Prediction and odds for the game: Barcelona (10/11) vs Napoli (3/1)
We are backing the draw at odds of 13/5
When: Thursday 17 February 2022, Kick-off 17:45
Where: The Nou Camp
On Thursday night, Barcelona and Napoli clash at the Nou Camp, in one of the highlights of the last 32 of the Europa League. Both teams will look to take a first-leg lead into next week’s second leg in Naples.
The Catalan giants have enjoyed a steady improvement in form since the appointment of club legend Xavi as head coach. The Blaugrana are now in La Liga’s top-four and look in far better shape than earlier in the season.
Under Xavi’s predecessor Ronald Koeman, Barcelona finished third-place in their Champions League group to drop down into the Europa League. The last time Barcelona featured in this competition was 18 years ago, when they lost 1-0 on aggregate against Celtic in the fourth round of the competition. That was in the days of the UEFA Cup. The home side has never featured in the competition in its current guise.
Barcelona had a boost in the January transfer window with the arrivals of Adama Traore, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ferran Torres and Dani Alves. The latter trio has been registered for the Europa League squad, but Alves has missed out.
While the Blaugrana battle for a place in next season’s Champions League for next season, Napoli are right in the thick of the race for the Scudetto in the Italian top-flight.
A 1-1 draw against title rivals Inter last time out may be seen as a missed opportunity. The draw against the reigning Italian champions made the Azzurri seven games unbeaten over 90 minutes in all competitions. The visitors now look to have overcome a sticky patch of form and look to be set for a strong finish to the season.
When it comes to the Europa League, Napoli enjoyed mixed fortunes in the group stages of the competition. However, three wins and a draw were enough to take the Neapolitans through from a group containing Leicester, Spartak Moscow and Legia Warsaw.
With the title on the line in their domestic league, the competition may well be way down the visitor’s priority list this season. A victory against such illustrious opponents as Barcelona could well give everybody connected with the club a big lift.
If this game would have been before the arrival of Xavi, we would have been predicting an away win. The Catalan giants look like a different animal under their current head coach. Napoli seems to have rediscovered their early season good form too. These two teams are too difficult to separate, so we are predicting a draw.
The other bet we recommend is Victor Osimhen to be an anytime goalscorer. The Nigerian international has recently returned from injury. With Barcelona short on match-fit defenders, the big striker could well profit in Catalonia.
Our Tips: we are backing the draw at odds of 13/5 and/or Victor Osimhen anytime goalscorer at odds of 13/8. (All odds are taken from Bet365).
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Can either of these teams record a victory to take into next week’s second leg?