Current La Liga leaders FC Barcelona have a demanding week ahead of them with two challenging games. First, a trip to the Stadio San Paolo where the Catalans face a tough test against two-time Serie A title winners Napoli in the round of 16 in the Champions League. Then, just five days later comes El Clasico, the game that paralyzes the world for 90 minutes.
These rivals will be studied endlessly this week, but first let’s focus on the upcoming fixture in Italy and what Barca need to do against Napoli.
Dominate the midfield
The midfield is the most crucial factor to Barcelona’s game, if the midfield is mobile, strong, quick and most importantly dominant, then you better bet the azulgrana side will win. Since Quique Setien’s appointment as head coach, the midfield has grown more and more powerful as the matches play out. The men in the center of the field must continue on this track if they are to taste success in Italy.
In their last outing, which ended in a 5-0 win over Eibar at Camp Nou, midfielder Arthur was one of the standout players with his goal, positional play, initiation of attacks and eye for inch-perfect passes. Arthur and the rest of the midfield will need to be at their very best in order to deconstruct this Napoli side.
Capitalize on Napoli’s instability
Even though Barcelona are having an irregular season, dropping more points than they should in the Spanish league, Napoli are even more unstable and the Catalans must capitalize on that. With just nine wins out of the last 16 games in all competitions, the Italians are still on the hunt to find their identity and system with new coach Gennaro Gattuso. Their defense has not been the strongest of late, having conceded a whopping 35 times and that sluggish stat comes as a red flag knowing Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann will be the men up front, who most certainly will be going in for the kill Tuesday night.
Complete focus until the final whistle
San Paolo is always a tough ground to play at especially if it’s a European night. The fans play a factor in the game, continuously cheering their team on while whistling at the opponents. At home, Napoli have bullied Liverpool and Juventus this year, beating both rivals in front of their own supporters. The fans create an immense atmosphere and Barcelona must not let the pressure get to them, as one small mistake could cost a goal. Complete focus is needed from Setien’s men from start to finish if they wish to return home with faces of joy.