SSC Napoli vs FC Barcelona
Competition/Round: 2021-22 Europa League, Playoffs, Leg 2
First Leg Result: Barcelona 1-1 Napoli
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Ansu Fati, Dani Alves, Memphis Depay, Clément Lenglet, Sergi Roberto, Samuel Umtiti, Alejandro Balde (out)
Napoli Outs & Doubts: André-Franck Zambo Anguissa, Axel Tuanzebe, Hirving Lozano, Kevin Malcuit, Stanislav Lobotka (out)
Date/Time: Thursday, February 24, 2022, 9pm CET/WAT (Barcelona & Nigeria), 8pm GMT (UK), 3pm ET, 12pm PT (USA), 1.30am IST (India, Thursday)
Venue: Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, Naples, Italy
Referee: Sergei Karasev (RUS)
VAR: Pol van Boekel (NED)
How to watch on TV: TUDN (USA), BT Sport ESPN (UK), SuperSport (Nigeria), SONY TEN 2 (India), Movistar Liga de Campeones (Spain), others
Following a fantastic win over Valencia to stay in the La Liga Top 4 at the weekend, Barcelona return to action in midweek for a huge trip to Naples as they will decide their European fate this season when they meet Napoli in the second leg of their Europa League Playoff tie.
Barça played very well last week but famously couldn’t convert their chances, which left everything to play for in this decisive second game. They followed up that excellent performance without goal with a great performance with plenty of goals when they dominated Valencia at Mestalla, so Barça’s momentum is strong going into this one.
After rotating his team last week, Xavi Hernández is expected to go with his strongest possible team to try and book a place in the Round of 16. Finishing in the Top 4 remains the priority, but the squad depth has improved with the January additions and there is more trust that several players can step up for each match in what has been a brutal but successful February so far.
Napoli had a disappointing Serie A draw away at Cagliari on Monday but Luciano Spalletti rested several players with Barça in mind, so the team playing on Thursday will be stronger and hungry to pull off a famous result. Even with Barça’s current state of things, eliminating them from European competition is still a huge deal for any team in the continent.
An exit from the Europa League wouldn’t be the most disappointing thing in the world with such a tight race in the league, but seeing another good performance and a competitive match would be very encouraging. Barça go into this one as favorites based on their form, but Napoli remain a brilliant team. This will be good.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Dest, Piqué, Araujo, Alba; Pedri, Busquets, F. De Jong; Adama, Aubameyang, Gavi
Napoli (4-2-3-1): Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Koulibaly, Rrahmani, Jesus; Demme, Fabián; Elmas, Zielinski, Insigne; Osimhen
I think Napoli will be happy with this going to extra-time so they won’t risk too much early on, and Barça may not have as many chances in this one. It will be tight for all 90 minutes, it will almost definitely go to extra-time if Pedri plays (it’s his brand) and might even go to penalties, but I’ll go with 2-1 Barça with a winning goal scored late in the bonus period, maybe by Super Sub-Slash-Savior Luuk De Jong. Spicy!