Napoli, a 'coconut' for Barça in the return to the second European competition

The Italian team was one of the rivals that the Barça club wanted to avoid, which will have to recover its best version if it wants to qualify for the second round

Eighteen years after his last participation, the Barcelona will return to Europa League, the second continental competition, and will be measured in the knockout of the round of 32 at Naples, ‘coconut’ of the draw and linked to the Barça club by the figure of Diego Armando Maradona.

The Italian team was one of the rivals that the Barça club wanted to avoid, which will have to recover its best version if it wants to compete against the team trained by Luciano Spaletti.

He is not a completely unknown rival for some of the players of the Barcelona. In the 2019-20 season, the course in which the Barcelona fell 8-2 in the quarterfinals of the Champions League against Bayern Munich, they faced the Naples in the previous tie.

The Barcelona, then trained by Quique Setién, tied in the first leg played in San Paolo (1-1), shortly before the competition for the Covid-19 pandemic stopped, and in August he signed the pass to the quarterfinals in the Camp Nou with a 3-1 thanks to the goals of Messi, Luis Suárez and Clément Lenglet.

Neither the Argentine, in Paris Saint-Germain, nor the Uruguayan, in the ranks of Atlético de Madrid, are part of the current squad of the Barcelona, which in the qualifying phase of the Champions League has only scored two goals in six games.

In addition, with the Nigerian forward Victor Osimhen, now injured, the Spanish Fabián Ruiz and the always dangerous Lorenzo Insigne, in addition to the Mexican ‘Chucky’ Lozano, the Neapolitan team leaves as favorites of the tie, which will begin on February 17 at the Camp Nou with the first leg and will close on the 24th of the same month in Naples.

In the tie of the Europa League, Xavi hopes to recover troops up front, such as Ansu Fati and Memphis Depay, and hopes to strengthen himself with a view to the winter market to face the European challenge with more gunpowder.

It will be a special tie for both clubs. The name of Diego Armando Maradona will plan in the previous one. The Argentine star, who died in November 2020, played in the Barcelona two seasons (1982-83 / 1983-84) shortly before signing for the Naples where he became a legend.

In seven seasons in San Paolo, the ‘Pelusa’ became the benchmark for the Neapolitan team, which under his baton won a UEFA Cup (1988-89) and two ‘Scudetto’ (1987 and 1990).

A tie with many ingredients for the Barcelona, who had not participated in the second European competition for eighteen years, now called Europa League.

In fact, the last time he played it (2003-04), the title was called the UEFA Cup and, curiously, it coincided with Joan Laporta’s first year as president.

Was a Barça also under construction. Argentine Lionel Messi had not yet made his debut in an official match with the Barça first team and Ronaldinho was the star of a squad with players inherited from the legacy of Joan Gaspart such as Patrick Kluivert, Philip Cocu or Gerard López, among others.

History repeats itself and, in the first year of the second stage of the lawyer to the presidency, the Catalan club, dismounted from the knockout stages of the Champions League after falling in the last match of the group stage against Bayern de Munich will seek to compete in the second continental competition.

Since lifting the Champions League in 2015, the Barça it only causes disappointments to be chained in the form of a thrashing in the Champions League. Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, Roma, Liverpool and Bayern Munich have taken advantage of Barça’s weaknesses.

In February, the Europa League It will be a good opportunity for young players like ‘Gavi’ and Nico González, among others, to play hard against a rival with a level to play in the ‘Champions’.