Napoli’s New Coach Faces Tough Debut Against Barcelona in Champions League Round of 16

Napoli’s New Coach Faces Tough Debut Against Barcelona in Champions League Round of 16

Francesco Calzona, recently appointed as the coach of Napoli, is set to face a challenging task in his debut against Barcelona in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 at the Diego Maradona Stadium tomorrow. Calzona replaced Walter Mazzarri, who was dismissed by the Napoli administration on Monday, just hours before the anticipated match.

While Calzona is familiar with Napoli, having worked as an assistant to Maurizio Sarri from 2015 to 2018 and during the 2021-2022 season with Luciano Spalletti, his first test as head coach comes against a struggling Barcelona side in the Spanish League. Barcelona currently sits in third place with 54 points, 8 points behind leaders Real Madrid.

Mazzarri’s dismissal followed a decline in Napoli’s performance in the Italian League, where the team currently holds the ninth position with 36 points, trailing 27 points behind league leaders Milan.

Ahead of the clash with Barcelona, Napoli has only one training session with the new coach to assess the team and formulate a strategy for the encounter.

In Barcelona’s camp, the team announced that Joao Felix and Sergi Roberto have received medical clearance to participate in training after recovering from injuries. The duo is included in the team roster for the match against Napoli.

Barcelona enters the game on the back of a 2-1 victory over Celtaviejo in the Spanish League’s twenty-fifth week. The match poses a significant challenge for Barcelona, which seeks to make a comeback in the round of 16 after a two-season absence.

Napoli and Barcelona have previously met in two Champions League matches, with one draw and Barcelona winning the second. Both encounters took place in the round of 16.

In another match, English team Arsenal faces a formidable challenge as they visit the Portuguese club Porto at the Dragao Stadium. Arsenal, currently second in the English Premier League with 55 points, aims to maintain its streak of consecutive victories under coach Mikel Arteta. Porto, sitting in third place in the Portuguese league with 48 points, hopes for a positive result to boost their chances in the return match. The history between the two teams in the Champions League shows a balanced record, with Arsenal winning three matches, Porto winning two, and one draw.

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