Napoli vs Barcelona

, KO: 20:00 Feb 25, 2020, Stadio San Paolo

THESE are curious times for Barcelona and it's hard to know what to expect when they take on Napoli in the last 16 of the Champions League.

The Nou Camp natives are restless and it's never a good sign when they start waving around the white hankies, with president Josep Bartomeu the target of their ire this time.

The punters are upset with a transfer policy that forced Barca to bring in former Middlesbrough man Martin Braithwaite from lowly Leganes after suffering an injury crisis up front.

To make matters worse, Bartomeu stands accused of hiring a social media company to attack critical former players who speak out in the media.

But the hankies were waved in his direction during a 5-0 win over Eibar that left Barca two points clear in La Liga after Real Madrid's shock loss at Levante.

And the Catalan giants head to Naples after going unbeaten in a tough Champions League group that saw them pitted against Sparta Prague, Borussia Dortmund and Inter Milan.

Champions League failure played a big part in Ernesto Valverde's downfall at Barca, his reign never recovering from second-leg capitulations to Roma and Liverpool.

Successor Quique Setien has won seven of his nine games since taking over but now faces the acid test with one of the toughest away days in European football.

Napoli beat European champions Liverpool at the San Paolo in the group stage and also defeated Juventus at home in Serie A earlier this season.

They also head into this clash in fine form under new boss Rino Gatusso, winning six of their last seven games, so this is a tough one to call.

How the bookies view it

Barcelona are slight favourites at 6/5 with Unibet while a Napoli win is priced 12/5 by Betfair and the draw is a best 27/10 with BetVictor.

Napoli have some injury problems, with key defender Kalidou Koulibaly ruled out while forwards Arkadiusz Milik, Hirving Lozano and Fernando Llorente are doubts.

That makes me side with a Barca win, especially with Lionel Messi heading to Naples on the back of a four-goal masterclass at the weekend.

I tipped them to beat Inter in the group stage and they delivered, so I'll stick with the Nou Camp men again.

Head to head

These sides have never faced each before and it could be dubbed the Diego Maradona derby given the great man joined Napoli from Barcelona.

But Napoli have a poor record against Spanish sides in two-legged knockout ties, losing four of their five showdowns. The only win came against Valencia in the UEFA Cup back in 1992/93.

Barca have a better record against Italian sides across two legs, winning eight and losing five of their 13 encounters. But they have lost the last two, with Juventus beating them in the 2017 quarter-final and Roma mounting that incredible comeback in the following season's semi-final (below).

Players to watch

It's hard to look past Messi after his incredible weekend performance but the Barca skipper is unsurprisingly short in the anytime scorer market, at a best 21/20 with 888Sport. He's 6/1 with Paddy Power to score two or more but Napoli are general pretty solid in defence at home.

For longer odds, try 17-year-old Ansu Fati, who became the Champions League's youngest ever scorer when he netted in the win over Inter at the San Siro. Fati is 16/5 with Paddy Power to hit the net here.

Lorenzo Insigne scored in Napoli's win over Brescia at the weekend and looks their best bet for a goal here, especially as he takes their penalties. He's 13/5 with Unibet in the anytime scorer market.

Anything else catch the eye?

The Napoli defence will have to cope with Messi's magical runs and that makes them candidates for yellow cards. So try backing Serbian stopper Nikola Maksimovic for a card at 2/1 with Unibet.

Most of last week's Champions League first legs were pretty cagey, with only Atalanta's clash with Valencia delivering a barrowload of goals. So try under 2.5 strikes here at 23/20 with 888Sport as the teams size each other up.

This match between Napoli and Barcelona will be played on Feb 25, 2020 and kick off at 20:00. Check below for our tipsters best Napoli vs Barcelona prediction. You may also visit our dedicated betting previews section for the most up to date previews.

Napoli vs Barcelona Betting Tips & Predictions
Barcelona to win
Nikola Maksimovic to be carded
Under 2.5 goals

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