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Napoli boss Mazzarri excited about the prospect of facing Barcelona

Napoli manager Walter Mazzarri expressed excitement for what he anticipates to be an exhilarating match after his team was drawn against Barcelona in the Champions League Round of 16.

The Serie A champions secured their place in the knockout stage after navigating through a challenging group featuring Real Madrid, Braga, and Union Berlin. A crucial victory against the Portuguese side on the final matchday confirmed their qualification.

With the Champions League last 16 draw revealed, Napoli knows that they will face Barcelona in February. The La Liga team, having last reached this stage in 2021 and experiencing eliminations in the group stage in the past two seasons, will present a formidable challenge.

Mazzarri, who took over from the dismissed Rudi Garcia in November with two group stage games remaining, played a pivotal role in salvaging Napoli’s campaign after dropped points against Real Madrid and Union Berlin had jeopardized their future in the tournament.

“I said after the match against Cagliari that all the teams who have qualified for the round of 16 are strong and therefore any draw would be difficult,” said Mazzarri.

“This one against Barcelona is especially difficult. For Napoli it will be a thrilling prospect.”

The Barcelona test will be a trial of fire for Mazzarri

Mazzarri may opt to deploy young talents such as Giovanni Simeone, Alessandro Zanoli, and Gianluca Gaetano in Tuesday’s Coppa Italia last-16 clash at home against Frosinone. This provides an opportunity to give some established players a rest, especially considering Frosinone’s current 13th position in Serie A.

It’s likely that striker Victor Osimhen will be among those taking a break, with either Simeone or Giacomo Raspadori stepping in as replacements. While Piotr Zielinski, Mathias Olivera, and Eljif Elmas were absent in the recent encounter with Cagliari, there’s a possibility of Mario Rui making a return.

Frosinone’s manager, Eusebio di Francesco, has urged his team to be more efficient in front of goal against the champions, following their 2-1 defeat to Lecce on Saturday.

“We have to be a little more concrete and, when the team plays interesting patterns, it’s good,” he said.

“But we have to be more determined and aggressive in front of goal.”

Ethan Dempsey
Ethan Dempsey
Ethan is a lifelong football fan. When he is not obsessing over the Premier League games, Ethan likes to read fantasy tomes, watch football documentaries and waste hours upon hours on video games.
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