The second-phase of UEFA Champions League round-of-16 first-leg is about to get underway from Tuesday where Italian Serie A side Napoli will face current Spanish champions FC Barcelona at the San Paolo Stadium. Surprisingly, this is the first team when both teams will meet in Europe’s elite club competition.
Therefore, we are bringing you a list of five players who we believe can prove to be a difference-maker in the tie’s outcome.
Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Lionel Messi is being termed by many as one the greatest players of all time and surely amongst the two-best in the current generation of footballers. The little magician proves it in pretty much every single game that he is capable of doing things no one else can in the world right now which is why he is being adored by Barca fans and feared by the opposition.
The Argentina international is having another outstanding season for the Catalan-based club this time around where he has already scored 23 times and provided 16 assists in just 28 appearances in all competitions. Therefore, Napoli will surely have to stop the 32-year-old if they are to produce a positive result in the two-legged tie.
Fabian Ruiz (Napoli)
Fabian Ruiz is being termed as one of the hottest young properties in Italian football. The Spain international has been a real sensation ever since joining the Naples-based outfit in the summer of 2018 from La Liga side Real Betis in a deal worth of €30 million. In the recent past, there have been reports of interest from FC Barcelona in signing Ruiz in the upcoming summer transfer window.
Therefore, it will be interesting to see how the 23-year-old will feature against one of his future possible destinations. In the ongoing campaign, Ruiz has represented Napoli in 30 matches in all competitions where he has three goas and two assists to his name.
Marc-André ter Stegen (Barcelona)
Marc-André ter Stegen is being termed as one of the best goalkeepers in the world and he has been living up to the expectations for quite some time now. The 27-year-old is undoubtedly Barcelona’s second-best player in the ongoing campaign behind Lionel Messi as he has time and again saved his team from what could’ve been disastrous results.
Ter Stegen has already kept 10 clean sheets in 31 appearances for Barcelona in the ongoing campaign and the management will be hoping to see a similar kind of performance from their star player in the match on Tuesday as well.
Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli)
Lorenzo Insigne is a renowned striker in European football for quite some time now. The Italy international is going through a decent campaign for the Naples-based club where he has already scored nine times and provided six assists in 29 appearances in all competitions.
With strikers Fernando Llorente and Arkadiusz Milik uncertain to take part in the match, Napoli manager Gennaro Gattuso will be hoping to see Insigne living up to the expectations and produce a big performance for the home team.
Frankie De Jong (Barcelona)
Frankie De Jong joined Barcelona in the summer of 2019 from Dutch club Ajax with the reputation of one of the best emerging midfielders in Europe. However, his first season for the Catalan-based club following his €75 million move has not lived up to the expectations so far as he has only managed to score twice and provided four assists in 34 appearances in all competitions.
But the good news for Barcelona fans is that De Jong has produced much better football under new manager Quique Setién and therefore, he will be expected to deliver the goods on the pitch once again—this time against Napoli.