Xavi Hernandez insists ‘there are no favourites’ in the Champions League tie between Barcelona and Napoli, confessing he was ‘surprised’ by the arrival of new coach Francesco Calzona.

The first leg in the Champions League Round of 16 tie kicks off on Wednesday at 20.00 GMT at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

“Returning to the Round of 16 is hope for us and we want to reach the quarter-finals,” said the coach in his press conference.

“Tomorrow we must do everything that we worked on, we have what it takes to play a great game.”

It has been a strange few days in the Napoli camp, as after it seems as if Walter Mazzarri would remain until at least after this match, he was fired yesterday evening to make way for their third boss of the season, Calzona.

Even more curiously, Calzona will continue his other job as the coach of the Slovakia national team while helping Napoli until the end of the season.

“Napoli changed coach in a rather surprising way. I am sure they had their reasons,” added Xavi.

“Calzona has already worked at the club. It is not easy for us to prepare the game following that change, but we must show character and do well in both attack and defence, because we are up against the Champions of Italy.

“Matteo Politano, Victor Osimhen and Kvicha Kvaratskhelia form a great strike force, they are top level players.”

Even before the change of coach, Napoli had already shuffled regularly between a three-man defence and 4-3-3 formation, so were always likely to be unpredictable.

“We won LaLiga last season, Napoli won the Scudetto, and like them our campaign so far has been irregular. There will certainly not be any favourites going into this tie, it’ll be 50-50.

“We are analysing the way Napoli play, who under Mazzarri often had a five-man defence, while with Calzona it will be four, but that doesn’t change too much for us. The most important thing is for us to dominate the game, regardless of who is on the opposition bench.”

Xavi has already announced that he is leaving the Barcelona job at the end of the season, so their mood has been far from relaxed either.

“We do not play to silence critics, we play for the fans and for those who want the club to do well. The focus tomorrow will not be on criticism or injustice, but on the Round of 16, something we have not reached for two years. We must enjoy this moment and be competitive.

“Barcelona is the club of my life, that does not change. I am very motivated and want to transmit that to the players. We’ve felt pressure since the first day, so that has not changed, when you are at Barcelona, you will always feel pressure.”

The Blaugrana are currently third in LaLiga behind Real Madrid and Girona, but while they only lost three games in that competition, they conceded a whopping 34 goals in 25 fixtures.

“It is fundamental that we defend well against Napoli, not allowing Politano, Osimhen and Kvaratskhelia to hurt us in the transitions. They are players who can make the difference.

“We also know that the second leg is at home, so need to be a little more cautious. We will try to defend in possession, though I imagine Napoli will aim to do the same, especially under a new coach. It’s going to be a complicated match.

“I would never say a draw is a good result, because we are Barcelona and must always play to win.”

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