26 February 2020
Napoli and Barcelona go head-to-head at the Stadio San Paolo for the first leg of their UEFA Champions League (CL) last-16 tie that is also their first-ever meeting in UEFA competitions.
The hosts have sealed a place in the competition’s knockout stages for the first time since 2016/17 after finishing runners-up in Group E without a single loss (W3, D3). Two of Napoli’s three group stage victories came at home and saw the Partenopei score over 1.5 goals and keep a blank sheet. Yet, the Serie A giants have picked up only six wins in their last 12 CL home matches (D3, L3) but have suffered just one home loss to Spanish visitors in seven such fixtures (W2, D4). It will be a daunting prospect for Gennaro Gattuso’s men to bow Barcelona out, considering they’ve managed to outplay La Liga opposition in only one of six European two-legged ties, losing the last four. This showdown is unlikely to produce a stalemate, given that none of Napoli’s previous 14 competitive games has ended in a draw (W9, L5).
Meanwhile, the visitors head to Italy on a run of three consecutive triumphs, which now means none of their last ten matches in all competitions has seen a draw (W7, L3). The Catalans have enjoyed a successful group stage campaign, finishing top of Group F without a loss (W4, D2). Curiously, all four of their group stage wins saw over 2.5 goals and both teams on the scoresheet, with three yielding the same 2-1 scoreline. Two consecutive away wins, over Slavia Praha and Inter Milan, have slightly improved Barca’s dismal European record in their last 16 continental trips (W6, D6, L4). The reigning Spanish champions will now try to erase the memory of their previous two two-legged ties against the Italian visitors (L2).
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