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We were promised an entertaining affair when Napoli and Barcelona were paired in the play-off round draw for the Europa League and we were certainly provided with plenty of thrills and spills in the first leg.
A 1-1 draw was the result, but the Catalans will be ruing a string of missed chances from Ferran Torres, despite the Spaniard coolly rolling home a penalty to equalise early in the second half.
The Italians weren’t hugely ambitious from an attacking perspective but kept themselves in the game and had something to hold on to when Piotr Zielinski rifled home after Marc-Andre Ter Stegen saved well from his initial effort.
So, the stage is set for another frantic game in Naples, so let’s get stuck into our expert football betting tips for the second leg.
With the lack of an away goals rule, we’re likely to see a more expansive approach from both sides, with Napoli not being able to sit back after they secured a 1-1 draw at the Nou Camp.
And Barca rarely have that luxury when playing away from home, especially when coming up against a side with the quality of Thursday’s hosts.
It’s just three clean sheets in 15 away games for Barca, but we saw in the first leg that they’re more than capable of cutting through this Napoli defence and creating chances, so while both teams to score is a tempting single, we think there’s more value elsewhere.
Napoli are within touching distance of the Serie A summit and should find themselves at least level with AC Milan after their Monday night clash against struggling Cagliari.
Draws against Inter and Barca in the space of a few days is enough to tell you where this side are at present and they’re showing plenty of resilience against the bigger punches on the continent.
And they’ll need that mettle over the next few weeks. After the visit of Barca, Luciano Spalletti’s side head to the Italian capital to face Lazio in league action, before hosting AC Milan in a crunch clash a week later.
But their form across the board has been very good in recent weeks. Napoli haven’t lost over 90 minutes since before Christmas and scored eight goals in their three home games during the Europa League group stage.
Mexican forward Hirving Lozano is unlikely to recover in time for this one but is edging closer to a return from a shoulder injury, while fellow winger Matteo Politano is likely to miss this one too after picking up a calf strain.
An away trip to Naples should serve as a good litmus test of a Barcelona side that has undergone wholesale changes in the last few weeks.
On the pitch we’ve seen plenty of players come and go, but there have been some great impacts made by the likes of Adama Traore and Ferran Torres, despite the latter missing a string of good opportunities in the first leg.
They head to Valencia for a tricky La Liga game before this one, so they should be in battle-ready condition by Thursday night, although their defensive record is likely to come under the microscope in both games.
The Blaugrana away form is actually pretty decent. Xavi’s men are unbeaten on the road since they were comfortably dispatched by Bayern in the Champions League, although their run of away games since then has been somewhat favourable.
As far as injuries are concerned, Barca remain without the likes of Sergio Roberto and Clement Lenglet at the back, and up front, Ansu Fati and Memphis Depay remain on the sidelines.
Last Thursday’s clash was the eighth time these two have met, with the 1-1 stalemate being the third draw in that time.
Napoli have recorded only one victory over Barca, courtesy of a 1-0 win at the Nou Camp in a 2014 pre-season friendly.
The Stadio San Paolo was recently renamed the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium, after the late, great Napoli legend.
The ground is renowned for its intimidating, boisterous atmosphere on matchdays, particularly in Europe, which will prove to be testing for one or two members of this young away side.
It’s hard to judge which way this is going to go, but if the first leg was anything to go by, we should be in for plenty of entertainment.
The onus will be on Napoli to attack in front of their home crowd and they’re almost certain to create chances, but that zest going forward is also likely to open up gaps for the Catalan giants to exploit.
With all that in mind, it’s hard not to expect goals.