Barcelona might have been happy with the Champions League draw initially, but Napoli’s resurgence after the arrival of Gennaro Gattuso is a concern. The Italian side has been much better recently and I think this could be a cracking tie.
Napoli will have the home advantage in the first leg and a good result here would be instrumental for the team’s ambitions to progress.
In this betting preview, I evaluate the chances of both sides and share my prediction of what’s going to happen on Tuesday night.
The first half of the season was a complete disaster for Napoli. The atmosphere around the club was poisoned by issues off the pitch and the players were far from their best.
The team was struggling to collect enough points in Serie A and was in the middle of the table at the end of 2019. The head coach Carlo Ancelotti was sacked as a result.
He was succeeded by Gennaro Gattuso and despite the early skepticism of many, the new boss certainly lifted Napoli.
The team rediscovered its spirit and is playing much better. It’s probably too late to salvage the season in Serie A, but Napoli is still in the Italian Cup and the UEFA Champions League.
That’s where the main focus will be and the Italians will be prepared to give Barcelona hell in the first round. I expect from Napoli to go for a similar game plan as the one we saw against Inter last week.
The side will mix it up between keeping the ball and hitting on the counter. It will be hard against Barcelona, but the hosts have players that can control the tempo for large periods of the game.
Barcelona also made a change at the helm not so long ago. Ernesto Valverde was replaced by Quique Setien and the start under the new head coach was far from brilliant.
He tried to strengthen the defense by keeping the ball for most of the games and not allowing the opponents any chances. That backfired because Barcelona’s own attack suffered and Setien had to try a more balanced approach.
It looks like it’s working as the team is scoring more and is back at the top of the Spanish La Liga standings after several mistakes by Real Madrid.
This weekend was especially impressive, as Barcelona destroyed Eibar and Leo Messi scored for goals. The Argentinian forward is in a devastating form right now and this is always a problem for the opposition.
I believe that the improvement of the past couple of games will encourage Setien to continue with a slightly more direct style. Barcelona will certainly have more of the ball tonight, but the team won’t use it for side passing only.
Napoli vs. Barcelona Prediction and Betting Pick
This one seems tough to predict, as I can see a lot of things working in favor of both sides. Barcelona is looking better recently and Messi has been a monster, while Napoli’s players have built a lot of confidence and will be desperate to perform on the biggest stage.
I expect a close game and while I usually don’t like backing the draw, I believe this is the best approach in this match. The price of most bookmakers is around the 3.50 mark, so the risk is certainly worth it.