MX23RW : Monday, August 3 19:15:39| >> :60:116:116:
Aug 10, 2019 at 10pm UK at Camp Nou
Attendance: 60,043
Suarez (48', 58'), Griezmann (56'), Dembele (63')
FT(HT: 0-0)

Preview: Barcelona vs. Napoli - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews the pre-season friendly between Barcelona and Napoli, including predictions, team news and head-to-head records.

Even when their tours are concentrated on a single country, the world's leading clubs face arduous journeys in order to fulfil their commercial obligations ahead of the forthcoming season.

After Thursday's edition of this match ended in a 2-1 win for the La Liga champions in Miami, Napoli play the "home" leg of the double-header in Detroit - a mere journey of almost 1,400 miles for both travelling squads.

The imminent start of Barcelona's league season, which begins in the Basque Country against Athletic Bilbao on Friday, will only intensify the debate over the necessity and non-financial value of these tours, occasionally sparked by the complaints of the players and coaches involved.

Nevertheless, the novelty and allure of high-profile clubs locking horns in the build-up to the new season remains as entertaining as it is logistically baffling.


Antoine Griezmann in action for Barcelona on July 23, 2019© Reuters

A third pre-season win in a row was a welcome boon for Barcelona, but Ernesto Valverde's side still seem significantly short of conclusively proving that they have addressed a poor end to last season, including a catastrophic Champions League exit and a shock Copa del Rey final defeat.

They were far from convincing in edging past their Italian opposition at the first time of asking. The Spanish press has been particularly critical of a defence that produced an own goal from Samuel Umtiti and uncertain performances from the likes of rookie full-back Moussa Wague.

A last-minute Luis Suarez goal, following up an equaliser provided by a farcical Ainsley Maitland-Niles own-goal, gave the Catalans a comeback win against Arsenal in a high-intensity match at Camp Nou on Sunday.

Twenty-one-year-old reserve winger Carles Perez scored two second-half goals in a preceding 2-0 win against Vissel Kobe in testing conditions during a mini-tour of Japan that began with a 2-1 defeat against Chelsea.

Lionel Messi has not joined Barca's US tour after suffering an injury to his right calf on his first day back in training.

In footage that suggests the lionised striker should be ready for the start of the season, Messi has been seen pushing weights, tiptoeing on turf and testing his damaged muscle in the gym while his teammates trek across the US.

That will be of concern to Valverde as he seeks to improve the cohesion of his side with the start of their domestic campaign looming and build confidence ahead of their latest tilt at European glory.

In the meantime, Barca have been taking part in commercial duties familiar to fans of every club taking part in faraway tours this pre-season. Around 8,000 fans turned up to a waterfront event in which Sergi Roberto, Frenkie de Jong, Jean-Clair Todibo, Riqui Puig and Abel Ruiz threw merchandise to their adoring American fans.

Napoli are Barcelona's 20th opponents in America on a run of tours that began in 1934. Only two of those adversaries, Manchester United and Chivas, have a positive record against them.

Recent form: LWWW


Napoli players celebrate Lorenzo Insigne's goal against Liverpool in pre-season on July 28, 2019© Reuters

Ahead of his second season in charge, Carlo Ancelotti spoke glowingly of Napoli's performance in their first match against Barcelona.

With more than a fortnight before the resumption of Serie A, Ancelotti found little to criticise from a showing in which his side forced as many shots on target as their more decorated opponents, adding that he felt they had shone in every department.

The three-time Champions League winner considered the narrow defeat on a performance par with the pair of impressive previous pre-season matches he oversaw, enjoying a 1-0 win in Marseille and a thumping 3-0 victory over Liverpool at Murrayfield.

Napoli play an eye-catching, fluent brand of free-flowing, attacking football. They have a fan in the form of Barca defender Gerard Pique, who has paid Napoli the compliment of declaring them as the Italian side most like his own and praising them as more attractive than Juventus.

Gli Azzurri know that will count for nothing unless they can become more clinical as they seek to narrow the 11-point gap with which Juve stormed to the domestic title last season. Ancelotti has been attempting to improve the interplay between his midfield and defence, moving Lorenzo Insigne and playing the long-serving Jose Callejon in a deeper central role.

Now in his seventh season with the club, Callejon was arguably the stand-out performer against Barca, forcing the equaliser just four minutes after Sergio Busquets' 38th-minute opener.

The pre-season progress of new signing Kostas Manolas, signed for €34m (£31.4m) from Roma during the close season, has also been of close interest to fans.

Ancelotti expects the 28-year-old Greek to form an "unbelievable" partnership with Kalidou Koulibaly and insists that he wants to challenge for the title this season despite Juve's dominance last time out.

Recent form: LWDWWL

Team News

Napoli's Eljif Elmas in action with Barcelona's Sergio Busquets in a pre-season match on August 7, 2019© Reuters

With the exception of Messi, a full Barcelona contingent made the trip to the US, rewarding the crowd of more than 57,000 people who turned out at the Hard Rock Stadium.

That attendance was 8,000 shy of capacity, with many fans thought to have stayed at home in the belief that Barca would send a skeleton squad Stateside.

Junior Firpo, whose teenage comments on social media about his capacity to injure Messi have caused some consternation this week, made his debut in the first match against Napoli.

The versatile 22-year-old defender was one of a number of lesser-known players named in the starting lineup, including Perez and skilful 19-year-old midfielder Puig.

Despite being linked with a move to Paris Saint-Germain as part of a swap deal for Neymar, forward Ousmane Dembele impressed on a night when Ivan Rakitic, the other player Barca are said to be ready to trade as part of the switch, scored the winner with 11 minutes remaining.

Valverde explained that midfielder Philippe Coutinho had been left out because he had only taken part in two training sessions. The Brazilian is more likely to play a part now that rumours of a switch to former club Liverpool, as well as late interest from Arsenal, have been ended by the cessation of the Premier League transfer window.

According to their boss, Coutinho's countryman and fellow midfielder Arthur Melo and Chile midfielder Arturo Vidal were also left out because of a lack of training following their return from Copa America duty.

Valverde also hinted at wholesale changes, noting that the purpose of the trip is to give the maximum number of minutes to as many members of his squad as possible.

Koulibaly could feature as the defender continues to build his fitness following his run to the Africa Cup of Nations final with Senegal, but Ancelotti's greatest quandary is likely to be provided by his attacking options.

Insigne, Dries Mertens and Arkadiusz Milik are thought to be vying for two positions up front come the start of the season, and neither of those places were locked down as Napoli's profligacy proved their downfall against Barca.

Milik missed a series of chances in a defeat that was arguably rough justice on his team, most notably when he fired a clear chance over the bar from a cross just three minutes before Rakitic's winner in Miami.

Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Neto; Wague, Todibo, Umtiti, Junior Firpo; Rakitic, Busquets, Puig; Perez; Suarez, Griezmann

Napoli possible starting lineup:
Meret; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Maksimovic, Rui; Zielinski, Elmas, Callejon, Ruiz; Insigne, Mertens

Head To Head

Surprisingly for two teams who are regulars in European competition, this pairing has never been made in a competitive fixture, and Thursday's win for Barca was their first friendly meeting for five years.

A late error by current Manchester City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, who had just joined Barcelona at the time, gave Napoli a late win thanks to a Blerim Dzemaili goal in August 2014, although Barca were missing Suarez and Messi in attack.

As they did with their win over Arsenal last week, Barcelona won the Joan Gamper trophy by beating Napoli 5-0 in 2011, including an opening goal from Cesc Fabregas and a double from Messi.

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We say: Barcelona 2-0 Napoli

Barcelona have several points to prove and a diminishing amount of time in which to impress ahead of the new season, so their last outing of pre-season is an opportunity to make something of a statement against opponents whose style gave them problems on Thursday.

Given their greater timeframe ahead of their league campaign, Napoli face less pressure to play with intensity. That should count in Barca's favour, although Valverde has questioned the need to travel so far in preparation and will be wary that even a minor knock for any of his players could keep them out of the Bilbao fixture.

With new signing Antoine Griezmann looking to get among the goals alongside the proven quality of Suarez and the promising talent of Perez, Barca should have enough to breach the strong backline of opponents whose strikeforce faltered during the first of these two fixtures.


Who will win the friendly clash between Barcelona and Napoli?

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Ousmane Dembele in action for Barcelona on December 2, 2018
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rhs 2.0
CReal Madrid38269370254587
3Atletico MadridAtletico381816451272470
6Real Sociedad38168145648856
11Athletic Bilbao381312134138351
13Real Valladolid38915143243-1142
15Real Betis381011174860-1241
17Celta Vigo38716153749-1237

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