Xavi’s decisions could make or break Barcelona against Napoli


Barcelona's Spanish coach Xavi arrives for a training session on the eve of their UEFA Champions League last 16 second leg football match against SSC Napoli at the training center in Barcelona on March 11, 2024.
Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images

FC Barcelona are preparing to face Napoli in their upcoming UEFA Champions League match. This game will be integral for Xavi and the Catalan club as progressing to the Round of 16 is one of the objectives that the club has set for the head coach this season.

The first leg ended with a 1-1 draw, which means the second leg and the tie are there for the taking of both teams. A lot has changed for both teams since the first leg that took place three weeks ago. Both the teams are now relatively stable with respect to their playing form, and this return leg is guaranteed to be a different match than the first one.

But as SPORT has noted, how the two managers line up their teams for this match will determine who ultimately ends up taking the spoils. Xavi will be without two of his key midfielders, Pedri and Frenkie de Jong for this match, and will thus have a lot of work to do to put in a competitive midfield for this match.

In the match against Mallorca, Xavi put in Raphinha and Joao Felix instead of the injured duo in that match. However, Raphinha had to leave the pitch rather early because of a knock, and Fermin Lopez’s impressive performance after coming on for the Brazilian means he will have a good chance to start the match against Napoli along with Christensen and Gundogan.

In the attack, Joao Felix will remain in the lineup, with Lamine Yamal also playing on the right wing and Lewandowski making up the focal point of the attack. With such an attack, Barcelona will be looking to go all out from the beginning of the match, to ensure a victory does not get out of their hands as it did in the last match.

There is some doubt about who will be starting in the defense. Ter Stegen will keep his position between the sticks, with Kounde and Cancelo playing on the flanks.

Ronald Araujo will return to the fold after serving his suspension for the Mallorca clash, but it remains to be seen whether Cubarsi or Martinez will be his partner in this center of the defense.

Ahmad Sarmad Ansari
Ahmad Sarmad Ansari
Ahmad Sarmad Ansari has been covering Spanish football as a writer for Barca News Network for the last one and a half year and as an amateur football fanatic for more than 10 years. He mainly covers on and off-field happenings taking place at Barcelona including transfer news, administrative changes, match reports, and any other eventful news coming out of the club.

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