After last week’s 1-1 draw at Camp Nou, Napoli and Barcelona will play the second leg of the Europa League’s playoffs at the Stadio Maradona, where one of the two sides will advance to the round of 16. In the first leg, Piotr Zielinski opened the scoring in the 29th minute to give Napoli the 1-0 lead and Ferran Torres scored in the 59th minute to seal the 1-1 draw on a penalty. Barcelona maintained the majority of possession — 67% to 33% — and they also outshot Napoli 21 to 4 and won the xG battle 2.0 to 0.9. Thursday’s clash sees Barcelona as the slight favorites, but Napoli are in front of their home supporters and will not be a cakewalk for the Catalan club.
Here’s what you need to know:
Date : Thursday, Feb. 24 | Time : 3 p.m. ET Location : Stadio Diego Armando Maradona — Naples, Italy TV and live stream: Paramount+ Odds: Napoli +240; Draw +305; Barcelona +150 (via Caesars Sportsbook)
Napoli: This is being viewed as the Diego Armando Maradona derby, as the legendary Argentine played in both teams during his career. The home fans will celebrate him in the 10th minute — a nod to his iconic jersey number. Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti spoke about him in the pre-match press conference: “Playing at the Maradona will certainly be a positive thing for us. We will also be accompanied by Diego, he will look after us and cheer for us. We don’t have Maradona in the team, but we have 11 players who together can become a strong team. Who fights can lose.”
Napoli have progressed from all eight of their UEFA European knockout ties when they’ve drawn the first leg away from home, most recently in the last 32 of the Europa League in 2013-14 against Swansea City (0- 0 first leg, 3-1 second leg).
Barcelona: Xavi’s team are the favorites to go through and this tie against Napoli will make us understand their ambitions for this season a little more. The Barça coach also spoke about Maradona: “It’s an honor to play in a stadium named after him, a player who thrilled everyone. If it hadn’t been for Messi, he would still be the best of all time today. Having a good match in this stadium is a great motivation for us.”
In major UEFA European competition, Barcelona have beaten six different Italian sides away from home (Fiorentina, Inter, Juventus, Lazio, Milan and Udinese), more than any other side. Napoli are one of two sides they have faced but not beaten, along with Roma.
Barcelona are the favorites the win the match, also considering last week’s match where they showed to be very dangerous especially when Napoli’s went down physically in the second half. However, Xavi’s side doesn’t have to underestimate the opponent in this stadium. Pick: Napoli 1, Barcelona 2
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