Barcelona vs. Napoli score: Barca gets key Champions League away goal; Busquets, Vidal will miss second leg

Barca got a quality result in Italy after a slow start

Barcelona has a slight advantage in its Champions League round of 16 tie with Napoli after going to the San Paolo on Tuesday and earning a 1-1 draw. But there are a lot of questions ahead of the March 18 second leg at the Camp Nou with Barca's midfield set to be tested after two key players were suspended. 

It's a result that isn't all that bad for either team, all things considered. Getting a draw away from home in the first leg while scoring is a plus, but Napoli will probably take that result considering Barca regularly scores multiple goals a game. This result still gives Napoli a fighter's chance in the second leg though the health of their star scorer remains in doubt. 

In the early going, Barca looked well on its way to creating a bunch of chances and controlled possession. In the first 45 minutes, however, the visitors didn't even get a shot on target. 

On the other end, Napoli's Dries Mertens only needed one chance to open the scoring. His strike froze Marc-Andre Ter Stegen 30 minutes in. Take a look:

Napoli had the lead for nearly a half an hour of action, but Barca continued to dominate possession and it felt like only a matter of time before the Spanish side found the back of the net. Quique Setien's team finished with just two shots on goal, both in the second half, but one of them found its way in with Sergio Busquets playing Nelson Semedo through before Antoine Griezmann finished with little trouble 57 minutes in:

Napoli's Jose Callejon had the best chance the rest of the way but was denied by Ter Stegen after being played alone into the box, and the teams had to settle for the draw. The result gives Barca an edge but big questions surround both teams. Arturo Vidal was shown a red card for a dangerous tackle and losing his cool, meaning he's suspended for the return leg. Busquets is also suspended due to yellow card accumulation. That means Setien will likely play with a midfield of Ivan Rakitic, Arthur and Frenkie de Jong which is much more attacking than having Busquets and Vidal.

Napoli lost Mertens in the second half due to injury, and he's a player to watch for the second leg. If he can't go, it's hard to see Napoli having much of a chance of getting through.

Champions League action continues on Wednesday with Real Madrid facing Manchester City and Lyon hosting Juventus.


Napoli 1, Barcelona 1 (FT)

⚽ Napoli - Mertens (30')
⚽ Barcelona - Griezmann (57')

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Final!

It's Barcelona 1, Napoli 1 from the San Paolo. Barca has the edge entering the second leg with Griezmann's goal, but those absences for the second leg could make things interesting. On the other side, will Dries Mertens be ready?

No Busquets or Vidal will leave Barca thin

Barca will likely have to go with Rakitic, De Jong and Athur in the second leg with the suspensions to Vidal and Busquets. Not as defensive as they would like and it could be a break for Napoli.

Red card for Vidal!

89' Barca's Artuto Vidal is out of this one and the return leg with a red card! He gets a yellow for a foul and then another for his reaction. It was a dangerous tackle on Rui where a yellow was warranted, but Vidal and Rui get into it a bit too much after, and each get a yellow from that confrontation. The ref showed Vidal two straight yellows. Upon review, it's clear why. He got into Rui's face and offered up a little headbutt that was right in front of the ref.

That's huge for the second leg because Barca won't have Vidal or Busquets for that one. Barca a bit thin for the return match at the Camp Nou on March 18.

10 minutes to go

80' Not long to go now in Naples. Barca is really pushing for another goal but Napoli's defense is attentive. Another goal in this one?

Yellow for Messi

66' Messi is shown a yellow for giving Ospina a cleat to his chest on a chance in front of goal. Dangerous play but he didn't intend anything malicious. Messi was surprised at getting that yellow.

Callejon with a horror miss

64' Jose Callejon was played into the box perfectly by Milik, but he takes a touch instead of going first time, and Ter Stegen makes a brilliant save. 

Goal Barca

57' Barcelona scores! Griezmann with a clinical finish inside the box for a big away goal. Busquets played a great ball into the box that Semedo plays across the face of goal, with the Frenchman finishing with class. 

Big blow for Napoli

54' Mertens is injured after a challenge from Busquets. He is coming off for Milik. Really tough blow for the hosts.

Second half begins in Italy

The second 45 is underway. Napoli still sitting back and trying to defend with everything. Pressure is on Barca here to do something.

Halftime in Italy

Napoli and Barcelona have reached halftime. Napoli takes the 1-0 lead thanks to Mertens' unbelievable strike on the half-hour mark. It's injected the hosts with an energy Barca just hasn't matched. 

Nearly two for Napoli

43' Manolas nearyl! Off an indirect free kick, the ball gets knocked out of the box by Pique before a cross finds Callejon at the right side of the box. His ball goes into the six-yard box where Manolas strikes it low, but it goes a yard wide of the post. What a chance that was...

Goal Napoli

30' It's a goal for the hosts! Mertens sends the San Paolo into a frenzy with an absolutely amazing strike for his 121st goal for the club. The pressure of Napoli sees the hosts rob the ball in the attacking third, and it's the Belgian with a gorgeous strike from outside of the box that left Ter Stegen frozen. 

Barca on the counter

26' Napoli gets caught high and allows Barca to go on the counter, but Messi waits too long to pass out to Griezmann, and Napoli's defense wins the ball back.

Little attack in Italy

Still waiting on our first shot from the San Paolo. Barca taking its little touches and waiting to strike. Napoli all out defending. Barca did shift Messi out to the right to try and find a way into the box. 

Nothing from Napoli

So the hosts are certainly defending a whole lot more than attacking, and that favors Barcelona. They would gladly take a draw back to Spain. When Napoli attacks, there aren't enough bodies to really cause damage. So far, Barca is comfortable. 

First shot for Barca

9' Messi with the first shot from the top of the box combining with De Jong, but he sends it into the stands with his usually clinical left foot. The fans whistle him each time he touches the ball. Never better than Maradona for them, apparently. 

Barca with possession

3' In the early moments, Barcelona is controlling the ball but Napoli is defending well. The hosts' defensive shape sees them with all 11 deep in their half to defend. 

Underway

Here we go! Action is underway in Italy!

Barca XI

Arturo Vidal is getting the start for Barcelona. He'll be up top alongside Messi and Griezmann against Napoli. Barca has scored 10 goals in three games since getting shutout in the Copa del Rey earlier this month.

Massive day in Naples

It's going to be some match at the San Paolo for this one. There is a buzz about this game like no other in the history of the UCL in the Italian city. Part of it is having the club where Lionel Messi has starred facing the one where Diego Maradona dazzled the world. Naples has long been connected with Argentina due to the immigrants that arrived in the South American country after World War II for the city, all of the players that have been there over the years, and Tuesday is just the latest with the world's best player playing in the stadium where arguably the greatest all time worked wonders.

The keys 

For Napoli, it's simple. Play simple, play smart, and really play with a bit of caution. Barca is a team you have to give space and try to defend in numbers. Attempting to apply pressure can often lead to their quick passes, and then they can dice you up. Expect Napoli to try to attack on the counter and let the game come to them.

For Barca, they are dealing with a confident Napoli. But this is a Napoli team that at times struggles in generating quality chances. With a very defensive midfield, it could be a struggle to get clear cut chances. Maybe Fabian Ruiz will continue to try his luck from range.

Under an hour to go

There are just 45 minutes remaining until action kicks off. The hosts are underdogs in both, but neither will be satisfied with anything other than a win, though getting a goalless draw for the hosts wouldn't be a bad alternative. Who will have the upper hand ahead of the second legs in March?

Barca vs. Napoli team news

Here's how the teams in Naples will start as Chuky Lozano is once again not in the starting XI for Gennaro Gattuso, while it's Messi and Griezmann in attack for Quique Setiens club.

Messi in the round of 16

Lionel Messi has had plenty of success to kick off the group stage during his unbelievable career.

Messi vs. Italian teams

Lionel Messi has dominated Italian clubs over the years, but can he do it against Napoli on Wednesday at the San Paolo?

Messi has been on fire

Lionel Messi enters this game on the heels of his best performance of the season. Against Eibar on Saturday, the superstar scored four of his team's five goals in the 5-0 win over Eibar. He showed off his individual skill on numerous occasions but will be expecting a tougher test here. 

The kits

Napoli is going with its home blue jersey as expected, while Barca will use its yellow kit. Those are the same kits they wore in front of 60,043 at Michigan Stadium in August with Barca winning 4-0 as Luis Suarez scored twice. Of course, Suarez is still out with a knee injury but could return sometime in April. 

Napoli hitting stride

This match comes at a good time for Napoli. There was a point this season following Carlo Ancelotti's departure where Napoli seemed more likely to finish closer to the relegation than European spots, but Gennaro Gattusso and company have turned a corner. The Italian club has won six of its last seven games in all competitions, including its last three while only conceding once. Fabian Ruiz in the midfield has been key, scoring game winners in two of the last three. 

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