What to expect from Barcelona against Napoli? We’ve asked our friends at Football Espana for a preview of the La Liga giants ahead of their Champions League meeting with the Partenopei.

The Current Situation

How to sum this up in succinct fashion? Chaos is a good start. Barcelona finished last season with a La Liga title, a solid base which was their defence, and having won three of their last four Clasico clashes. This year they’ve been leaking goals, Robert Lewandowski has been missing chances, and two of their best players in recent weeks have been Pau Cubarsi (17) and Lamine Yamal (16).

Xavi Hernandez’s resignation at the end of the season speaks to a manager that has lost his composure and was running out of ways simply to get a reaction out of his players. They lie eight points off Real Madrid, and this is the last cup competition they’re in, it’s only the quality and determination of several players that have prevented this from being more. In Catalonia, this tie is being spoken of not in terms of how they can win the Champions League, but how much money is on the line. Ultimately, they are a collection of talented players, and for one night only, they’re capable of anything, including gritting out a win or a draw. That said, it’s a team that lacks structure, a clear idea of play, and cohesion, which is why every match for them is a lottery.

What to expect from the drawing board – Xavi Hernandez

Barcelona have cycled through systems this season as they look to counteract disappointing results, a lack of control and injuries, which have been a severe issue for a short squad. This week it looks as if Barcelona will line-up in an a-symmetrical 4-3-3, but it’s a long way from what that formation usually means. Andreas Christensen has been moved into midfield to screen the defence, and one of Jules Kounde or Ronald Araujo is likely to start at right-back in order to further stop the bleeding in defence. With both Alejandro Balde and Marcos Alonso injured, Joao Cancelo will play on the left flank – he tends to leave too many gaps to be described as a left-back.

Robert Lewandowski will lead the line, with Lamine Yamal for support, and one of Pedri or Ilkay Gundogan closer to the Polish striker for extra security with and without the ball. That’s certainly the way Xavi has been playing it of late, and perhaps the only surprise might be Raphinha, who is returning to fitness and has the defensive work-rate to justify his place. It’s a side that lacks width and struggles to defend the counter, but if they can get touches for Pedri, Frenkie de Jong and Gundogan in the right areas, then they can be very dangerous. Lewandowski has been criticised all season, but has three goals in his last four and is starting to catch form.

Players that might catch your eye

Lamine Yamal. You’ve probably heard of the mercurial 16-year-old by now, but we’re here to tell you he’s the real deal. Capable of dissecting a defence with a dribble, a pass or a run, he has an arsenal of weapons and has an absurd level of decision-making on the ball for his age. He’s been making things happen of late, and all of the big-name stars have been giving him the ball over the last month.

A stat to keep in mind

Six. The number of times in La Liga that Barcelona have been leading with 75 minutes on the clock this season. This shows you that every Barcelona game is tight, and while they have shown fight to win so many games from that point on, but only twice this season have they actually put a game out of sight by that point, both in September. Napoli will be in this tie until the end.

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