Barcelona may have suffered disappointment in La Liga, but the Spanish giants kept their Champions League dream alive on Saturday evening. The Blaugrana got the better of Napoli over two legs in the Round of 16 to book their place in the quarter-finals of Europe’s premier club competition.
The first leg in Naples had ended in a 1-1 draw, meaning that Barcelona needed just a goalless draw to go through. The way the Catalan outfit play meant that they were always going to score, and they did just that at Camp Nou on Saturday evening. In fact, they found the back of the net as many as three times.
Clement Lenglet put Barca 1-0 up after just 10 minutes, and Lionel Messi doubled the advantage midway through the second half. The Argentina superstar earned a penalty in first-half injury time, which Luis Suarez converted with ease. Although Lorenzo Insigne pulled one back for the Serie A outfit from the penalty spot just moments later, there was never any danger that Napoli were going to launch a comeback in the second half.
Following Saturday evening’s game between Barcelona and Napoli, here are the three things we learned:
With Lionel Messi, Barcelona remain formidable
Much has been made about Barcelona not being as formidable as they have been in recent years, but the fact of the matter is that with Messi in the team, the Spanish giants will always be a force to reckoned with. The 33-year-old forward remains at the top of his game, and the way he dismantled Napoli with his passes, vision, running and intelligence is proof that with the little magician in full throttle, Barca can beat anybody. According to WhoScored, against Napoli on Saturday evening, Messi took two shots of which one ended in goal, had a pass accuracy of 86.7%, won one header, took 71 touches, attempted seven dribbles, made one tackle, and put in two crosses.
Napoli are not among Europe’s elite
Napoli have had a difficult season, both on the pitch and off it. Carlo Ancelotti was sacked as the manager in December 2019, and while Gennaro Gattuso has steadied the ship and has done well, it has not been enough to make the 2020-21 campaign a success. True, the Naples outfit have won the Coppa Italia and will play in the Europa League next season, but they ended up as low as seventh in the Serie A table in 2019-20. Napoli simply could not compete with Barcelona on Saturday evening, and their performance and the manner in which they capitulated in the first half underlines the fact that they are not among the best teams in Europe at the moment.
Barcelona need to step up
Barcelona will take on German powerhouse Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals this coming Friday. Given the way the Bundesliga giants dismantled Chelsea over two legs in the last-16 tie, there is no surprise that they are favourites heading into the one-off tie, with Betfair rating their chances of progressing to the last four 19/20. Bayern have one of the strongest teams in Europe, and with Robert Lewandowski in red-hot form, Barca have to do better defensively and cannot rely on Messi to bail them out. The 31-year-old Poland international striker scored twice for the Bavarian giants in their 4-1 hammering of Chelsea at the Alianz Arena on Saturday evening. With players such as Thiago Alcantara, David Alaba and Thomas Muller also doing well, Bayern will fancy their chances, and all the Barcelona players have to raise their game to compete against their opponents, or it could be Quique Setien’s final game in charge of Barcelona.