Minute by minute build-up to Napoli v FC Barcelona

Minute by minute build-up to Napoli v FC Barcelona

All you need to know as the excitement mounts for the Champions League round of 16 first leg at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona

The Champions League is back and FC Barcelona have a last 16 first leg coming up at 9pm CET Wednesday. The Stadio Diego Armando Maradona is the venue and Napoli are the opposition, with the return leg at the Estadi Olimpic on March 12.

And to get all the very latest info in the build-up to the game, you need no further than this page, where we'll keep you updated on everything happening in Barcelona in Naples (All times CET). 

Wednesday 21 February

That's it for the build up, but if you need minute by minute coverage of the game, we have that as well. You'll find us at the following link. Força Barça!:

Tonight's starting XI

Xavi has picked his side for tonight... Ter Stegen, Cancelo, Araujo, Martinez, Pedri, Lewandowski, Christensen, De Jong, ⁠Gündoğan, Kounde and Lamine Yamal.

Here we come

The players are on their way to the stadium...

Ready, set...

The Barça shirts are already in place in the dressing room. And it won't be long now before pick-up at the team hotel and time for the players to start making their way to the stadium.


Whet your appetite this way!

What happens when you combine Catalan bread and tomato with Napolitan street food? This...

The Maradona derby

Whenever Barça and Napoli come together, it naturally brings to mind the legendary Argentinian who graced both clubs in his heyday, and who so sadly departed this world at the age of 60 in 2020.

Got your screen ready?

Made sure you know how you're going to watch the match? By now you should be well aware what a 9pm CET start means in your part of the world but in our TV Guide we also list the broadcasters with rights to show the game. If you can't see the game for whatever reason or if you're one of those people who likes to complement their viewing with a second screen, we'll have all the in-match updates for you on our match center and all our social networks.

Lunchtime in Naples

The players are having lunch in the hotel, and no doubt there's pasta on the menu somewhere. Which means that if you haven't already seen it, this might be a good moment to catch our pasta challenge video featuring Pedri and Fermin López.


Did you know?

* Napoli's Danish international Jesper Lindstrøm was part of the Entracht Frankfurt team that knocked Barça out of the Europa League in 2022.
* Napoli striker Giovanni Simeone is one of the three footballing sons of Diego Simeone, coach of Atlético Madrid.
* If Lamine Yamal scores today, he will become the first player under 17 years of age to ever score in the Champions League.
* All of Ronald Araújo, Sergi Roberto, Ferran Torres and João Félix stand to be suspended for the second leg if they are booked this evening. Napoli have no players in the same situation.
* Barça have only won one of their last 10 away games in the knockout stages of the Champions League, scoring just four goals in those matches. That needs to change!
* Napoli's nine goals in the competition so far have been scored by eight different players.
* If he plays, this game will be Pau Cubarsí's first ever experience of a senior continental fixture.
* This is going to be FC Barcelona's 300th game in the Champions League since it was rebranded in the 1992-93 season.

German referee

The man in charge of today's game is Felix Zwayer of Germany, who has only once whistled a Barça game before, the 4-2 win away to Tottenham in 2018. Meanwhile, he has taken charge of three napoli games, resulting in a win, a draw and a defeat for the Italians. It's a big week for Zwayer, because this game comes on the back of Saturday's top-of-the-table Bundesliga clash between Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich, which he was also in charge of.

The perfect stage

The venue for today's game is the fourth biggest stadium in all of Italy, the 60,240 capacity Stadio Diego Armando Maradona. It was given that name in 1990 in 2020, following the death of one of the greatest football players who ever lived, who also played for FC Barcelona but who has always had a particularly special connection to the club he helped to two league titles and its only European trophy in the late 1980s.

Before that, the ground was known as the Stadio San Paolo. It opened in 1959 and underwent major expansion when it was used as a venue for games at the Italia 90 World Cup, including the emotional semi-final between Maradona's Argentina and host nation Italy.


Today is the day!

The sun rises over Naples on a very special day! At 9pm, the Champions League ball starts rolling again. After a good night's sleep, the players are now relaxing in their hotel and will be gathering for lunch at 1.30. Outside, plenty of blaugrana shirted fans could already been seen dotted around the streets of Naples last night, and there are more and more arriving later in the day as the excitement mounts.

The perfect way to get yourself in the mood is by watching our video of all the different things that the players got up to on their first day in Naples:


Tuesday 20 February 

How the other first legs finished

Inter Milan 1-0 Atletico Madrid
PSV Eindhoven 1-1 Borussia Dortmund
Lazio 1-0 Bayern Munich
Paris Saint-Germain 2-0 Real Sociedad
FC Copenhagen 1-3 Manchester City
RB Leipzig 0-1 Real Madrid
Playing Wednesday: FC Porto v Arsenal

Final training session

The Diego Armando Maradona stadium played host to the final training session for the blaugranes just 24 hours before kickoff, bringing an end to the day as the party headed to the hotel for an evening meal and rest before the main event tomorrow.

Napoli press conferences

New Napoli coach Francesco Calzona and team captain Giovanni Di Lorenzo then followed the blaugranes for their own press conference. Analysing their situation, they say that the team has to get back to playing with conviction, and that they are confident about their chances despite Barça being a "very tough opponent, with great players".

Xavi and Frenkie speak to the media

Both coach Xavi Hernández and midfielder Frenkie de Jong attended the pre-match press conference and the team's delight at being back in the knockout stages of the Champions League shone through.


Xavi discussed a number of aspects of the knockout tie, such as reiterating the desire among the team to win on their knockout phase return, and that "it's a wonderful stage for playing a great game". More details from Xavi's press conference can be found here.


De Jong stated that there "is a lot of desire and a lot of excitement" about the Champions League knockout stage return after a two year absence. Click here for further thoughts from Frenkie during the press conference.


Napoli, the season so far

Despite home defeats to Fiorentina and Lazio, Napol's defence of the Serie A title didn't start too badly, but it was not good enough to keep manager Rudi Garcia in his job. However, under his replacement Walter Mazzarri things got worse rather than better, and a run of five defeats in eight games saw them tumble from fourth in the league to ninth.

Curiously, just when the results seemed to be improving slightly, Mazzarri was also shown the door following a 1-1 draw with Genoa at the weekend.

Napoli made it into the last 16 of the Champions League as the second ranked team in Group C. They lost both of their games against Real Madrid but managed three wins and a draw against Braga and Union Berlin to comfortably earn their slot in the last sixteen.

Their top scorer across all competitions is Nigerian Victor Osimhen with 8, followed by Matteo Politano with 7 and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia of Georgia with 6.

Arrival in Naples

The players have arrived in Italy, and are heading to their hotel. After some lunch, they'll be getting some rest before heading to the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona for a training session. At 8.15pm, Xavi Hernández and Frenkie de Jong will be giving official press conferences. 

Gundo: 'Change of coach makes beating Napoli harder'

The German international had a natter with La Vanguardia newspaper before heading to Italy. "This is what the Champions League is all about" he says. "Making big demands. I love this kind of pressure. Every game starts from zero."

On the home side's shock announcement on Monday, he said "the fact they have just changed managers won't make it any easier for us. If anything, it makes it even harder."

He also spoke about his own coach Xavi, young team-mate Lamine Yamal and how settled he feels at a new club and city.

Pre-game celebrations in Naples

FC Barcelona has its very own supporters club (penya) in Naples, the Penya Blaugrana Napoli, and they are naturally thrilled that their beloved team is coming to town once again and are hosting a special pre-game gathering for fellow blaugrana fans. If you are one the lucky people who are going to the game, the place to be on Wednesday is Campanella Pizza & Cuccina, which you will find at Via Lanzieri 39. The doors will be open from 2pm.

582 members of 90 different supporters clubs will be cheering on FC Barcelona at the game tomorrow.

Napoli change coach!

Just two days before the game, Napoli have sacked their coach Walter Mazzari after just three months in the job, following the earlier dismissal of Frenchman Rudi Garcia. Via their official social media platforms on Monday evening, the Italian club also announced that Francesco Calzona will take over with immediate effect. 

Calzona is currently in charge of the Slovakian national team and reports suggest that he will remain in that role and combine it with his work as Napoli coach until the end of the season at least. The new coach is no stranger to the club as he had two separate spells as assistant coach, first under Maurizio Sarri and then Luciano Spalleti.

History on our side

This will be the fifth competitive meeting between Barça and Napoli and the tenth in total. The previous games have resulted in five wins for Barça, four draws and just one defeat in a pre-season friendly played in Geneva in 2014. Here's the full list:

25-05-1978. Stadio San Paolo. Naples. Friendly: Napoli 1-1 FC Barcelona

22-08-2011. Camp Nou. Barcelona. Gamper Trophy: FC Barcelona 5-0 Napoli

06-08-2014. Geneva Stadium. Geneva. Friendly: FC Barcelona 0-1 Napoli

07-08-2019. Hard Rock Stadium. Miami. LaLiga – Serie A Cup: FC Barcelona 2-1 Napoli
10-08-2019. Michigan Stadium. Michigan. LaLiga – Serie A Cup: FC Barcelona 4-0 Napoli

25-02-2020. Stadio San Paolo. Naples. Champions League: Napoli 1-1 FC Barcelona
08-08-2020. Camp Nou. Barcelona. Champions League: FC Barcelona 3-1 Napoli

17-02-2022. Camp Nou. Barcelona. Europa League: FC Barcelona 1-1 Napoli
24-02-2022. Stadio Diego Armando Maradona. Naples. Europa League: Napoli 2-4 FC Barcelona

The four competitive games against Barça have produced nine Barça goals from nine different players. How many of them can you remember?


A little bit of history about our Champions League opponents

Naples Foot-Ball & Cricket Club was founded by English mariners in 1905, although the modern-day Società Sportiva Calcio Napoli didn't officially come into being until 1926. But despite being the fourth most supported in Italy, other than Coppa Italia trophies won in 1962 and 1976, they had nothing to show for their efforts until the glory era of the late 1980s when.

That was when, very much inspired by Diego Maradona and in what many viewed as a triumph of the marginalised south over the dominant north of Italy, which before then had never had a league champion club, they won Serie A in 1987, and again in 1990, as well as a third Coppa and the club's only European trophy, the UEFA Cup in 1988.

The club went into decline after that, and was even relegated to Serie C following a financial crisis, and had little to do with the period in which Italian football dominated European football. But recent years witnessed a resurgence. Following three more cup victories, and after seven top ten finishes in ten years, Napoli finally managed to add a third Scudetto to their collection last season.

Napoli: No shortage of international experience

No fewer than 16 of the Napoli squad have been capped ten or more times for their country: Piotr Zieliński (Poland, 86), Amir Rrahmani (Kosovo, 65), Frank Anguissa (Cameroon, 56), Stanislav Lobotka (Slovakia, 52), Victor Osimhen (Nigeria, 35), Giovanni Di Lorenzo (Italy, 32), Leander Dendoncker (Belgium, 32), Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (Georgia, 28), Giacomo Raspadori (Italy, 24), Jens Cajuste (Sweden, 20), Jesper Lindstrøm (Denmark, 16), Mathías Olivera (Uruguay, 16), Leo Skiri Østigård (Norway, 15), Matteo Politano (Italy, 12), Mário Rui (Portugal, 12) and Hamed Traorè (Ivory Coast, 10)

Naples here we come!

The team has left Barcelona on an approximately two-hour flight to Napoli-Capodichino airport. The travelling party is being led by president Joan Laporta, who is joining the players on the flight. Various members of the board are also heading east, including vice-presidents Rafa Yuste, Elena Fort and Juli Guiu.

João Félix and Sergi Roberto back in the squad

Good news on the injury front because both João Félix and Sergi Roberto have been declared fully fit and have been included in the 23-man squad for this game. The players heading to Campania are:

Tuesday programme

The players will be heading to Naples this Tuesday morning, and the schedule for a busy day is as follows.

  • 11.00am: Departure of flight from El Prat Airport, Barcelona.
  • 1.00pm: Arrival in Naples and transfer to hotel for lunch.
  • 6.15pm: Official press conference with Xavi Hernández and Frenkie de Jong.
  • 7.00pm: Training at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.
Força Barça
Força Barça

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