Barcelona duo return to first-team squad after injury layoff ahead of UCL clash with Napoli

Barcelona manager Xavier Hernandez looks on.
Barcelona manager Xavier Hernandez looks on.

Barcelona attacker Joao Felix and midfielder Serge Roberto have returned to the first-team squad ahead of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg at Napoli on Wednesday (February 21).

Xavi's side are coming off a 2-1 La Liga win at Celta Vigo at the weekend to close the gap on second-placed Gironaa (56) to two points after 25 games. However, the reigning champions trail pacesetters Real Madrid by eight points with 13 games to go.

Having narrowly topped their Champions League group - finishing above Porto due to their better head-to-head record - the Blaugrana will look for an aggregate advantage at Naples ahead of the return leg next month.

Despite their injury crisis, Xavi will be buoyed by the return of Felix and Roberto in training, a day before their game in Italy (as per Daily Mail). Felix has been out of action for three weeks due to an ankle issue, while Roberto has had a foot problem for the said duration. Alejandro Balde, Marcos Alonso, Ferran Torres and Gavi, though, remain unavailable due to injury.

It's Barca's first Champions League knockout game since club legend Lionel Messi left in 2021, having suffered consecutive group-stage reverses in the last two seasons.

Having lost the Supercopa Espana final to Los Blancos and getting eliminated from the Copa del Rey, the continental competition is Barca's only realistic hope of silverware this campaign.

What happened when Barcelona last visited Napoli?

Xavuer Hernandez
Xavuer Hernandez

Barcelona have had only two meetings with Napoli in the Champions League. The two sides met in the Round of 16 of the 2019-20 edition.

In the 3-1 first-leg win at home - Clement Lenglet, Messi and Luis Suarez scored for Barca, while Lorenzo Insigne pulled one back for the visitors. All three goals came in the first half, with Suarez and Insigne scoring within four minutes of each other in stoppage time.

Napoli started the return leg well, with Dries Mertens putting the hosts ahead after 30 minutes to reduce the aggregate deficit to 3-2. However, Barcelona scored through Antoine Griezmann 12 minutes into the second period to seal an eventually comfortable aggregate victory.

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Edited by Bhargav