Champions League recap: Napoli up for the scrap

After a change of coach, Napoli are ready to tough it out in the UEFA Champions League.

Watch every Napoli Champions League goal so far this season
Watch every Napoli Champions League goal so far this season

Barcelona stand between Napoli and the quarter-finals, but Gennaro Gattuso's side are up for a scrap in the UEFA Champions League.

Rule changes for this season


Season so far

Highlights: Napoli 2-0 Liverpool
Highlights: Napoli 2-0 Liverpool

Form guide: W3 D4 L0 F12 A5
Top scorer: Dries Mertens (6)

Their campaign in ten words: Unbeaten in Europe all season; thrive against the biggest opponents

Group E runners-up
Napoli 2-0 Liverpool (Mertens 82pen, Llorente 90+2)
Genk 0-0 Napoli
Salzburg 2-3 Napoli (Haaland 40pen 72; Mertens 17 64, Insigne 73)
Napoli 1-1 Salzburg (Lozano 44; Haaland 11pen)
Liverpool 1-1 Napoli (Lovren 65; Mertens 21)
Napoli 4-0 Genk (Milik 3 26 38pen, Mertens 75pen)

Round of 16

First leg (25 February): Napoli 1-1 Barcelona (Mertens 30; Griezmann 57)

Highlights: Napoli 1-1 Barcelona
Highlights: Napoli 1-1 Barcelona

Dries Mertens scored the opener before limping off with an ankle injury just before Antoine Griezmann levelled for Barcelona. There was not much to separate the teams, but that away goal could prove a major factor in the return fixture.

Expert view: Vieri Capretta, UEFA.com Napoli reporter

Napoli have looked great against the likes of Liverpool and Barcelona, but have not always sparkled against so-called smaller opponents. That they have reached this stage says much for their European experience, with a solid defence now supporting their proven quality in attack. Gennaro Gattuso loves ruining opposition game plans, and will be asking his side to give Barcelona a terrible evening next time out.

Who’s in charge?

Carlo Ancelotti steered Napoli through the group stage, with one of his former charges – Gattuso – taking command in December. A UEFA Champions League winner as a player with AC Milan in 2003 and 2007, Gattuso brings something of his playing style to the bench: his Napoli team are tactically savvy and hard to break down. Beating Juventus in June's Coppa Italia final gave Gattuso the first trophy of his coaching career.

Gennaro Gattuso is now at the helm for Napoli
Gennaro Gattuso is now at the helm for NapoliGetty Images

Key quote: “[In the first leg, Barcelona] barely had any chances, but we paid for our mistakes. If we play as a team, we can still go through."

Tactical approach

Careful at the back, Gattuso deploys a very solid 4-3-3 system, leaving little space for opponents to exploit between defence and midfield. With Diego Demme protecting the back four, Fabián Ruiz and Piotr Zieliński are commissioned to get the ball to Napoli's front three as quickly as possible. Lorenzo Insigne and Mertens are a handful for any back line.

Star player: Dries Mertens

The Belgian is now Napoli’s all-time top scorer, having overtaken Diego Maradona (115) and Marek Hamšík (121) this season. Mertens loves a big night, as sides like Liverpool and Barcelona now know to their cost.