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It’s the beginning of the end of the Barça preseason. This Wednesday at 7.30pm in Florida, and 1.30 am on Thursday morning back home in Barcelona, the Liga champions take on Serie A runners-up Napoli in the first of two games between the teams on US soil.
After two fixtures in Japan and the 2-1 defeat of Arsenal in Sunday’s Gamper Trophy, Barça will be taking on the Italians again in Michigan just three days later.
After getting to see new signings Neto, Frenkie de Jong and Antoine Griezmann getting their first taste of football at the Camp Nou, one of the biggest attractions of this game will be the chance to see another new addition to Ernesto Valverde’s squad, Junior Firpo, getting his first run-out in a Barça shirt.
Philippe Coutinho, Arthur and Arturo Vidal also have yet to see any action yet this preseason after re-joining the squad late due to their Copa America commitments. African Cup of Nations finalist Moussa Wagué of Senegal, promoted from Barça B, is also joining the tour after sitting out the Japan trip.
Abel Ruiz, recent European U19 champion with Spain, is another of the attractions in a squad that sadly does not include Leo Messi, who has picked up a calf problem and is staying in Barcelona to receive treatment.
The venue is the Hard Rock Stadium, and it’s one that brings back fine memories for Barça fans. It was here in 2017 that Barça and Real Madrid in a historic first-ever Clásico on American soil.
Barça & Napoli: The preseason so far
Barça 1-2 Chelsea
Vissel Kobe 0-2 Barça
Barça 2-1 Arsenal
Napoli 1-1 Benevento
Napoli 5-0 Feralpisalò
Napoli 3-3 Cremonese
Liverpool 0-3 Napoli
Marseille 0- 1 Napoli
With Carlo Ancelotti staying for a second year in charge, Napoli’s squad has been particularly bolstered for the new season with the signings of Greek centre back Konstantinos Manolas from Roma and Macedonian midfielder Elif Elmas from Fenerbahçe.
After getting the preseason off to a gentle start against minor Italian opposition, they have picked up impressive wins against Liverpool in Edinburgh and then Marseille at the Stade Vélodrome.
As is the case with Barça, these are Napoli’s last two games before the league season kicks in. But the Italians have a much longer wait before competitive football start, at Fiorentina on August 27, while Barça get their Liga campaign under way eleven days earlier in Bilbao on August 16.
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