The upcoming UEFA Champions League clash between Napoli and FC Barcelona has football enthusiasts eagerly anticipating a spectacle of skill and strategy.
Laurent Blanc, a former Napoli defender, shared his insights on the matchup, highlighting the champions' status of both teams and the intriguing duel between star strikers Victor Osimhen and Robert Lewandowski.
The first leg will take place on Wednesday, 21 February, at Diego Armando Maradona Stadium and the second at the Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys on Tuesday, 12 March.
Napoli's remarkable journey
Blanc began by acknowledging Napoli's extraordinary achievement in winning the Scudetto, drawing parallels to the iconic era of Diego Maradona.
“Winning the Scudetto was something extraordinary, as it was in Maradona's time,” he said.
He credited manager Spalletti as one of the best technicians, emphasizing the challenge of maintaining success, especially in the Champions League.
Despite the difficulties faced by Osimhen's Napoli, Blanc praised the club for affirming its status as a football powerhouse by retaining top talent.
“Credit to Spalletti, one of the best technicians. It's not easy to confirm and even less so in the Champions League, but Napoli have shown that they are a big club by keeping the best,” the former defender continued.
Osimhen vs Lewandowski: A clash of champions
The spotlight then turned to the clash of great strikers, Nigeria's Osimhen and Poland's Lewandowski.
Blanc, offering his perspective as a former defender, lauded Osimhen as a phenomenal and young talent with immense potential for growth.
“Osimhen belongs to the category of champions. He's phenomenal, young, with a lot of room for improvement, he can become one of the greatest strikers,” he stated.
He compared Osimhen to the experienced Lewandowski, noting the Pole's goal-scoring prowess despite nearing the end of his career.
“Like Lewandowski, but closer to the end of his career, although he will continue to score until the end,” he continued.
Lewandowski, having played 20 games, demonstrated his goal-scoring prowess by finding the net nine times and showcasing his playmaking ability with four assists.
Meanwhile, the 2023 African Player of the Year, in his 16 appearances, closely trailed with eight goals and three assists.
Both players have maintained a consistent impact on the scoresheet, with Lewandowski's slightly higher goal tally counterbalanced by Osimhen's efficient contributions in both scoring and creating opportunities.
The French coach anticipated a captivating duel, also acknowledging the impact of other top players such as Kvaratskhelia.
“It's a great duel, without forgetting other players like Kvaratskhelia, another top player,” the former Napoli player maintained.
The defensive challenge
Reflecting on Napoli's defensive culture, Blanc highlighted the club's historical connection to solid defending.
However, he recognized the evolving nature of Italian football and the positive strides it has made.
Barcelona, a representation of Spanish football's showcase, is expected to face the challenge of breaking down the Italian defense.
Blanc refrained from making predictions but hinted at a captivating showdown that promises to be a great spectacle for football enthusiasts worldwide.
“I'm not going to get ahead of myself, it's going to be a great show,” he concluded.
This article was most recently revised and updated 2 months ago