Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Napoli 1-1 Barcelona: What Were The Key Talking Points As The Two European Giants Settle For A First-Leg Stalemate In Naples?

Tom Dunstan in Editorial, UEFA Champions League 22 Feb 2024

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In what was a heavyweight Champions League showdown on Wednesday night, Napoli and Barcelona were forced to settle for a first-leg 1-1 stalemate at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium.

While Xavi’s side might have failed to find a first-half breakthrough on foreign soil, the Spanish giants eventually took a deserved lead on the hour mark as Robert Lewandowski produced a slick finish.

However, while Barca might have dominated large spells prior to the half-time break, the Catalonia icons missed out on what they had billed as a potential opportunity away from the Nou Camp.

With attacking talisman Victor Osimhen bagging a first goal of 2024 and salvaging Napoli a late equaliser in what was Francesco Calzona’s first game in charge, both camps will feel that they deserved to leave Naples with a first-leg advantage.

With a Champions League quarter-final ticket still firmly hanging in the balance, we have taken a look at the main talking points from Wednesday’s showdown.

Barca miss out on a golden opportunity

While Barcelona might have stormed their way to a Champions League knockout stage ticket back in December after enjoying a real group stage romp, it has already been confirmed that Xavi will be leading the Nou Camp at the end of the season.

Although the Spanish giants might have reclaimed their La Liga crown last year, Wednesday’s guests have struggled to find much stability and they have now placed all of their eggs in the European basket.

While Barca might have eventually been disappointed in Naples as they had to settle for a first-leg stalemate on foreign soil, Xavi’s squad will certainly be relishing a return to Catalonia in a fortnight.

Causing Napoli’s leaky defence a string of issues here and tipped as a leading contender when they open their second-leg showdown on March 12th, the reigning Spanish champions will now be desperate to claim some crucial defensive steel.

Crashing out of the Copa del Rey last month following an action-packed 4-2 defeat at the hands of Athletic Bilbao, Barcelona have registered just a single clean sheet from any of their previous 10 appearances across all formats.

Calzona has a job on his hands in Naples

In what has been a chaotic couple of days behind the scenes in Naples, few would have expected Solavkia boss Calzona to be appointed at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium on a short-term basis for the remainder of the season.

Parting ways with Walter Mazzarri following what was an extended crisis under the one-time Watford boss, Calzona is more than aware that he has a real job on his hands over the coming weeks.

Although Wednesday’s hosts might have made real history last season as they got their hands on a first domestic crown since 1990, the reigning Italian champions are enduring a public crisis this time around.

While Napoli might have managed to salvage a late first-leg equaliser here, they are languishing ninth in the Serie A standings and sit a remarkable 27 points adrift in this season’s title chase.

However, mounting what was an eye-catching second-half performance here and with their attacking talisman opening his account for 2024, the current Slovenia boss will take some positives away from their late comeback here.

A tale of two striking icons

Although there might have been speculation during January’s transfer window regarding Lewandowski’s long-term future in Catalonia, the Polish record-breaker is in the midst of a real purple patch.

Opening the scoring here with a clinical finish and now recording nine goals in his previous 11 appearances across all competitions, the 35-year-old certainly has a leading role to play if Barcelona are to mount a shock Champions League charge this season.

Snatching a late equaliser in Naples and bagging a first goal since returning from this month’s Africa Cup of Nations, Calzona will be hugely excited by the site of his attacking talisman getting back in the grove.

While there might be continued reports that the Nigerian ace could be set to complete a blockbuster move to French giants PSG, the reigning Italian Golden Boot winner has made it clear that his sole focus is on steading Napoli’s ship.

With a Champions League quarter-final ticket still hanging in the balance when Napoli and Barcelona meet next month, all eyes will certainly be on their respective attacking icons.

Match Report

Napoli: Meret, Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Juan Jesus, Olivera, Anguissa, Lobotka, Cajuste, Politano, Osimhen, Kvaratskhelia

Subs: Traore, Simeone, Raspadori, Lindstrom

Barcelona: Ter Stegen, Kounde, Araujo, Martinez, Cancelo, Gundogan, Christensen, De Jong, Gamal, Lewandowski, Pedri

Subs: Raphinha, Romeu, Felix

Goals: Napoli: Osimhen (75’) – Barcelona: 60’)

Yellow Cards: Christensen, Martinez, De Jong

Red Cards: N/A

Referee: Felix Zwayer

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Dunstan


Formerly of The Independent, Tom has spent the past six years as one of our senior writers and betting experts. Alongside working with numerous publications from across the globe, Tom also graduated from the University of Falmouth in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Digital Media.
Spending almost the past decade working in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada, he has also spent time featuring in sports radio. Tom can be followed on Instagram - @iamtomdunstan

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