Barcelona v Napoli: Three things to watch

The second game in Barca’s double header against Napoli takes place on Saturday evening at the Michigan Bowl, the biggest stadium in the United States.

After touring Japan, flying back to Barcelona to take on Arsenal in the Gamper Trophy and then playing the Italians in Miami, this game will be their final warm-up before the new La Liga season begins in a week’s time.

Ernesto Valverde has had quite a bit to contend with across the last few weeks, not least and injury to Lionel Messi and a continuous pursuit of Neymar which has overshadowed everything else at the club.For now the focus is on Napoli, so here are three things to look for.

Centre-backs being exposed

In the first game in Miami, a feature of that match was the regularity with which Napoli were able to get in behind Barca’s centre-backs.

Gerard Pique is getting no younger, but there seems to be more of a reliance on him than ever.

Samuel Umtiti isn’t anywhere close to the player he was before his injury, and his lack of pace was exposed on more than one occasion.

Not only that, but he was routinely caught out of position, and Napoli will look to target his side of the pitch once again.

Jean-Clair Todibo will be handed some more minutes, but the young Frenchman is still growing as a player and so should be given some leeway in terms of his own performance levels.

Griezmann’s movement and awareness

A lot has been made of the fact that star summer signing, Antoine Griezmann, is yet to score for his new club.

However, that neatly twists the narrative to suit other agendas.

The fact is that the Frenchman’s movement and awareness of those around him has added a different dimension to Barcelona’s attacking.

He is already in sync with Jordi Alba whenever the left-back makes his marauding runs down the left side, and his intelligence to know the exact moment to move for a cross creates space behind for the likes of Luis Suarez to run into.

The goals will come.

Congested midfield

If there’s one thing we could take out of the first meeting between the sides, it was just how congested things became in tight midfield spaces.

Elmas and Callejon were a considerable nuisance for the likes of Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic, and what we ended up seeing was a big chunk of the game being played out wide and in the channels.

Valverde will want his team to be able to open up their opponents centrally, and failure to do so, could once again hinder their attacking intensity.

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