After an entertaining 1-1 draw at the Camp Nou, Napoli and Barcelona continue to battle it out for a place in the UEFA Europa League round of 16 as they meet again in southern Italy.
• Napoli finished as runners-up to Spartak Moscow in UEFA Europa League Group C during the autumn, clinching qualification with a decisive Matchday 6 home win against Leicester City. After 17 successful years competing in the knockout rounds of the UEFA Champions League, Barcelona failed to progress from their group, picking up just seven points to finish third behind Bayern Munich and Benfica and cross over to the UEFA Europa League for the first time.
• A first leg in which Barcelona made their UEFA Europa League debut ended with honors even as a 29th-minute strike from visiting midfielder Piotr Zieliński was equalized just before the hour mark by a penalty from Barça’s new signing Ferran Torres.
• Napoli and Barcelona, both former clubs of Diego Maradona, have been paired just once before in UEFA competition, in the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League round of 16. The tie was interrupted for several months by the COVID-19 pandemic, the first leg in Naples in February finishing 1-1 and the second leg at the Camp Nou in August resulting in a 3-1 win for Barcelona.
• Napoli’s 21 previous UEFA matches against Spanish opposition have yielded six wins, seven draws and eight defeats. At home their record is W3 D6 L1, the only defeat having come five years ago when Real Madrid won 3-1 in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League round of 16 to complete a 6-2 aggregate success. Napoli won the most recent such fixture, 2-1 against European debutants Granada in the second leg of last season’s UEFA Europa League round of 32, but lost the tie 3-2 on aggregate, making their all-time record in two-legged ties against Spanish teams W1 L7 with defeats in the last six.
• Barça have faced Italian clubs on 61 previous occasions, winning 30 (D19 L12). Their record in 28 away games is W8 D12 L8, with victories on two of their last three visits – UEFA Champions League successes at Inter in 2019/20 (2-1), in which Ansu Fati became the competition’s youngest ever goalscorer, and Juventus in 2020/21 (2-0). The Catalan side’s record in two-legged ties against Italian opposition is W9 L5, that 2019/20 success against Napoli the most recent.
• Barcelona have faced Italian opposition in five UEFA finals, winning three and losing two. The most recent brought a 3-1 victory against Juventus in the 2014/15 UEFA Champions League showpiece in Berlin. They also lifted that trophy on Italian soil in 2009, beating Manchester United 2-0 in Rome.
Napoli vs Barcelona: the latest from the match
• Napoli finished fifth in Serie A last season under Gennaro Gattuso, belatedly surrendering fourth spot to miss out on a fifth UEFA Champions League group stage campaign in six seasons. They therefore returned, under new coach Luciano Spalletti, to the UEFA Europa League, where they won their group last season before being knocked out in the round of 32 by Granada.
• The 1988/89 UEFA Cup winners have never failed to qualify from their UEFA Europa League group, making it six successes out of six this term, albeit as runners-up after losing home (2-3) and away (1-2) to Spartak, who finished above them on head-to-record after both teams had finished level on ten points. Napoli did the double over Legia Warszawa (3-0 h, 4-1 a) as well as getting the better of Leicester (2-2 a, 3-2 h).
• Napoli’s ninth appearance in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase matches the competition record of Ajax and Olympiacos. They have been eliminated at the round of 32 stage five times previously, reaching the round of 16 in 2013/14, the quarter-finals in 2018/19 and the semi-finals, under Spanish coach Rafael Benítez, in 2014/15.
• The Partenopei’s home record in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase is W6 D5 L3. They have won just three of their last ten European home games in the spring (D4 L3).
• Napoli have won all eight previous UEFA ties in which they drew the first leg away, most recently overcoming Swansea City in the 2013/14 UEFA Europa League round of 32 (0-0 a, 3-1 h). Four of those eight successes have come after 1-1 draws on the road in the first leg, the most recent against Boavista (2-1 h) in the second round of the 1994/95 UEFA Cup.
• Barcelona were third in the 2020/21 Spanish Liga behind Atlético de Madrid and Real Madrid, the first time they had finished outside the top two since 2007/08, when they also came third. They did, however, claim a record-extending 31st victory in the Copa del Rey, beating Athletic Club 4-0 in the final.
• Last season Barcelona also failed to reach the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2006/07, losing to Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16 (1-4 h, 1-1 a). This season they scored just two goals – both in 1-0 wins against Dynamo Kyiv – in finishing third behind Bayern (0-3 h, 0-3 a) and Benfica (0-3 a, 0-0 h) in Group E Head coach Ronald Koeman was dismissed in October and replaced the following month by former midfielder Xavi Hernández.
• While this is Barça’s first UEFA Europa League contest, their last appearance in the UEFA Cup was in 2003/04, when Frank Rijkaard’s side reached the fourth round before being knocked out by Celtic (0-1 a, 0-0 h). Barcelona never won the UEFA Cup, nor reached a final, suffering semi-final elimination on four occasions – in 1975/76, 1977/78, 1995/96 and 2000/01.
• Barça have won only one of their last 11 springtime European fixtures outside Catalonia (D4 L6) – all in the UEFA Champions League. That came against Manchester United in the first leg of the 2018/19 quarter-final (1-0). Their first post-Christmas European away game in each of the last four seasons has ended in a draw, including that visit to Naples two years ago.
• The Azulgrana have been held to a home draw in the first leg of a UEFA tie on 11 previous occasions, going through five times. When drawing 1-1 at home first, Barça’s aggregate record is W3 L3, the most recent instance bringing elimination by fellow Spaniards Atlético de Madrid in the quarter-final of the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League (0-1 a).
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UEFA Europa League squad changes
In: Faouzi Ghoulam
Out: Costas Manolas (Olympiacos)
In: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal), Ferran Torres (Manchester City), Adama Traoré (Wolves, loan)
Out: Sergio Agüero (retired), Philippe Coutinho (Aston Villa, loan), Yusuf Demir (Rapid Wien, end loan), Iñaki Peña (Galatasaray, loan)
Links and trivia
• Napoli midfielder Fabián Ruiz is a Spanish international who played in his homeland for Real Betis (2014–18) and Elche (2016/17 loan).
• André-Frank Zambo Anguissa played on loan for Villarreal in 2019/20, losing both games against Barcelona (2-1 a, 4-1 h), while his Napoli team-mate Stanislav Lobotka spent three seasons with Celta Vigo before joining the Italian side in 2020.
• Barcelona goalkeeper Neto is familiar with Italian football, having played for both Fiorentina (2011–15) and Juventus (2015–17). He kept goal for the Florence side in the 2014 Coppa Italia final defeat against Napoli, which the Partenopei won 3-1 thanks to two goals from Lorenzo Insigne and one from Dries Mertens.
• Mertens and Barcelona forward Memphis Depay were team-mates at PSV Eindhoven from 2011 to 2013. Also on PSV’s books from 2017 to 2019 were Barça’s Luuk de Jong and Napoli’s Hirving Lozano; they won the Eredivisie title together in 2017/18.
• Mertens has made 60 appearances in the UEFA Europa League, group stage to final, just one fewer than record holder Daniel Carriço.
• Napoli’s Eljif Elmas scored the winning goal past Barça goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen as North Macedonia defeated Germany 2-1 in a 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier in Duisburg on 31 March 2021.
Barcelona’s new signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who played youth football in Italy for AC Milan, scored his first European goal against Napoli – in a 3-1 win for Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 6 of the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League. He also started both legs for Arsenal in their 2018/19 UEFA Europa League quarter-final defeat of Napoli (2-0 h, 1-0 a).
• Ferran Torres, another January newcomer at the Camp Nou, scored both of Spain’s goals in their 2-1 win against hosts Italy in the semi-final of the 2021 UEFA Nations League. Insigne and Napoli club colleague Giovanni Di Lorenzo were in the Azzurri side.
Luuk de Jong’s last appearance in the UEFA Europa League before the first leg of this tie was in the 2020 final, when he was named Man of the Match after scoring twice for Sevilla in their 3-2 win against Italian opponents Inter.
• The first leg was the tenth successive European match in which Barcelona failed to score more than one goal. Indeed, they were the only home team in the eight UEFA Europa League knockout round play-off first legs who scored less than two.
• Competition debutants Barcelona have become the 224th team to take part in the UEFA Europa League, group stage to final, and the 13th from Spain.
• Aubameyang scored a hat-trick on Sunday as Barcelona won 4-1 at Valencia in the Liga – their biggest away win of the season.
• Napoli’s record in three UEFA penalty shoot-outs is W1 L2:
3-4 v Toulouse, 1986/87 UEFA Cup first round
4-3 v Sporting CP, 1989/90 UEFA Cup first round
3-5 v Spartak Moscow, 1990/91 European Champion Clubs’ Cup second round
• Barcelona’s record in six UEFA penalty shoot-outs is W5 L1:
5-4 v AZ Alkmaar, 1977/78 UEFA Cup second round
3-1 v Ipswich Town, 1977/78 UEFA Cup third round
4-1 v Anderlecht, 1978/79 European Cup Winners’ Cup second round
5-4 at IFK Gothenburg, 1985/86 European Champion Clubs’ Cup semi-final
0-2 in Steaua Bucharest, 1985/86 European Champion Clubs’ Cup final
5-4 in Lech Poznań, 1988/89 European Cup Winners’ Cup second round
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