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Napoli v Barcelona betting preview
Napoli have dramatically improved over the last month (W6 L1)Napoli have won 6 of their last 7 outings with their only defeat coming at home against relegation-threatened Lecce (2:3). They have defeated the three top teams in Italy: Juventus were defeated 2-1 at the Stadio San Paolo in the league, Lazio and Inter Milan were both defeated 1-0 in Coppa Italia. Gennaro Gattuso's men remain 9 point below the top 4 zone (but Atalanta have one game in hand) but the Coppa Italia final looks almost secured. In Champions League, Napoli have ended their group stage behind Liverpool but they were unbeaten in 6 games. The "Azzurri" beat 2-0 Jurgen Klopp's men at home in their opening match back in September.
Top defender Kalidou Koulibaly is not 100% fit and should be benched. As a result Nikola Maksimovic should start as centre back alongside Kostas Monolas. WIth Kevin Malcuit sidelined, Faouzi Ghoulam and Elseid Hysaj doubtful, the like of Mario Rui and Giovanni Di Lorenzo will retain their starting berth as full backs. In midfield, Diego Demme will be flanked by Fabian Ruiz and Piotr Zielinski. Up front, Dries Mertens and Arkadiusz Milik are in contention for the central striker role, while Josè Callejon will replace Matteo Politano up front.
Barcelona have won 2 of the last 6 away gamesBarcelona have regained top spot in La Liga standings after beating Eibar 5-0 at home, courtesy of 4 goals scored by Lionel Messi. That result has marked their 5th victory in the last 6 outings in all the competition. Only Athletic Bilbao managed to beat the Catalan giants (1-0 in Copa del Rey) in the process. The Blaugrana have comfortably won their UCL group, beating Inter Milan twice with a 2-1 scoreline both at home and at San Siro stadium. Anyway, Borussia Dortmund and Slavia Prague managed to stop Messi & co. with a goalless draw. In the last few years, Barcelona suffered heavy defeats in away knock-out Champions League matches (4-0 at Liverpool last year, 3-0 against Roma two years ago).
The Spanish outfit are without Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez, both out through injury. Since new signing Martin Braithwaite is uneligible in Champions League, the youngster Ansu Fati is expected to partner Leo Messi and Antoine Griezmann upfront. Sergi Roberto is out for the next 4 weeks and has joined Jordi Alba on the sidelines. Hence, Junior Firpo and Nelson Semedo will start as left and right back. Clement Lenglet will start alongside Gerard Piquè at the heart of the backiline. The likes of Arthur, Sergi Busquets and Frenkie De Jong will feature from the off in midfield, wiwith Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal as back up alternatives.
Napoli v Barcelona Starting LineupsNapoli (4-3-3): Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Maksimovic, Manolas, Mario Rui; Demme, Zielinski, Fabian Ruiz; Callejon, Mertens, Insigne
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Semedo, Lenglet, Piquè, Junior Firpo; Busquets, Arthur, De Jong; Messi, Griezmann, Ansu Fati
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