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Barcelona face Napoli in first Champions League knockout round

Controversy in the final minutes of the Handball World Championship final, while La Liga sees two 2-2 draws for the Catalan sides

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16 December 2019 02:16 PM

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Cillian Shields | Barcelona

FC Barcelona found out on Monday who their next opponents in the Champions League will be - Italian side SSC Napoli. 

The side from Naples were sitting in an underwhelming 8th position in Serie A by the time the draw was made, but will be hoping for a change in fortune for the second half of the season after firing their manager Carlo Ancelotti following their progression to the last 16.

He is replaced by the former AC Milan midfielder and coach, Gennaro Gattuso. In Rino’s first game in charge of the Naples club, he suffered a devastating 93rd minute loss, on Saturday, at home to Parma. 

The first leg of the tie will be played in Italy on February 18, while the return leg comes to the Camp Nou on March 3.  

Espanyol draw Premier League opposition

In the Europa League, Espanyol have been drawn against Premier League outfit Wolverhampton Wanderers

The Wolves, led by ex Valencia boss Nuno Espírito Santo, were promoted from the second tier in English football just two seasons ago, and earned a European spot last season for this campaign. 

The tie will see former Barça youth product Adama Traoré return to the city he was born in. Traoré made one senior appearance for Barcelona in 2013, when he replaced Neymar late on in a 4-0 win over Granada. He has now become one of the most exciting wide players in English football and was recently called up to the Spanish national side. 

The first leg will take place on February 20 in England, while the Wolves come to Catalonia a week later for the deciding match. 

Controversy in the Handball World Championship final

The Spanish national team picked up silver in the IHF World Women’s Handball Championship, but the second place finish left a bitter taste in the mouth after a controversial finish.

The final was lost to the Netherlands, who went home 30-29 winners, with the winning goal coming from a much-discussed refereeing decision to award a penalty in the dying seconds of the game. 

Ainhoa Hernández was adjudged to have entered the opposition goalkeeper’s area when she jumped to block a long pass at the tournament’s climax. Entering the goalkeeper’s box to block a shot in this manner is prohibited, and Hernández was shown a red card and the Netherlands were awarded a penalty to win the gold medal, which Lois Abbingh slotted home perfectly. 

It was a disappointing end to what had been a phenomenal tournament for the Spanish national side, managed by Granollers native Carlos Viver, with Catalan pivot Elisabet Casáreo part of the squad picking up a medal too. 

Griezmann goal gives optimism ahead of clásico

In La Liga, Barcelona go into Wednesday’s clásico against Real Madrid, which will be controlled by 3,000 security officers, with the leadership of the table still intact, after both they and the Madrid side drew their encounters over the weekend. 

The blaugrana earned a hard-fought point away to Real Sociedad, a team that usually gives Barça problems on the road, with the final score reading 2-2. 

Antoine Griezmann enjoyed one of his most significant moments in the Barcelona colours, as his goal in his old stomping ground leveled the score at 1-1 in the first half at a time when his side were suffering a lot. His good performance will be a welcome step forward in his career in Catalonia. 

Espanyol save face against former boss

Meanwhile, Espanyol are still searching for their first home win of the campaign, but they avoided the ignominy of falling to defeat against their former manager, Rubi, and former goal hero, Borja Iglesias, who are both now at Real Betis.

The striker netted the game’s opening goal with just four minutes on the clock, and an embarrassing day may have been on the cards, but the Pericos fought back and even took the lead with goals from Sergi Darder and Bernardo Espinosa, before the Andalusians pulled the contest level again through Catalan and ex Barcelona starlet, Marc Bartra. 

The 2-2 result does little for the Catalans’ hope for survival, but a positive can be drawn from the spirit shown to fight back from a losing position, as well as the fact that they are now scoring more goals regularly at home, something that has been a serious problem for the blue-and-whites in the earlier stages of the campaign.

Pablo Machín's men now stand five points from safety.

Barça earn big win in women's league derby 

The Barcelona derby went resoundingly in favour of the blaugrana in the women’s football this weekend. On Saturday afternoon, Barça took apart their neighbours from Espanyol in the Ciutat Esportiva Dani Jarque. 

The fortunes of both sides could not be any more contrasting at the moment, as Barcelona have dropped points on just one occasion all season, while only twice have Espanyol avoided defeat. While only half way through the season, Barcelona look like strong favourites for the league title over Atletico Madrid, and Espanyol’s chances of remaining in the division next season look slimmer every week. 

Manresa overcome Joventut in Catalan derby

It was a mixed week for Joventut Badalona, as a victory in the Eurocup was followed up by a disappointing loss in the league to fellow Catalan side Manresa. They go into next week’s derby against Barcelona knowing that a loss will put them on a 7-7 record, putting their chances of qualifying for the Copa del Rey in peril. 

Meanwhile Barça will need to bounce back in Badalona after surprisingly being defeated by Unicaja. Three-point attempts let the Catalans down, as they made just 6 of their 30 attempts, while the Andalusians netted 14 of their 31 shots in this category. Barcelona are now clear 2nd in the league after the loss and coupled with Real Madrid’s win over Real Betis.

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  • The 2019/20 Champions League round of 16 draw, which pitted Barcelona against Napoli, in Nyon (by Reuters)

  • The 2019/20 Champions League round of 16 draw, which pitted Barcelona against Napoli, in Nyon (by Reuters)

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