It seems unthinkable, but one of the huge European powerhouses won’t be playing in the last 16 of the Europa League this term and it’s between Napoli vs Barcelona.
Barcelona has been accustomed to Champions League action over the past 20 years and will need a big effort to become the second Spanish team to win away at Napoli in European competition.
Barcelona has undergone a massive transformation since the arrival of former Champions League-winning midfielder Xavi.
When the legendary star arrived at the Nou Camp, Barca was on the brink of Champions League elimination and also out of reach from the top four in La Liga.
While he was unable to salvage their European campaign, the Spanish star has at least taken the Catalonian giants back into the Champions League places in La Liga.
However, any manager at the Nou Camp is ranked on the trophies that they win, and the Europa League looks to be their only chance of adding silverware this term. Their away record in Europe this term has been nothing short of disastrous.
Barcelona has lost two of the three games that they have played, with their only win coming in a 1-0 success in Ukraine against Dynamo Kyiv.
They were hammered 3-0 by both Bayern Munich and Benfica, and their chances certainly aren’t helped by the fact that only one Spanish side has picked up a win away at Napoli in the previous ten attempts.
Napoli vs Barcelona Preview
The Italian hosts were listed as the early-season favorites to win the Europa League. However, their chances of success were certainly impacted after they fell into the playoff round after finishing second in their group behind Spartak Moscow. They haven’t had it all their own way in the competition so far, as they have lost twice in the six games that they have played.
A huge case could be made that fans in Naples would prefer to win Serie A this season, as they are in the mix for a first domestic title since 1990. Napoli is currently third in the Italian top-flight but could move top before this game against Barcelona on Thursday.
Napoli currently has a narrow advantage in the tie, as the first leg last weekend saw the sides play out a 1-1 draw. While the away goals record in Europe is no more, they will still be aware that a home success will be enough to see them progress.
They were dominated last week in the Nou Camp, as they managed just 33% of the possession but were clinical on the counter, registering shots on target with all four attempts.
Point Spread tips
The spread betting option for this Napoli vs Barcelona is typically popular when these sides are in action. However, it would be a selection I would be keen to avoid this week.
Napoli (-1) looks an incredibly unlikely outcome based on the tactics that were on display in the first leg, as they will look to play a defensive style and hit on the counter-attack.
Barcelona (+1) is a much more comfortable option, but -200 is far too short for anyone looking for a glimmer of value when betting on the match.
Napoli has an incredible record of qualifying after drawing the first leg, having progressed on all previous eight occasions.
Spanish sides have struggled away from home against Napoli in European competition, with Real Madrid’s 3-1 win in March 2017 being the only victory recorded in ten attempts.
I like Napoli’s chances to progress at +155, and Victor Osimhen to get on the scoresheet at +137 is also an interesting selection.