Barcelona welcome Napoli to Camp Nou tomorrow evening in the first straight knockout round of the Europa League. It’s an intriguing clash between two of Europe’s most historic football clubs, one that could very well be in the Champions League.
But it isn’t. Barcelona dropped down to the Europa League after they failed to get out of their Champions League group, finishing third behind Bayern Munich and Benfica.
Napoli, usually a Champions League participant, competed in Europe’s second-tier competition from the jump this season. They finished second in their group behind Spartak Moscow.
Barcelona are currently fourth in La Liga, level on points with fifth-placed Atletico Madrid and a point ahead of sixth-placed Real Sociedad. Real Betis, Sevilla and Real Madrid are ahead of them.
Napoli are third in Serie A, a point behind Internazionale and two behind league leaders Milan. Juventus are in fourth, seven points behind the club synonymous with the south of Italy.
One boost for Barcelona is the fact that Pedri, who’s spent much of the season out injured, is beginning to return to his best form. “It’s true that you never know how you’re going to come back,” the boy from the Canary Islands said as per Mundo Deportivo.
“I had the confidence to return as well as possible and that’s been the case. The coach trusts me and I hope to return his confidence on the pitch.” Pedri also touched on what Xavi Hernandez has asked of him: “It’s something I’ve been working on since last season, something I want to improve. Xavi insists that it’s important to get into the area and score on a rebound.”