Barcelona 1-1 Napoli
Barcelona were held to a one-all draw at Camp Nou by Napoli in the first leg of their Europa League fixture. Lol, Barcelona are in the Europa League. It still feels surreal, but that’s what a financial crisis does to big clubs. The Catalans created better chances than their Italian counterparts but could not find the goal to go ahead. This is a script Xavi has seen many times with this team. They have played well and pressed well, yet couldn’t find the goal that they needed. Ferran Torres was guilty of missing a few chances. Barca needed a handball call on Juan Jesus to get the penalty following good wing work from Adama Traore. Even with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang making his first start, they could not find the decisiveness in front of the goal.
Napoli head coach and poet Luciano Spalletti will be happy with the way his side played even though they had to hang on to grab their point. They will wait for Barcelona at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium with a first-leg advantage in hand. Here are five things we learned from the game.
Ferran Torres misses cost Barcelona again
Winter signing Ferran Torres is very good at finding space behind opposition defenses, but he is struggling to finish those chances. Against Espanyol, he missed some big chances to win his team the game as the derby ended in a draw. Against Napoli, it was the same. The Spanish international fluffed his lines on three decent chances to score for Barca. The 21-year-old was in tears at the final whistle. Cheer up kiddo. As long as you keep finding those chances, they’ll start going in.
We need to respect Kalidou Koulibaly
AFCON 2O21 winner Kalidou Kouliably was immense at the back for Napoli as he eased the threat of Aubameyang. The 30-year-old blocked and intercepted well to keep his side in the game. His crisp and assured passing and carrying ability shined throughout the game. Having now spent most of his career in the south of Italy, it is easy to underrate the former Genk central defender. However, the 6ft5 man-mountain is one of the best in the business.
Adama Traore is becoming a fan favorite
Eyebrows were raised when Barca hijacked Tottenham’s move for Adama Traore. The winger is a curious one. He possesses elite dribbling and ball-carrying ability combined with mediocre end-product. However, the Spanish speedster is becoming a fan favorite at his boyhood club. There is an expectation every time he gets the ball. Fans expect magic from him and he has delivered. He has a goal contribution in each of his three appearances for Barcelona so far. Against Napoli, he created the penalty that led to Barcelona’s equalizer. His cross was handballed by Juan Jesus. He has been positive in his play, driving the team forward with his incredible dribbling. Adama can make something out of nothing situations and the fans appreciate that ability.
Woeful finishing costing Barcelona points
Under Xavi, Barcelona are moving the ball well and creating chances, but they are not taking them. It is a problem they tried to solve by bringing two goal-oriented attackers in Auba and Torres, but it persists. They missed good chances to take the lead against Napoli and it was the same against Espanyol last weekend. Barcelona need to be putting these chances to bed if they want to end this season on a high. They have managed to leap into fourth on the La Liga table with champions Atletico Madrid faltering. If they want to stay there, they’ll need more goals from their attackers.
Victor Osimhen silenced at Camp Nou
With four goals in three Europa League matches, Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen was the clear danger man for Napoli. He would have been licking his lips at the prospects of facing Gerard Pique and Eric Garcia, but they clamped him. The only time he got free thanks to a glorious pass from Fabian Ruiz, Marc-Andre Ter Stegen was there to deny him. It didn’t help that he mistimed a lot of his runs and did not hold the ball up well enough. He did not impose this game as much as he can.