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Napoli boss Walter Mazzarri expects a ‘thrilling’ clash against Barcelona

SoccerNews in Serie A 18 Dec 2023

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Napoli manager Walter Mazzarri hailed a “thrilling” match in prospect after his side were drawn against Barcelona in the last 16 of the Champions League.

The Serie A champions will face their LaLiga counterparts in February after progressing from a tough group which contained Real Madrid, Braga and Union Berlin.

It took a victory on the final matchday against the Portuguese side before qualification was confirmed.

And their reward is a meeting with a Barca side who last played at this stage of the competition in 2021 having been eliminated in the group stage in each of the last two seasons.

Mazzarri replaced the sacked Rudi Garcia in November with two games of the group to go and helped salvage their campaign after dropped points against Real and Union had placed their future in the tournament in jeopardy.

“I said after the match against Cagliari that all the teams who have qualified for the round of 16 are strong and therefore any draw would be difficult,” said Mazzarri.

“This one against Barcelona is especially difficult. For Napoli it will be a thrilling prospect.”

Mazzarri could turn to youngsters Giovanni Simeone, Alessandro Zanoli and Gianluca Gaetano for Tuesday’s Coppa Italia last-16 meeting at home to Frosinone, with the opportunity to rest more established players against the side sitting 13th in Serie A.

Striker Victor Osimhen is one of the players likely to sit out, with either Simeone or Giacomo Raspadori coming in to deputise.

Piotr Zielinski, Mathias Olivera and Eljif Elmas all missed the recent meeting with Cagliari, but Mario Rui could return.

Frosinone boss Eusebio di Francesco called on his side to be more clinical in front of goal against the champions after they went down 2-1 to Lecce on Saturday.

“We have to be a little more concrete and, when the team plays interesting patterns, it’s good,” he said.

“But we have to be more determined and aggressive in front of goal.”

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