Barcelona vs Napoli: UEFA Europa League background, form guide, previous meetings
Wednesday, January 19, 2022
Barcelona make their UEFA Europa League debut against Napoli, who are appearing in the knockout phase for a record-equalling ninth time.
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Barcelona find themselves on unfamiliar ground as they make their UEFA Europa League debut against Napoli, who are appearing in the knockout phase of the competition for a record-equalling ninth time.
• After 17 successive years competing in the knockout rounds of the UEFA Champions League, Barcelona failed to progress from their group in the autumn, picking up just seven points to finish third behind Bayern München and Benfica and cross over to the UEFA Europa League for the first time. Napoli, meanwhile, were runners-up to Spartak Moskva in UEFA Europa League Group C, clinching qualification with a decisive Matchday 6 home win against Leicester City.
• Barcelona and Napoli, both former clubs of Diego Maradona, have been paired just once before in UEFA competition, in the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League round of 16. The tie was interrupted for several months by the COVID-19 pandemic, the first leg in Naples in February finishing 1-1 and the second leg at the Camp Nou in August resulting in a 3-1 win for Barcelona.
• Barça have faced Italian clubs on 60 previous occasions, winning 30 (D18 L12). Their record in 27 home games is W19 D5 L3, the heaviest of the three defeats having come in the most recent encounter when they lost 0-3 against Juventus on Matchday 6 of last season's UEFA Champions League. The Catalan side's record in two-legged ties against Italian opposition is W9 L5, that 2019/20 success against Napoli the most recent.
• Napoli's 20 previous UEFA matches against Spanish opposition have yielded six wins, six draws and eight defeats. In Spain their record is W3 L7, two visits in last season's UEFA Europa League having brought contrasting fortunes as they beat Real Sociedad 1-0 in San Sebastián in the group stage before losing 2-0 at Granada in the first leg of the round of 32 – a tie they lost 3-2 on aggregate, making their all-time record in two-legged ties against Spanish teams W1 L7, with defeats in the last six.
• Barcelona were third in the 2020/21 Spanish Liga behind Atlético de Madrid and Real Madrid, the first time they had finished outside the top two since 2007/08, when they also came third. They did, however, claim a record-extending 31st victory in the Copa del Rey, beating Athletic Club 4-0 in the final.
• Last season Barcelona also failed to reach the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2006/07, losing to Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16 (1-4 h, 1-1 a). This season they scored just two goals – both in 1-0 wins against Dynamo Kyiv – in finishing third behind Bayern (0-3 h, 0-3 a) and Benfica (0-3 a, 0-0 h) in Group E. Head coach Ronald Koeman was dismissed in October and replaced the following month by former midfielder Xavi Hernández.
• While this is Barça's first outing in the UEFA Europa League, their last appearance in the UEFA Cup was in 2003/04, when Frank Rijkaard's side reached the fourth round before being knocked out by Celtic (0-1 a, 0-0 h). Barcelona never won the UEFA Cup, nor reached a final, suffering semi-final elimination on four occasions – in 1975/76, 1977/78, 1995/96 and 2000/01.
• Barcelona have lost three of their last five European home games – all by three-goal margins – and have failed to score in the same number. They were unbeaten, however, in their last eight UEFA Cup matches at the Camp Nou (W5 D3), keeping five clean sheets.
• Napoli finished fifth in Serie A last season under Gennaro Gattuso, belatedly surrendering fourth spot to miss out on a fifth UEFA Champions League group stage campaign in six seasons. They therefore returned, under new coach Luciano Spalletti, to the UEFA Europa League, where they won their group last season before being knocked out in the round of 32 by European debutants Granada.
• The 1988/89 UEFA Cup winners have never failed to qualify from their UEFA Europa League group, making it six successes out of six this term, albeit as runners-up after losing home (2-3) and away (1-2) to Spartak, who finished above them on head-to-record after both teams had finished level on ten points. Napoli did the double over Legia Warszawa (3-0 h, 4-1 a) as well as getting the better of Leicester (2-2 a, 3-2 h).
• Napoli's ninth appearance in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase matches the competition record of Ajax and Olympiacos. They have been eliminated at the round of 32 stage five times previously, reaching the round of 16 in 2013/14, the quarter-finals in 2018/19 and the semi-finals, under Spanish coach Rafael Benítez, in 2014/15.
• The Naples club's away record in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase is W4 D2 L8, with defeats by two-goal margins in each of the last three matches.
UEFA Europa League squad changes
In: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal), Ferran Torres (Manchester City), Adama Traoré (Wolves, loan)
Out: Sergio Agüero (retired), Philippe Coutinho (Aston Villa, loan), Yusuf Demir (Rapid Wien, end loan), Iñaki Peña (Galatasaray, loan)
In: Faouzi Ghoulam
Out: Kostas Manolas (Olympiacos)
Links and trivia
• Napoli midfielder Fabián Ruiz is a Spanish international who played in his homeland for Real Betis (2014–18) and Elche (2016/17 loan).
• André-Frank Zambo Anguissa played on loan for Villarreal in 2019/20, losing both games against Barcelona (2-1 a, 4-1 h), while his Napoli team-mate Stanislav Lobotka spent three seasons with Celta Vigo before joining the Italian side in 2020.
• Barcelona goalkeeper Neto is familiar with Italian football, having played for both Fiorentina (2011–15) and Juventus (2015–17). He kept goal for the Florence side in the 2014 Coppa Italia final defeat against Napoli, which the Partenopei won 3-1 thanks to two goals from Lorenzo Insigne and one from Dries Mertens.
• Mertens and Barcelona forward Memphis Depay were team-mates at PSV Eindhoven from 2011 to 2013. Also on PSV's books from 2017 to 2019 were Barça's Luuk de Jong and Napoli's Hirving Lozano; they won the Eredivisie title together in 2017/18.
• Mertens has made 59 appearances in the UEFA Europa League, group stage to final, just two fewer than record holder Daniel Carriço.
• Napoli's Eljif Elmas scored the winning goal past Barça goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen as North Macedonia defeated Germany 2-1 in a 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier in Duisburg on 31 March 2021.
• Barcelona's new signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who played youth football in Italy for AC Milan, scored his first European goal against Napoli – in a 3-1 win for Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 6 of the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League. He also started both legs for Arsenal in their 2018/19 UEFA Europa League quarter-final defeat of Napoli (2-0 h, 1-0 a).
• Ferran Torres, another January newcomer at the Camp Nou, scored both of Spain's goals in their 2-1 win against hosts Italy in the semi-final of the 2021 UEFA Nations League. Insigne and Napoli club colleague Giovanni Di Lorenzo were in the Azzurri side.
• Luuk de Jong's last appearance in the UEFA Europa League was in the 2020 final, when he was named Man of the Match after scoring twice for Sevilla in their 3-2 win against Inter.