Napoli vs Barcelona Odds, Predictions, Picks | Champions League Preview

Napoli vs Barcelona Odds, Predictions, Picks | Champions League Preview article feature image

Alex Caparros/Getty. Pictured: Robert Lewandowski.

Napoli vs Barcelona Odds

Wednesday, Feb. 21
3 p.m. ET
Napoli Odds+180
Barcelona Odds+137
Over / Under
 -130 / +105
Odds via bet365. Get up-to-the-minute Soccer odds here.

Napoli and Barcelona are both defending champions of their respective leagues and neither are even close to replicating that level in their title defense campaign. Napoli enter this match ninth in Serie A and they just fired Walter Mazzari days before this key clash against the third-placed La Liga side. Barcelona sit eight points behind Real Madrid in the Spanish table and two points behind Girona in second.

Napoli are on their third manager of the season now, after firing Rudi Garcia and Mazzari for poor form. Victor Osimhen has dealt with off the field circumstances, injury and AFCON, and he hasn't been nearly as good as the last two years. Barcelona are in a search for a new manager as well, as club legend Xavi is departing in May at the end of the club season.

Barca did score a late stoppage time winner to beat Celta Vigo on Saturday, but neither club comes into this match with any form. The Champions League presents an opportunity for both clubs to hit reset.

Read on for my Napoli vs Barcelona prediction and Champions League match preview.


Napoli are hoping to new manager bounce their way to success in the Champions League by hiring Slovakia coach Francesco Calzona. The biggest problem for Napoli in the last few months is the lack of goal scoring. Osimhen missed a lot of that time due to participation in AFCON, and he also missed their 1-1 draw with Genoa over the weekend. Since their last Champions League match, a 2-0 win against Braga on Dec. 12, Napoli have played 12 matches in all competitions.

The Scudetto winners failed to score in seven of those matches and totaled 10 total goals. Osimhen is the key missing piece, mainly because the options replacing him have been so poor. Giovani Simeone scored just once in 6.7 90s for Napoli and they did add Cyril Ngonge from Verona in the January transfer window to boost the attacking depth. His debut for Napoli was quite impressive with six shots, three on target and a goal against Genoa.

Osimhen has only played 11 90s, but he's still averaging 3.6 shots per 90. It's not quite as elite as last year, but he's a massive upgrade to an attack that has also run badly from a finishing perspective and is due to score more goals. Napoli rank fourth in non-penalty xG in Serie A since November began, and that includes a lot of time without Osimhen.

In that same time frame, Napoli rank dead last in Italy in goals per match. The Italian side has totaled 1.4 xG per match and scored 0.57 goals per match. It's a remarkable cold finishing run that is highly unlikely to continue. One area of excitement is that Khvicha Kvaratskhelia has improved his shot production considerably year over year and his combinations with Osimhen can cause real problems for a flawed Barcelona defense. While Napoli's primary issue has been scoring goals, Barcelona have the opposite issue.

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Barcelona's inability to stop the ball in midfield has led to slippage all over the pitch in their defensive numbers. They were elite in Spain last year defensively, but struggled massively in Europe to defend in transition. Most assumed that the aging Sergio Busquets was part of the problem, and his departure to MLS would help Barcelona transition to a younger defensive midfield.

Due to a lack of resources and now injuries, the problem hasn't really been addressed. The Oriol Romeu addition proved not quite good enough. Frenkie de Jong isn't a natural defensive midfielder. Gavi went out injured. Pedri is more of a possession passer than a transition defender. Andreas Christensen has stepped into midfield a bunch to try to help Barcelona establish more control, but that hasn't really worked. When you combine the midfield issues with Xavi's decision to play elite attacking fullback but defensively challenged Joao Cancelo, the result is the current version of Barcelona.

They conceded 8.7 shots per match last year. This year, that's up to 10.7. The percentage of attacking third touches allowed is way up year over year. Their average xG per shot has increased and their passing percentage allowed has increased. When you rely on 35-year-old Robert Lewandowski to press from the front, you rely on aging Ilkay Gundogan in midfield, your pressing and defensive work rate will take a hit.

In reality, it's more surprising that Barcelona weren't worse defensively last season given personnel. That was on display in Europe, when Barcelona struggled to contain Inter, Manchester United and Bayern Munich and lost on aggregate to all three in home and home matchups. The Spanish side dominated the first three group matches overall, but conceded at least one expected goal to Shakhtar, Porto and Antwerp in the last three group matches.

Xavi has made a lot of decisions to help Barca in attack, and no club in La Liga is creating more xG per 90. Since November, Barcelona are producing 2.1 xG per 90. But the defense is closer to mid-table level than the top of the table. They rank eighth in xGA per 90, conceding 1.17 non-penalty xGA since November.

Napoli vs Barcelona


First legs of knockout ties tend to be cagey and lower scoring, but Barcelona aren't well set up to play that style. Given that their midfield and defensive issues aren't easily solvable, even a Napoli attack that has struggled for goals will find chances. Kvaratshelia against Cancelo is a potential defensive issue for Barcelona, while Napoli's struggles against wide pace and crosses have been clear in their numbers all year.

The total continues to get bet down as kickoff approaches and it's now in range where I'd play against the steam and take an over. Barcelona continue to be an elite attack, but we've seen capable attacking sides score on them regularly all year, and for multiple years in Europe now.

Pick: Over 2.5 (-135 or better)

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