Barcelona convincingly beat Italian side Napoli, as they secured advancement to the quarter-finals of the Champions League on Saturday night.
The Catalans were faced with a new challenge on the pitch Saturday night, having failed to secure the league title for the current season a couple of weeks prior. A fiery encounter was on the cards, as Barcelona faced Napoli in the round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League, with the Catalans going into the match as the neutral favorites.
Having had a somewhat turbulent season, emphasized by the departure of Ernesto Valverde mid-season, Barcelona are looking towards bringing the coveted Champions League back to the Camp Nou. The last time the club won the prestigious trophy was in 2015 in a 3-1 win against Juventus, with Ivan rakitić, Luis Suárez and Neymar all making their way to the scoreboard.
Since then, the Catalans have failed to achieve the glory they were seeking in Europe, with early exits in 2016 and 2017, before missing out on just the final last season, with Liverpool’s comeback at Anfield.
Another go at the trophy was there for the taking for Barcelona on Saturday night, and the Catalans were up for the challenge. With the first encounter against Napoli in the two-legged tie having ended 1-1, the Catalans needed to prevent their opponents from scoring an early lead, and needed momentum early on.
Clément Lenglet brought the early lead to the Camp Nou, heading in a cross from Ivan Rakitić just ten minutes into the game. Lionel Messi scored a goal after a phenomenal slaloming run past the Napoli defense, sliding the ball into the back of the net. The Argentine shortly after scored again, but the goal was retracted after VAR deemed a hand-ball was in place in the build-up.
Napoli soon began to regain confidence and accuracy going forward, but committed a foul in the final minutes of the first half, awarding Barcelona a penalty. The kick from the spot was taken by Luis Suárez, who calmly converted it, netting his 16th goal of the season.
The celebrations were put to a halt in the final minute of added time, as Ivan Rakitić committed a foul on Lorenzo Insigne, who scored the final goal of the half, to make it 3-1 at the break.
The encounter continued to be a fiery one as both teams had their fair share of the ball in the second half, with both teams showing prowess and promise going forward. However, solid performances from both defenses and their respective goalkeepers in Davide Ospina and Marc-André ter Stegen meant the game ended with the same scoreline as the one at half-time: 3-1.
Additionally, Napoli had a late goal in the final stretch of the game ruled out, due to off-side, after Matteo former Inter man Matteo Politano headed in a cross from Lorenzo Insigne. Napoli kept pushing, but failed to score the two goals they needed to advance to the next stage of the European tournament.
Barcelona’s next opponent in the Champions League will be German side Bayern Munich, with Philippe Coutinho remaining on loan at the Bavarian side at the end of the season. Bayern also went through, albeit with a more convincing scoreline, as they beat with an astounding 7-1 scoreline on aggregate, with 4 of Bayern’s goals and Chelsea’s sole goal all coming in the return fixture in Germany.