Napoli v Barcelona: Barca's baggage could weight the favourites down

Gennaro Gattuso
Gattuso's men can thwart Barca in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

Barcelona's poor away record, including memories of Anfield in May, make Napoli the bet when the two sides meet in Italy on Tuesday, says Andy Schooler...

"In this competition Barca have won only six of their last 16 away matches. In the knockout stage, it’s just one win in eight."

Back Napoli (draw no bet) @ 6/42.48

Napoli v Barcelona
Tuesday, 20:00
Live on BT Sport 3

There will surely be a degree of trepidation when Barcelona step into the Stadio San Paolo on Tuesday night.

For this match brings a return to Champions League knockout football for the Blaugrana, almost nine months after a chastening night at Anfield left their hopes of becoming European champions for a sixth time dashed.

A 3-0 lead from the home leg disappeared all too easily as Barca crumbled in the red-hot atmosphere, eventually losing 4-0 as Liverpool completed one of the great European comebacks.

Barca's mental scar

It will surely have left a mental scar, or rather reopened an existing one.

It should be remembered that Barca blew another three-goal lead the previous season when they exited at the hands of Roma, losing 3-0 in the second leg in Italy.

And don't forget they also got away with one in 2017 when they somehow managed to turn around a tie against PSG in which they had lost the first leg 4-0.

Essentially, Barca are carrying plenty of baggage into this season's knockout stage and a host of injuries are hardly helping matters.

Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele may not play again this season, while full-backs Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto will also be missing here.

Recent controversial signing Martin Braithwaite isn't eligible and so boss Quique Setien is again likely to employ an unusual (for Barca) formation with Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann as the two front men.

At least Messi ended his goal drought at the weekend in spectacular style - his four-goal blast against Eibar ended a run of four games without finding the net.

1280LionelMessiBarcelona2019.jpg

We all know if Messi turns up on song, he can win almost any game, but the fact is he's struggled to get Barca over the winning line on a regular basis away from home this season.

They've won only five of 12 away games in La Liga and since the group stage ended, they've gone 1-2-1 away, figures which don't include a defeat on the road (to Athletic Bilbao) in the Copa del Rey.

Even in the match they did win (at Real Betis) they trailed twice.

Looking longer term, in this competition Barca have won only six of their last 16 away matches. In the knockout stage, it's just one win in eight.

One final stat for now - the Catalans have failed to win on their last eight trips to Italy.

Napoli in fine form

There's certainly enough evidence there to suggest the visitors will be vulnerable but the question are Napoli good enough to take advantage?

After all, they've struggled themselves in home games - winning just four and losing six in Serie A at the San Paolo this season.

However, they collected seven points from a possible nine here in the group stage with the standout result being a 2-0 victory over Liverpool.

Across the whole group they remained unbeaten and conceded just four goals. Only PSG let in fewer.

Then-boss Carlo Ancelotti devised a plan to thwart Liverpool and they successfully sat deep before pouncing.

Gennaro Gattuso is now the man in charge but expect something similar tactically from the former combative midfielder.

A lot of the home damage was done before Gattuso took the hot seat but having had a chance to bed into his new role, Napoli are currently producing their best form of the season.

They've won six of their last seven and the vanquished opponents during that run are noteworthy.

Napoli have defeated both Juventus and Lazio on home soil, while they've also won 1-0 away at Inter Milan. Those sides currently occupy the top three positions in Serie A. For the record, Napoli are now up to sixth.

Value lies with hosts

The circumstances both sides find themselves in on the eve of the tie suggest Napoli have to offer the greater value at 12/53.4 to win this first leg.

Despite undoubted problems, Barca still have the talent to win this game but they look a poor bet to do so at 5/42.26. The draw is a 11/43.7 chance.

But rather than take Napoli in the win market, the safety net of draw-no-bet is worth having.

After all, Napoli's star defender Kalidou Koulibaly is a doubt due to injury, while Barca may well feel a draw is an acceptable result given how strong they've been at Camp Nou this term.

Napoli can be backed at 6/42.48 with that proviso of stakes being returned if the game ends all-square and that looks perfectly fair.

Goals at a premium?

Taking under 2.5 goals at 6/52.2 also looks tempting, particularly given how Napoli played, twice, against Liverpool.

The overs option is offered at 8/111.74.

However, I'll stick with the sole bet here, confident that the hosts will at least avoid defeat.

Opta fact

Barcelona have won only one of their last eight away games in the Champions League knockout phase (D2 L5), a 1-0 victory against Manchester United in April 2019. In those eight games, they have scored only two goals and conceded 17.

Click here for our Chelsea v Bayern Munich preview

Andy Schooler's P/L 2019/20

Staked: 66pts
Returned: 65.24pts
P/L: -0.76pts

New on Betting.Betfair – Betslip



You can now bet without leaving Betting.Betfair with our brand new on-site betslip for Exchange markets. You'll see the Exchange back and lay prices at the end of articles - simply login and place your bets as you would do on the main Exchange site.

Discover the latest articles

Read past articles