Barcelona face Napoli in one of the more even Champions League clashes

Both sides have had a disappointing season and will favor their chances to progress to the quarterfinals.

FC Barcelona Training Session And Press Conference - UEFA Champions League 2023/24
FC Barcelona Training Session And Press Conference - UEFA Champions League 2023/24 / Ciro Sarpa/GettyImages

Barcelona and Napoli will square off in the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium in perhaps the most even clash of the Champions League round of 16.

The reason being is with both sides underperforming this season, there is no clear favorite heading into the match.

Barcelona currently sit third in LaLiga, eight points behind Real Madrid. Napoli, on the other hand, sit ninth, 27 points Inter Milan.

The Champions League is the only competition where these two clubs remain alive albeit with a remote possibility of winning it.

"For us [this match] brings illusion, hope, motivation to progress to the quarters. I think it's the biggest competition at club level," Xavi Hernandez said in his pre-match press conference. "It's the ideal and perfect scenario to demonstrate what we know.

While both teams have been underwhelming, Napoli may trump Barcelona on that end as the reigning Serie A champions sacked their manager, Walter Mazzarri, on Monday, only two days before the upcoming match.

"Napoli has changed managers in a surprising manner, but he is a manager that knows the club," Xavi said about Francesco Calzona. "For us it's not easy because we don't know how they'll prepare the game with a change in manager. We're facing the Scudetto winners. We must highlight their forward line."

Focusing on the Napoli attack is certainly something Barcelona want to do as they have been conceding goals left and right and it's one of several flaws as to why they sit so far back of first place. Victor Osimhen isn't fit enough to play the full match but he is going to be a headache for the Barcelona center-backs.

For Barcelona, this will be the first time they play a Champions League knockout game for the first time in two years. The last two seasons, the Catalan side has failed to make it out of the group stage.

"We return to the last 16 of the Champions League after an absence of two years and we are going into it with a lot of desire and a lot of excitement," Frenkie de Jong said.

"Napoli are a great team despite the fact that things have been difficult for them this season in Serie A. I am sure they will make it tough for us."

With the Champions League representing the lone competition to pick up some silverware, Barcelona is going to need to improve massively, especially in defense, if they want to get past Napoli. Economically speaking, a trip to the quarterfinals will do wonders for their current financial situation.

Again, while neither side can consider themselves favorites, Barcelona do know what it's like to beat Napoli in recent history. Barcelona did so two season ago in the Europa League where they won 4-2 at the Diego Armando Maradona with De Jong landing on the scoresheet.

Next. Napoli sack manager Walter Mazzarri days before Champions League clash. Napoli sack manager Walter Mazzarri days before Champions League clash. dark

In more good news for Xavi, he will be able to count on Joao Felix and Sergi Roberto who were given the medical green light and included in the matchday squad. With regards to Felix, it's another attacker Xavi can count on if the team finds itself in need of a goal late.