Former Napoli, Barcelona and Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina compares Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Lamine Yamal to Luis Figo: ‘They do not fear one-on-one duels.’

Reina, spoke to Il Corriere dello Sport ahead of tonight’s Champions League meeting between Napoli and Barcelona at the Stadio Maradona.

The Spanish keeper is contracted with Villarreal currently but knows both Napoli and Barça really well, having played for both clubs.

Furthermore, he played with Xavi and worked under Calzona at Napoli when the Italian tactician was Maurizio Sarri’s assistant at the club.

“They are two friends of mine and I respect them very much. I’d love it if they could both qualify for the quarter-finals,” said Reina.

“Ciccio [Calzona] has deserved a chance like this for a long time. He has followed a path and reached an important target after years with Sarri. He deserves it.”

Both clubs are struggling in their domestic leagues as Napoli sit ninth in Serie A, while Barcelona are third in the La Liga table but eight points below leaders Real Madrid.

“Nobody expected this drop after the Scudetto at Napoli, but it’s the reality. The level of Serie A is high and one must always be up to the task. Ready to compete,” noted Reina.

However, the goalkeeper isn’t so sure Barcelona are in crisis: “That’s what they say. But I don’t see them struggling much. They are doing an extraordinary job. They are the defending La Liga champions. Real go fast, but Barcelona sit third, and anything can happen.”

Expectations are high for Kvaratskhelia and Yamal tonight and Reina spoke very highly of the pair.

“They both like to play vertically; they do not fear one-on-one duels, and they can dribble past opponents and create. They make the difference in football, now that we are losing the taste of one-on-one duels; they’re like Figo,” said the experienced goalkeeper.

“Kvara is 23 and he is stronger physically, while Yamal is 16. He will become a champion, but he needs time even if he’s the most decisive Barcelona player right now.”

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