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Here's how Napoli can beat Barcelona

On Saturday, August 10, we will see the second leg of the inaugural LaLiga Serie A Cup; pitting FC Barcelona against SSC Napoli in the reverse fixture of the two-match series. Barcelona took the victory on Wednesday night in Miami thanks to goals by Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitić, José Callejón scored Napoli’s only goal.
 
Napoli head coach Carlo Ancelotti, therefore, will have to find a way to overturn a 2-1 deficit when the two face each other at the Michigan Stadium. Beating Barcelona, however, is never an easy task even if super star Lionel Messi is not part of the squad.
 
Barcelona’s side still includes the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembélé, Philippe Coutinho, and Uruguayan star Luiz Suárez. Ancelotti, however, will have watched Barcelona’s recent meltdown against Liverpool in the Champions League very closely.

In that particular game, Jürgen Klopp managed to isolate Lionel Messi from the rest of the attack. It is a tactic that has worked; not just in that game, but also for Germany in the 2014 FIFA World Cup final and for Chile in the 2015 and 2016 Copa América finals. It is perhaps the only downside to a Messi-less side, because all of a sudden Barcelona are less predictable.

At the same time, the isolation tactic could still have some merit. Suárez is likely to be flanked by the speedy wingers Dembélé and Griezmann, who can also play the hybrid false-nine/playmaker role. Liverpool basically managed to separate the attacking line from the rest of the squad.
 

Barcelona’s side still includes the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembélé, Philippe Coutinho, and Uruguayan star Luiz Suárez. Ancelotti, however, will have watched Barcelona’s recent meltdown against Liverpool in the Champions League very closely.

In that particular game, Jürgen Klopp managed to isolate Lionel Messi from the rest of the attack. It is a tactic that has worked; not just in that game, but also for Germany in the 2014 FIFA World Cup final and for Chile in the 2015 and 2016 Copa América finals. It is perhaps the only downside to a Messi-less side, because all of a sudden Barcelona are less predictable.

At the same time, the isolation tactic could still have some merit. Suárez is likely to be flanked by the speedy wingers Dembélé and Griezmann, who can also play the hybrid false-nine/playmaker role. Liverpool basically managed to separate the attacking line from the rest of the squad.
 
The most effective method would be to take out central midfielder Frenkie de Jong. The Dutch central midfielder played the playmaker role perfectly at Ajax, a club that is the birthplace of Barcelona’s short-pass system. Shutting down de Jong cuts Barcelona’s supply line in half and means that they would be reliant on Busquets. De Jong came off the bench in the first leg, and could be integrated from the start at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
 
In military terms, you call this a golden bridge. You leave the enemy a predictable path to retreat from to hit them on the retreat. In this case, it is not necessarily about forcing Barca backwards, but into playing the predictable forward pass - therefore, creating channels to hit Barça on the counter-attack.

It is a method that would work well with Ancelott’s two preferred setups, the 4-3-3 or 4-2-2-2. In fact, Ancelotti has some experience when it comes to playing against Barcelona. He last faced the club in the 2014/15 La Liga season when he coached Real Madrid and beat Barca at home 3-1 using the 4-2-2-2.
 
Real, however, lost the return match 2-1 playing in a 4-3-3 formation. The lesson is simple: Barcelona’s possession-based football with a high defensive line does better against teams that also seek to control the ball. Meanwhile, teams that like to play in a counter-press system, for which the 4-2-2-2 is more impactful, have more success.

The reason for that is simple, teams in a 4-2-2-2 play with two inverted wingers that can create an overload in midfield and quickly overturn the ball when gaining possession, which is especially useful when the team can control the passing channels of their opponent. Hence, by forcing Barca to hand Busquets the ball and then quickly spring a trap that turns into counter-attacks Napoli could turn around the result on Saturday at the Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.
 

Get tickets to see FC Barcelona vs. SSC Napoli!

 
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