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The Champions League is back and after topping their first round group, FC Barcelona are headed to Naples for the first time in the history of the tournament. Kick-off is on Tuesday at 9.00pm CET, while the return leg at Camp won’t be until three weeks later, on Wednesday 18 March.
Luis Suárez, Ousmane Dembélé, Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto are all out through injury, while new Danish signing Martin Braithwaite is going on the trip although he can’t play because he’s not registered for the Champions League.
Six Barça B players (Iñaki Peña, Riqui Puig, Alex Collado, Ansu Fati, Ronald Araujo and Sergio Akieme) have also flown to Naples.
Sergio Busquets and Nélson Semedo are both one yellow away from suspension and would miss the return leg if they get booked.
Did you know?
Napoli have only once failed to score in a home Champions League fixture (0-0 with Dynamo Kiev in 2006) and have not lost at the San Paolo for seven games.
Lionel Messi has scored 12 goals against Italian clubs, but all of them were at home. He has never scored against an Italian side in Italy. His only goal on Italian soil was in the 2009 final in Rome against Man United.
The Argentinian has scored against an astonishing 34 different teams in Europe. This is the first time he has faced the Neapolitans, and it gives him the chance to take his list of victims up to 35.
Dries Mertens with five goals and one assists has been involved in the most goals so far in the competition for either of the two sides.
Quique Setién has never taken charge of a team in the competition before. His only previous managerial experience in Europe was with Betis in the Europa League.
Barça already hold the record for the most consecutive quarter finals appearances in this competition, and would extend the run by another year if they eliminate Napoli. The last team to put Barça out in the round of 16 was Liverpool in 2008.
This is the first time the two teams have ever met in an official fixture. The five previous meetings, including two last summer, were all friendlies.
25-5-1978. Stadio San Paolo. Naples . Friendly.
Napoli 1 Barça 1 (Esteban)
22-8-2011. Camp Nou. Barcelona. Gamper Trophy.
Barça 5 (Cesc, Keita, Pedro and Messi 2) Napoli 0
6-08-2014. Geneva Stadium. Geneva. Friendly.
Barça 0-1 Napoli
7-08-2019. Hard Rock Stadium. Miami. LaLiga Serie A Cup
Barça 2 (Busquets, Rakitic) Napoli
10-08-2019. Michigan Stadium. Michigan. LaLiga Serie A Cup
Barça 4 (Suárez 2, Griezmann, Dembélé) Napoli 0
Barça have played eight Italian clubs in continental competitions before: Fiorentina, Inter Milan, Juventus, Lazio, AC Milan, Roma and Sampdoria. Now a new name can be added to the list.
Recent trips to Italy have proved awkward for Barça, who have a 0-1-4 record from the last five visits. The last Barça victory in the country was a 1-0 defeat of AC Milan in 2006 (current Napoli manager Gennaro Gattuso was playing that game).
Napoli form guide
Napoli started the Serie A season fairly well, but following a series of seven games without a win, manager Carlo Ancelotti was replaced by Gennaro Gattuso and their form has gradually improved, although they are still just ninth in the table.
They also lead Inter 1-0 after the first leg of the Coppa Italia semi-finals.
Last five games
Serie A: Brescia 1-2 Napoli
Serie A: Cagliari 0-1 Napoli
Coppa: Inter 0-1 Napoli
Serie A: Napoli 2-3 Lecce
Serie A: Sampdoria 2-4 Napoli
Napoli in Europe
In the Champions League, they finished just one point behind last year’s winners Liverpool in Group E with the following results:
Napoli 2-0 Liverpool
Genk 0-0 Napoli
RB Salzburg 2-3 Napoli
Napoli 1-1 RB Salzburg
Liverpool 1-1 Napoli
Napoli 4-0 Genk
This is the third time that the Italians have made it to the last sixteen of the Champions League, and they have never progressed any further. Three years ago they were beaten 6-2 on aggregate by Real Madrid at this same stage and in 2012 they went out to Chelsea.
In six meetings with Spanish teams in knockout games in Europe, they have only progressed one, against Valencia in the 1992/93 UEFA Cup.
Their greatest European success came in 1989 when they won the UEFA Cup, beating Stuttgart on penalties in the final.
Napoli: The players
Most capped internationals: David Ospina (Colombia, 104), Dries Mertens (Belgium, 90), Piotr Zieliński (Poland, 51), Orestis Karnezis (Greece, 49), Elseid Hysaj (Albania, 46), Kostas Manolas (Greece, 42), Hirving Lozano (Mexico, 39), Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal, 38), Arkadiusz Milik (Poland, 35), Faouzi Ghoulam (Algeria, 35), Lorenzo Insigne (Italy, 34), Nikola Maksimović (Serbia, 24), Fernando Llorente (Spain, 24), Stanislav Lobotka (Slovakia, 22)
Top scorers 2019/20 (all competitions): Arkadiusz Milik (12), Dries Mertens (11)
What they are saying
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