Barcelona face Napoli in the first ever Europa League playoffs

(Football news) Barcelona take on Napoli after being eliminated from the Champions League group stage for the first time in 17 years as Xavi’s side will have vengeance in mind and go all out for the Europa League trophy this season. The club from Catalunya dropped into the Europa league after finishing third in their Champions League group, while Napoli face Barca because they finished second in their group behind Spartak Moscow. 

This is not the tournament that Barca will want to be competing in, but honestly it represents their only realistic chance of winning a trophy this season after  been eliminated from the Copa del Rey and also sit fourth in La Liga subsequently 15 points behind leaders Real Madrid after they suffered a disappointing f 2-2 draw with Espanyol in the derbi Barceloni. Barcelona, who last played in the UEFA Cup back in 2003-04, reached the fourth round of the competition before losing out to Celtic in the quarterfinals. Barcelona last faced  Napoli in the round of 16 stage in the Champions League in 2020 where Barca rode on Messi’s brilliance and ran out 4-2 winners on aggregate, drawing 1-1 in Italy before winning the reverse fixture 3-1 at Camp Nou.

Napoli have been eliminated in the round of 32 on five occasions in their history and would want that history doesn’t repeat itself again as both teams are equally matched, and seeing the current form both clubs are Napoli start as favourites. Luciano Spalletti's side will enter this contest on the back of a 1-1 draw with Inter Milan in Serie A  which has in turn left them in third position in the table, just two points behind leaders AC Milan, so they are very much in the title race this season. The Gli Azzurri have won six, drawn six and lost eight of their previous 20 matches against Spanish clubs in UEFA competition, while they have lost on seven of their 10 visits to Spain and their record, especially against Barca, is not that great.

For Barcelona, they will be without the services of Samuel Umtiti, Ansu Fati, Sergi Roberto and Alejandro Balde through injury, while Clement Lenglet, Ronald Araujo and Memphis Depay remain doubts as Sergio Dest will slot to right back as Dani Alvaes is not registered with the Europa League squad. For Napoli, Matteo Politano and Hirving Lozano are both injured, while Axel Tuanzebe has not been included in the Europa League squad. 

Dortmund take on the Scottish giants Rangers as both teams are hoping to earn a place in the next stage of the competition. Borussia Dortmund got themselves back to winning ways after suffering an embarrassing loss against Bayern Leverkusen as they defeated Union Berlin 3-0 this weekend. The German giants dropped down from the Champions League after finishing third in Group C, they missed out on a round of 16 place by goal difference, as Sporting Lisbon and Ajax finished above them. This tournament is the only chance they stand to win some silverware this season as they got knocked out of the DFB Pokal Cup and are 9 points behind runway leaders Bayern in the league.

Rangers have not conceded a single goal in their last three matches currently and head into this fixture with a bit of confidence especially after their poor form at the start of the year around but have been showing impressive results in all competitions.The reigning Scottish champions struggled at the start of the year, which also led to their bitter rivals Celtic overtaking them in the Scottish Premiership and going on top of the league. But since being beaten by the Hoops they have scored 10 goals in three games. The club does not have a great history against German teams in European competition; they have been beaten seven of their previous eight matches as their last win came in 1998. For Dortmund , Erling Braut Haaland could be available but Mateu Morey and Marcel Schmelzer remain absentees for the club. For Rangers most of their squad is fit as Alfredo Morelos will be set to start up front.

Also read: Liverpool rally past Inter to take a 2 goal advantage to Anfield

The other fixtures are:

  • Zenit vs Real Betis
  • Sheriff vs Barga
  • RB Leipzig vs Real Sociedad
  • Porto vs Lazio
  • Atalanta vs Olympiacos
  • Sevilla vs Dinamo Zagreb


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