The Neapolitans will receive the Barcelonians, including a Lionel Messi in great shape, in the round of 16 first leg of the Champions League, at 9 pm, this Tuesday evening.
Two “beginner” coaches
Gennaro Gattuso (Naples) and Quique Setien (Barcelona) both discover the Champions League this Tuesday evening, directly with a round of 16.
Gattuso replaced Carlo Ancelotti in December, after he qualified Napoli, unbeaten in the group stage, for the final phase - the former PSG coach paid the price for the poor league results and a presidency relationship - calamitous players.
Gattuso knows C1, however, as a player. With AC Milan, he played three finals, two won in 2003 and 2007, one lost in 2005. Current 6th in Serie A, his team remains on six wins in seven games, including the first three of the transalpine championship: the Juventus Turin, Inter Milan and Lazio Rome.
🏋️♂️ Preparation for the 8th final round of the @ChampionsLeague # NapoliBarça 🏆 pic.twitter.com/GVYn6edp8J- FC Barcelona (@fcbarcelona_fra) February 24, 2020
Setien, 61, has never lived in the Champions League. Ernesto Valverde's replacement (in January) has a European Europa League round of 16, lost with Betis Seville against Rennes (3-3, 1-3) last season.
Passionate about chess, Setien will have to advance his pawns with discernment, taking into account the Clasico against Real Madrid at the end of the week.
However, his centerpiece, Lionel Messi, looks more devastating than ever after his quadruple against Eibar (5-0) in La Liga on Saturday.
Messi on pilgrimage to Maradona
For the first time, Messi will set foot on the lawn of San Paolo, the stadium where his illustrious compatriot Diego Maradona wrote the most beautiful pages of his Neapolitan legend, between 1984 and 1991 - with in particular the victory in the UEFA Cup in 1989.
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At 32, Messi, born in 1987, the year of the first Scudetto rounded up by Maradona (59) with Naples, is not insensitive to the symbol. "I have been wanting to play in this stadium for a long time and the opportunity did not come," said the Barcelonan this week in an interview with Mundo Deportivo. It has arrived and I can't wait to see how it is. It will be a great experience to play there. "
Invited to compare the two Argentinian prodigies, Gattuso, 42, could not decide this Monday in pre-match conference: "Messi is the greatest and he is an example for all, he never says a word higher that the other. He does things that only exist on the Playstation, things unthinkable. He's been the greatest of all time for a few years now. "
And Maradona? "A football god," continues Gattuso. Up close, at the stadium, I never saw it, but I saw it on VHS or DVD. I know the champion he was and I know I missed something wonderful. I regret. Today I see Messi doing things that Maradona was doing. But for us Neapolitans, Maradona is everything and I don't want to compare. Maradona is sacred. "
Naples, the grigri of Griezmann
During the American preparation tour, Barça had crushed Naples 4-0 to Ann Arbor on August 11, three days after a first 2-1 success in Miami.
For his 5th game with Barcelona, Antoine Griezmann scored his first Catalan goal (the 2nd of the four in this case), by pushing into the goal a ball served by Alba.
However, a lot of water has passed under the bridge since the summer ... Carlo Ancelotti is no longer the Napoli coach. And on the Barcelona side, Messi had not taken part in the American tour, unlike Alba, Dembélé or Suarez, who will all miss the call this Tuesday evening - as well as the recent recruit Martin Braithwaite, not qualified in C1.