It was somewhat of news that Lionel Messi did not score in consecutive four matches. It was the first time in six years that he missed to score in four matches consecutively. But, as he always does, Messi assured the Barcelona faithful with a masterclass against Eibar at the weekend with a 4-goal-haul. In the process, the diminutive Argentine also reached an incredible 1,000 goal contribution in his career (696 goals and 306 assists).
Now, as Barcelona look to wipe out the disappointments of not winning the Uefa Champions League for the last four seasons, they will count on their talisman again at the knock out stage.
Messi alone cannot keep Barcelona out of troubles
Barcelona won against Eibar convincingly, however, their performances leading up to the win at Camp Nou was anything but. They leaked four goals in the last four matches, which shows their defensive frailties.
Presence of an ageing Gerard Pique and an inconsistent Samuel Umtiti means, Clement Langlet has to be on overdrive all the time.
In midfield, Quique Setien tried out several combinations but it is Lionel Messi who had to get involved in the deeper positions to create something. Ivan Rakitic and Frankie De Jong worked well in tandem in the last match, but the vulnerability of Sergio Busquets did cost Barcelona at big games in the past.
Also, in the attack, Antoine Griezmann is missing more than he is scoring and Ansu Fati is yet to level up to the big league. Messi again will be the go-to man for the Blaugrana and the kind of form he is in, Setien can be assured again that he will deliver.
Barcelona squad to undergo coronavirus checks
Barcelona players will have medical tests ahead of their match against Napoli to check for signs of Coronavirus. According to reports in ESPN, via Diario AS, the squad face testing upon entry and arrival into Italy, following an increase of cases in the country.
The Italian Ministry for Health has confirmed 80 cases of infection, primarily in the north of the country, with no reported cases in Naples. The testing will include passing through a temperature screening room at Napoli-Capdichino, with players only being sent for further tests if they register a significantly high temperature or fever.
Napoli buoyed by some late good form
In their domestic league Napoli, are 24 points off the leaders Juventus. But the good news for the Neapolitans is that they have won five out of last six competitive matches. And boss Genaro Gattuso is counting on this surge in form.
Napoli, as Gattuso puts it, want to "play their cards" against Barcelona. But from their latest outings, it is apparent that they would want to play attacking football from the very beginning. With their forwards Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens on top form, Napoli could pose a threat to Barcelona's defensive weaknesses.
Barcelona vs Napoli facts
-This will be the first UCL match between the two teams.
-Napoli were eliminated from UCL knockouts by Spanish opponents in two occasions. In 1987/88 and in 2016/17, both times by Real Madrid.
-Barcelona have failed to win any of their last five away matches against Italian opposition in UCL. They have drawn 1 and lost 4.
-Barcelona have progressed passed the UCL round of 16 in the last 12 seasons.
Wobbling Chelsea face Bayern Munich in London
Frank Lampard's Chelsea, are not having the self-assurance they need to succeed in Europe this season, to say the least. 3 wins in last six matches prove that Lampard has a lot on his shoulders if he considers going further in the UCL.
Lampard deployed a five-man defence in the match they won against Tottenham at the weekend. He might be tempted to do the same against the German giants. But Lampard's biggest owe would be his attack, as Chelsea found it hard to find a cutting edge the whole season. The veteran Olivier Giroud, who scored against Spurs can start the match against Bayern.
On the other hand, Bayern are at the top of Bundesliga. They received some good news ahead of their London clash. Midfielder Javi Martinez is back from injury and he trained with the team on Sunday.
However, Croatian winger Ivan Perisic is a major doubt for the game, after suffering a fractured ankle in training. Jerome Boateng and Benjamin Pavard sat out the weekend's game against Paderborn due to yellow card suspensions but should be available for selection at Stamford Bridge.