

That game will see a defensive crisis for Xavi given that Gerard Pique will be suspended too.

RCD Espanyol v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images

Central defense is a real issue for Xavi ahead of the game with Clement Lenglet and Samuel Umtiti also out and Eric Garcia having struggled against Espanyol on his return from injury.

All of the focus initially will be on Thursday night’s game, however.

Victor Osimhen and Lorenzo Insigne are the two standout attacking players for Luciano Spalletti’s side, Dries Mertens too if he’s given a start.

The trio are mobile, skilful and dangerous on the counter, so the Barca back four need to have their wits about them at all times.

An expected 4-2-3-1 formation from the visitors will allow them enough security at the back, with enough about them in an attacking sense to be a consistent danger.

How Barca could do with someone like Kalidou Koulibaly in their ranks just now also. Precisely the sort of no nonsense defender who exudes authority.

The Camp Nou can play its part too.

The atmosphere against Atletico Madrid was sensational, and if the Blaugranes can really make home advantage count, the second leg could be a foregone conclusion.

FC Barcelona v Club Atletico de Madrid - La Liga Santander Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images

Clearly, Barca are going to have to have a coherent game plan, and not one like we saw against Espanyol when it was like the Alamo once the Periquitos took the lead.

Cross after aimless cross eventually got its reward, but I don’t want to see a Xavi side having to resort to that week in and week out.

A decent enough result on Thursday puts the team in just the right frame of mind for Sunday.

These are the games that will signify exactly where Barca are as a team, and whether there’s genuine promise in the short and medium term.

Time to stand up and be counted.