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Full-Time Focus: The center-stage of mediocrity

The stakes are always high when it comes to the Champions League. But for some clubs, it means more than for others. It has been just under a decade since Barcelona clinched the title of European champions. But, back then the situation was different. 

Annika Morris | Senior Graphic Artist

The Catalan squad was being led by Lionel Messi with players like Luis Suarez and Neymar next to him. 

The current Barcelona head coach, Xavi, played in the 2015 final versus Juventus. 

Today, Xavi’s Barcelona team is experiencing turmoil. Since Messi’s exit in 2021, the club has not been able to recover from an economic and an overall crisis.

The reasons for the bad financial situation can be analyzed from a couple perspectives — poor governance and exaggerated salaries. However, the pandemic was another reason for the downfall of the team, forcing a loss of £481 million.

With several economic levels, Barca started making poor footballing investments. A team that had to let Lionel Messi go because they did not have enough money to register him, was able to sign players like Ilkay Gundogan, Inigo Martinez, and Oriol Romeu in the coming years.

Even though last season Xavi was able to take the Spanish League title home, there are many doubts about the state of the team right now. 

Domestically, Barcelona hasn’t lived up to their expectations. They were eliminated from the Copa del Rey and to say they can still win La Liga is optimistic. Even beyond results, their style of play has suffered a lot of criticism because of the vulnerable defense and lack of offensive intensity. 

Basically, having a good Champions League performance is the only way Xavi can save his job.

Napoli is fighting its own battle too. They sit at ninth place in the Serie A and have struggled to have a smooth coaching transition. Current head coach Francesco Calzona took over Napoli 48 hours before their match against Barcelona.

They now face a vastly different scenario from last year, when they secured the Italian league title and made it to the Champions League quarter finals.

For Napoli, the UCL represents the only way to salvage their season. 

The first leg took place this past Wednesday in the Diego Armando Manadora stadium in Italy.

The game can be summed up into saying that both teams were mediocre. It was a representation of how the season has gone for both clubs. 

It seemed that Barca had most of the game under control, yet when they advanced into the final third of the field, they ran out of ideas.

Napoli was left struggling by their opponent’s high pressure. They committed basic errors when it came to building up play from the back. 

Victor Lewandowski and Robert Osimhen were the authors of the only goals scored in the match — proper taking into consideration the role both players have played in the last two seasons. 

Napoli’s situation was only exacerbated by Osimhen’s absence during international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations. Now that he is back, it looks like brighter days are ahead. 

Lewandoski represented a new beginning for the Blaugrana when Messi left. Even though he does not pose the same threat he did in Bayern, he still pulls his weight when he needs to. 

The final score of 1-1 leaves a lot of room for what could go down in the second leg. Still, if both teams want to give fans a good show, a lot of things have to change.

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