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Napoli vs Barcelona. UEFA Champions League First Knockout Round.

San PaoloAttendance44,388.

Napoli 1

  • D Mertens (30th minute)

Barcelona 1

  • A Griezmann (57th minute)
  • A Vidal (sent off 89th minute)

Napoli vs Barcelona: Can Barca banish ghosts of Champions League exits past?

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Lionel Messi was powerless to stop Barcelona's defeat

Barcelona boss Quique Setien is confident the ghosts of recent European failures will not haunt his side in Tuesday's Champions League tie against Napoli.

Barca travel to Naples for the first leg of their last-16 tie as La Liga leaders after four consecutive league victories, including Saturday's 5-0 thrashing of Eibar in which Lionel Messi scored four goals.

But since lifting the Champions League in 2015, the Catalan club have lost in three quarter-finals to Atletico Madrid, Juventus and Roma, in addition to last season's semi-final to eventual winners Liverpool, and Setien is wary of Napoli's threat at the Stadio San Paolo.

"The truth is we have spoken very little about what happened," Setien told his pre-match press conference. "Obviously they all have it in their minds, but I think we are on a good stretch right now.

Barcelona surrendered a 3-0 first-leg lead in last season's Champions League semi-final defeat to Liverpool
Image: Barcelona surrendered a 3-0 first-leg lead in last season's Champions League semi-final defeat to Liverpool

"We had very tough matches in La Liga these past few weeks and we played them well. I think the team is in a good moment, and so is Napoli, I think they are in a good place right now.

"I'm confident it will continue like this for us, keeping in mind that it will be a difficult match. I'm definitely expecting the best Napoli side. I know what they're capable of doing, not just in the Champions League knockout stages, but also in the group stage.

"They have done very well up against some top-class opposition and I'm sure they are going to be extraordinary [on Tuesday]."

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Setien allays coronavirus concerns

Barcelona training

Setien has dismissed concerns for his players over the spread of the coronavirus in Italy before Tuesday's tie.

Italy has imposed strict quarantine restrictions in two northern regions, Veneto and Lombardy, following over 200 recorded cases of the coronavirus.

Barcelona are due to play the first leg of their last-16 clash in Naples, situated in the south of Italy, and all members of their travelling party were tested for the coronavirus when they entered the country.

"No, I'm not at all worried for my team," Setien said. "I'm worried for all those infected and I send my solidarity to all those affected by the virus.

"I hope this can be resolved as soon as possible. It's something that can happen to anybody. You're worried for other people who are affected. (For us) it was only a test for a fever, nothing more."

Setien relishing Champions League bow

Setien

Former Real Betis coach Setien, who was appointed by Barca on January 13 after Ernesto Valverde was sacked, will manage in Europe's elite-club competition for the very first time on Tuesday night.

"It is my first Champions League match," he added. "It is an emotional game for me, to start my journey in the Champions League in a stadium with so much history and passion.

"I think it will be an exciting match and I hope it will be remembered because we played well, with character."

Gattuso: Don't be afraid of Barca

gattusso

Napoli appear to have halted a poor run of form under boss Gennaro Gattuso, winning four of their last five Serie A matches.

They have slipped to sixth in the table, but beat Liverpool at home earlier in the season and drew 1-1 at Anfield before finishing second behind the Merseysiders in Group E.

"We face a team that sometimes look like they are on another planet," Gattuso told his pre-match press conference.

lionel messi

"I also know something about it as a footballer. When I played against Barca it seemed that they were from another category because they didn't let you see the ball.

"We know therefore that (on Tuesday) we will face an opponent of a stratospheric level, and we know that the risks are big, but having said that I don't want my players to be afraid.

"Respect for Barcelona is maximum, but I want a Napoli that is not afraid and that will play with their heads held high."

'I see Messi when I play PlayStation'

Barca's visit to the San Paolo has prompted comparisons between Messi and fellow Argentinian Diego Maradona, who played for both clubs.

Of Messi, Gattuso added: "I see what Messi does when I play PlayStation with my son. He is a champion who has unrepeatable numbers and who is also an example for children in how he has led his career.

"He has been playing for years that are unimaginable; the only difference is that today he has a beard, but he remains the best of all."

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