UCL Preview – Key player, tactics and unpredictability

Edwin  - CEO March 12, 2024
Updated 2024/03/12 at 4:51 PM
5 Min Read
Victor Osimhen Napoli Image credit: Football Italia
Victor Osimhen Napoli Image credit: Football Italia

What Barcelona should expect from Napoli


Image credit: Football Espana


What should Barcelona expect from Napoli? Ruairidh Barlow reports for Football Espana. We’ve asked our friends at Football Italia for a preview of the Serie A defending champions ahead of their Champions League meeting with the Blaugrana.


The Current Situation


It’s fair to say that there are many question marks surrounding Francesco Calzona’s Napoli heading into the business end of the season, with endless unknowns circulating high above the Campania capital.


Calzona, who has retained his role as Slovakia’s coach while leading the Partenopei to the end of the season, has not yet suffered defeat in Serie A since taking over. He guided the team to two wins and three draws in his first five matches across all competitions.


An impressive 6-1 thrashing of Sassuolo and a tense 2-1 win over Juventus both restored some faith in Napoli, who have been all over the place this term, but their latest 1-1 draw with Torino showed that there is still a lot of work to be done in the final few months of the campaign.


Off the pitch, Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis has started to grow increasingly chaotic; he first aimed DAZN ahead of their match with Juventus, trying to protest against the broadcaster, and then he abruptly stopped Matteo Politano’s interview with Sky Sports Italia.


With 10 matches left in this Serie A season, the defending champions are seventh in the table, seven points behind fourth-place Bologna. A huge upswing in form is needed if the Campania outfit wants to secure a Champions League finish, something that looks unlikely at this stage.


What to expect from the drawing board – Francesco Calzona


Calzona has not introduced many sweeping changes since taking over Napoli last month, retaining the 4-3-3 system that led them to the Scudetto the previous year. The team still heavily relies on star moments from Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and generally tries to focus on quick transitions and composed build-up play.


The only injury concern is Jens Cajuste’s minor hamstring strain. Calzona is expected to set up his strongest Napoli squad against Barcelona, relying on Kvaratskhelia, Osimhen, and Matteo Politano to lead the line.


January signings Hamed Junior Traore, Stanislav Lobotka, and Frank Anguissa will likely fill out the midfield. A back four of Mathias Olivera, Juan Jesus, Amir Rahmani, and Giovanni Di Lorenzo will play ahead of number one Alex Meret.



Players that might catch your eye


The obvious candidate for this is Osimhen, who has continued to shine in the Campania capital this season despite all the chaos surrounding him; the Nigerian star has netted 11 goals in 17 league matches this term, continuing to prove a relentless hitman in the final third.


With the 25-year-old expected to make a high-profile transfer in the summer, he’ll be keen to show his best against Barcelona as he looks further to advertise his qualities to clubs across the continent. He came up with the goods in the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16, netting the equalizer in the 75th minute.


A stat to keep in mind


Eight. Napoli haven’t kept a clean sheet in their last eight matches across all competitions, conceding goals against Torino, Juventus, Sassuolo, Cagliari, Barcelona, Genoa, Milan, and Hellas Verona.


Their defensive woes suggest the Blaugrana won’t struggle to find a breakthrough in the final third. Still, much depends on their ability to limit the Partenopei’s star forwards, who’ll be desperate to make an impact in Catalonia.


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