Barcelona started their race on the Champions League rounds where they have fallen the last four seasons. And not only this was one of the details that marked the match, as there was also a noticeable expectation on Messi playing for his first time at Maradona´s temple, San Paolo.
Both teams went out with similar systems of 4-3-3, with Barça playing with Arturo Vidal on top along with Messi and Griezmann, at the same time as Genaro Gattuso´s squad showed his intentions since the beginning: defensive approach, static lines, and barely any space for Barcelona to progress through the middle, as the visiting team was finding a lot of trouble to move the ball and create chances on what it was a clear and expected scenario for this first leg in Italy. Setien´s players would have the ball all the time as Napoli would stay backwards and wait for a counterattack.
The home team was very comfortable on the pitch, really complicating Barça offensively, and even made the most out of their only opportunity. Barcelona´s left back Junior Firpo couldn´t control a throw by Napoli, Piotr Zielinski grabbed it, drove towards the box, and assisted Dries Mertens to the other wing where he took a magnificent shot to put the Italian squad ahead. This way, Barcelona were about to face their old ghosts, away games in this competition, the reason why they have been kicked out from the Champions League in the last few seasons, even though there was plenty of time left for them to react.
Barcelona tried without success to turn over the score through constant ball movement on the opponent´s half hoping to find the space at some point, and Busquets pulled it off thanks to an excellent depth pass that finally broke down Napoli´s defense and turned into the equalizer. Semedo received the ball on his run and assisted Griezmnn to get a golden goal for the second leg.
Barça have done the most difficult thing, tying up a though game, but that did not mean that they avoided a few opportunities from Napoli as Ter Stegen made a crucial save on Callejón to keep the final draw.
However, Vidal was sent off due to a fight with Mário Rui in the same play as the one from Barcelona tackled Napoli´s left back. Therefore, either Busquets, who saw a yellow card earlier on the game and was just one away from suspension, as well as Vidal will not be able to play the second game. Moreover, Piqué had to be substituted as he got injured on his ankle just a few minutes before the final whistle, in which turned out to be an accidental end of the match for Barça.
With the final 1-1 Barcelona will try to advance onto the next round by getting a win in the second game at the Camp Nou in three weeks.