Barcelona Handed Tricky Europa League Play-Off Tie



Barcelona will take on Napoli over two legs for a place in the last 16 of the 2021-22 Europa League after being drawn against the Serie A side in the knockout play-off draw on Monday, December 13.

The Catalan giants have dropped into Europe’s second tier competition after finishing third in Group E of the Champions League behind Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich and Benfica.

The two games are due to be played in February 2022. The first leg will take place at the Camp Nou on Thursday, February 17, with the return scheduled for a week later at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium.

The winners of the eight play-off ties will go through to the last 16 where they will join the eight Europa League group winners who have qualified automatically. The losers of the ties drop out completely.

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Europa League Draw in Full

Barcelona are one of four Spanish teams in the Europa League draw. La Liga rivals Sevilla, Real Betis, and Real Sociedad are also involved in the knockout round.

Here’s a look at the draw in full:

Sevilla vs GNK Dinamo

Atalanta vs Olympiacos

RB Leipzig vs Real Sociedad

Barcelona vs Napoli

Zenit St Petersburg v Real Betis

Borussia Dortmund v Rangers

Sheriff Tiraspol v Braga

Porto vs Lazio

Napoli is a tough draw for Barcelona and one of the most difficult fixtures the Catalan giants could have asked for. Luciano Spalletti’s side currently sit fourth in Serie A after 17 games, just four points behind leaders Inter.

Barcelona last played Napoli competitively in the Champions League back in 2020 in the last 16. The Catalans won the first leg 3-1 and drew 1-1 in the return to progress to the quarter-finals 4-2 on aggregate.

Barca Boss Xavi Talks Europa League

Barcelona coach Xavi has already made his disappointment at dropping into the Europa League clear after his team’s 3-0 defeat to Bayern Munich. The 41-year-old spoke to Movistar about the need for a new era at Barcelona, as reported by Goal.

“This is the reality that now faces us. We’re in the Europa League. A new era starts today,” he said. “Barcelona don’t belong in the Europa League, they belong in the Champions League. We start again from zero.”

Barcelona are early favorites to win the Europa League but certainly won’t find it easy with some quality teams also in the competition. La Liga rivals Sevilla are currently second in the table, 10 points ahead of Barca, while Real Betis are just a point and a place behind in third.

Erling Haaland’s Borussia Dortmund have also dropped into the Europa League from the Champions League but will also provide a threat. The Norwegian striker has once again been in prolific form this season, scoring 22 goals in 17 outings in all competitions.

The eight teams who have already qualified for the last 16 are: Lyon, Bayer Leverkusen, Monaco, West Ham United, Spartak Moscow, Eintracht Frankfurt, Red Star Belgrade and Galatasaray.

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