Napoli held on to a draw at the Camp Nou against FC Barcelona. The result leaves the Serie A as favorites ahead of the second leg clash that is due to be played in Naples.
The match between Barcelona and Napoli lived up to its billing. The fact that the two would meet in the Europa League, not the more famous Champions League, remained a surprise for many. However, at a time when both the Premier League and Serie A are full of so many great teams, winning a trophy is a priority for both clubs.
Luciano Spalletti began the match in the familiar 4-2-3-1 formation. He has used the tactic throughout the season. Eljif Elmas and Juan Jesus were the only, less than familiar, additions to the squad.
Meanwhile, Xavi Hernandez opted for 4-3-3 which suits FC Barcelona’s philosophy to which the young manager is so indebted. The Catalans played with a brave, high defensive line. Barca consistently pressed and looked to retain possession through their talented central midfielders.
Barcelona may have dominated possession, but Napoli struck first. In the 29th minute, Elmas managed to break down the wing and cross to Piotr Zielinski. The Polish midfielder’s initial shot was blocked well by Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, but Zielinski managed to find the goal off the rebound.
The Catalans’ many attempts on goal were only rewarded in the 59th minute. Ferran Torres, one of the team’s new additions, scored cooly from the spot. Prior to this, VAR analysis determined that Juan Jesus had handled the ball in his own area.
The final minutes saw Napoli frantically defending the result. It worked! It ended 1-1. It’s a result that favors Napoli ahead of a tense second leg due to be played in Italy. Facing FC Barcelona is at no time an easy task. However, Napoli can rest assured knowing that they’ve likely played the best team in the competition and did a good job regardless.