UEFA Champions League UCL: Xavi Says Napoli Clash Most Significant

Manager Xavi Hernandez declared on Monday that Barcelona’s most significant match of the season will be their home match against Napoli in the Champions League last-16 second-leg.

After losing in the group stage the previous two seasons, Barcelona has an opportunity to go to the quarterfinals on Tuesday for the first time since 2020. The first leg ended in a 1-1 draw.

They defeated Napoli 3-1 at home in the 2020 Champions League knockout round, which was their most recent victory. Europe is now the club’s top focus, as they currently sit third in La Liga, eight points behind champions Real Madrid.

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The most important game of the season? Yes, it is, and we’re ready, we’re excited,” Xavi told a press conference.

“It’s been four years since we’ve been in the quarterfinals and that’s how we see it, we want to compete against an opponent who, although they are not going through the best moment, have the base of the (2023) Scudetto champion.”

While Napoli’s championship defence is already ended, Barca’s appears doomed to collapse.

The Serie A champions are currently sixth in the standings, thirty-one points behind leaders Inter Milan.

Napoli’s third manager of the season, Francesco Calzona, took over in February, and since then, they have won all five of their games.

Napoli have improved with the new coach, who is more dynamic and comfortable,” Xavi said.

“I expect a brave Napoli that plays from the back and presses high, that doesn’t speculate, has a lot of individual talent, it’s a big game and it’s a great team, current champions of Italy.”

Recent injuries have plagued Barcelona, keeping players like Pedri and Frenkie de Jong out of action.

Forward Ferran Torres, who has missed the last seven games due to a hamstring issue, is still not ready to play again, according to Xavi.

The manager is not looking for an explanation for the absences for the time being, even though he hopes to have Torres back for their next league game on Sunday against Atletico Madrid.

“Our absences are important but we have to compete.

We were better there (away to Napoli) and we have to be better here,” he said.

“It’s a chance to be in the quarterfinals, it’s a chance to turn the tables, the absences are not an excuse, we’re not afraid of failing, it’s a chance to compete in front of our fans.”

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