An enticing UEFA Champions League last-16 first-leg clash awaits on Wednesday in Naples. With a quarter-final place on the line, look ahead with our Napoli vs Barcelona prediction and preview.

Napoli vs Barcelona Stats: The Quick Hits

  • The Opta supercomputer is fairly split on this one, with the respective win probabilities of Napoli and Barcelona separated by just 0.7%.
  • Napoli have never won a major European match against Barcelona (D2 L2).
  • Barcelona have only won one of their last 10 away games in the knockout stages of the Champions League (D4 L5).

Match Preview

Having suffered UEFA Champions League elimination at the group stage in back-to-back seasons, Barcelona will be hoping to put those recent European struggles firmly behind them when they visit Napoli at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona for the first leg of their last-16 clash on Wednesday.

Barcelona head coach Xavi has twice taken his former side into the UEFA Europa League after failing to get out of their Champions League group in 2021-22 and again last season. Admittedly 2021-22 was also partly the responsibility of Ronald Koeman, who was sacked in November 2021, and Xavi somewhat made amends this term by guiding them to top spot in Group H.

The reigning Spanish champions finished level on points with Porto but secured the seeded draw through a favourable head-to-head record, having beaten the Portuguese side home and away despite surprise defeats on the road against Antwerp and Shakhtar Donetsk.

Suffice to say, qualifying first from a relatively unimpressive group has done little to distract from their underwhelming La Liga title defence, sitting third in the table and eight points behind leaders Real Madrid. Xavi, who’s already decided to step down at the end of the season, needs his side to put those domestic frustrations to one side if the Blaugrana are to challenge for a first Champions League trophy since 2014-15.

Any such success will likely rely on Robert Lewandowski finding some form, considering the Polish striker hasn’t scored in any of his last four Champions League appearances – only once previously has he had a longer run of games without a goal in the competition, going five without netting between March and May 2018 for Bayern Munich.

Robert Lewandowski Champions League 2023-24

Blending the experience of players like Ilkay Gündogan and Lewandowski with the bravery of youth will be key to any European progression for Xavi, who has seen exciting La Masia product Lamine Yamal emerge as a leading player. The 16-year-old winger has already netted in three different competitions for the club (La Liga, Copa del Rey, Supercopa) and could become the first 16-year-old to score in the Champions League – that would, of course, also make him the youngest goalscorer in Champions League history.

First-choice goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen and winger Raphinha have both recently made returns from injury, though Barca will likely remain without Ferran Torres, João Félix, Sergi Roberto, Alejandro Balde, Marcos Alonso and Gavi. Ronald Araújo limped off in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Celta Vigo but could still feature in Naples.

Much like Barcelona, Napoli have struggled in their domestic title defence this term, dismissing Rudi Garcia – the replacement for last year’s Serie A-winning coach Luciano Spalletti – and appointing Walter Mazzarri in November. But Mazzarri was dismissed on the eve of this game, with the club appointing Francesco Calzona.

The Partenopei are ninth in the Italian top flight and needed a Matchday 6 victory over Braga to secure their Champions League progression, finishing second in Group C behind Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid.

Napoli were twice beaten by Los Blancos in the group stage but edged their way through after defeating Braga home and away, as well as taking four points from Union Berlin. With injury-prone Victor Osimhen and winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia failing to live up to last season’s exploits, Napoli’s 10 goals in the Champions League this season have been netted by eight different players – only Manchester City (nine) had more different scorers in this season’s group stage.

Napoli drew 1-1 with Genoa on Saturday thanks to Cyril Ngonge’s last-gasp leveller, meaning Wednesday’s game takes place amid a backdrop of uncertainty around Mazzarri’s future. His bleak outlook won’t be aided by the expected absence of Osimhen, who may not be fit, with Giovanni Simeone likely continuing up top.

Piotr Zielinski, Mathías Olivera and Alex Meret all recently returned from injuries, while Juan Jesus is back from a domestic suspension.

Napoli vs Barcelona: Head-to-Head

Napoli have never won a major European match against Barcelona (D2 L2), while they previously faced them in the last 16 of the Champions League in 2019-20, losing 4-2 on aggregate.

The two sides also met in the play-off round of the 2021-22 UEFA Europa League, where Barcelona again triumphed 4-2. That Barcelona success was the joint-most goals a team have scored in a European away game against the Serie A side, with Manchester City being the only other team to have netted four (also a 4-2 win, in November 2017).

Napoli vs Barcelona Europa League xG race

However, Barcelona are winless in their last three Champions League games against Italian opponents (D1 L2), losing as many of those three games as in their previous 19 games against such sides (W11 D6 L2).

Recent Form

Barcelona have only won one of their last 10 away games in the knockout stages of the Champions League (D4 L5), with that victory coming against Manchester United in April 2019 (1-0). They’ve only scored four goals across these 10 matches, failing to score at all in six of them.

Those Blaugrana away struggles could be compounded by the fact Mazzarri is unbeaten in his five Champions League home games (W4 D1), winning each of the last three.

However, this will be just the third match he’s overseen in the knockout stages of the competition if he isn’t sacked before Wednesday, with the previous two coming in the last 16 in 2011-12 – a 5-4 loss on aggregate against Chelsea.

Opta Power Rankings

The Opta Power Rankings are a global team ranking system that assigns an ability score to over 13,000 domestic football teams on a scale between zero and 100, where zero is the worst-ranked team in the world and 100 is the best team in the world.

Ahead of kick-off on Wednesday, here is the Opta Power Ranking for both sides.

Napoli vs Barcelona Prediction

Napoli vs Barcelona Prediction

This one is tough to call, with the Opta supercomputer rating the teams’ respective win probabilities almost identically. In 10,000 pre-match simulations, Napoli did win more often (37.6% of the time), but only just; Barcelona are rated as having a 36.9% chance of victory on the night.

Their chances of progression to the quarter-finals are also very similar. Barcelona went through in 52% of 10,000 data-led simulations, with Napoli just behind on 48%.

Partly owing to their respective domestic struggles, Napoli have just a 2% chance of winning the entire competition, while Barca’s likelihood of a first European title since 2014-15 ranks slightly higher at 3.1%.

The Italian side have never made it to the semi-finals of the Champions League, though that occurred in 17.1% of the simulations after the last-16 draw was made, with the Blaugrana making the last four in 21.5% of the data-backed predictions.

Napoli vs Barcelona Squads

Napoli squad: Alex Meret, Nikita Contini, Pierluigi Gollini, Natan, Juan Jesus, Mário Rui, Amir Rrahmani, Mathías Olivera, Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Pasquale Mazzocchi, Leo Østigård, Alessio Mazzone, Hamed Traorè, Jesper Lindstrøm, Jens Cajuste, Francesco Gioielli, Manuel Legnanat, Alessandro Spavone, Stanislav Lobotka, Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, Victor Osimhen, Giovanni Simeone, Matteo Politano, Cyril Ngonge, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, Giacomo Raspadori.

Head coach: Walter Mazzarri

Barcelona squad: Marc-André ter Stegen, Iñaki Peña, Áron Yaakobishvili, João Cancelo, Alejandro Balde, Ronald Araújo, Iñigo Martínez, Andreas Christensen, Marcos Alonso, Jules Koundé, Gavi, Pedri, Oriol Romeu, Sergi Roberto, Frenkie de Jong, Ilkay Gündogan, Unai Hernandez, Ferran Torres, Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, João Félix, Vitor Roque, Pau Victor, Lamine Yamal.

Head coach: Xavi

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