Everyone wants a piece of Erling Haaland.

The Norwegian teenager has taken Europe by storm this season. First with Salzburg and now with Borussia Dortmund.

Haaland's exploits have reportedly alerted Real Madrid.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID MAKE CONTACT FOR HAALAND

Real Madrid have held talks with Borussia Dortmund over the signing of star striker Erling Haaland, according to Radio Marca.

Haaland has enjoyed a record-breaking start to life at Bundesliga outfit Dortmund after arriving from Salzburg in January, having turned down Manchester United.

But the 19-year-old's time with Dortmund could be brief as LaLiga giants Madrid reportedly circle amid their goalscoring woes.

 

ROUND-UP

- La Gazzetta Dello Sport journalist Nicolo Schira claims Paris Saint-Germain are interested in Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly. With veteran centre-back Thiago Silva out of contract at the end of the season and facing an uncertain future, Ligue 1 champions PSG are set to turn to Koulibaly, who has been linked to the likes of United, Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham. Napoli are reportedly set to demand at least €100-110million.

Madrid are also reportedly interested in Koulibaly, while El Desmarque says Zinedine Zidane is tracking Inter defender Milan Skriniar.

Tottenham are monitoring Manchester United defender and Roma loanee Chris Smalling, reports Calciomercato. Roma want to sign Smalling permanently.

- According to Football Insider, City have identified Everton defender Mason Holgate as a primary transfer target. Pep Guardiola is determined to bolster his defensive options after an injury-plagued season.

- Inter forward Lautaro Martinez is wanted by LaLiga champions Barcelona but Madrid are ready to go head-to-head with their rivals for the Argentina star, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Milan are eyeing a move for Udinese star Rodrigo De Paul at season's end, reports Schira.

The future of Lautaro Martinez could also have an impact on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Martinez is wanted by Barcelona and Real Madrid, while Aubameyang is reportedly eyeing an Arsenal exit.

Both players could be at different clubs in 2020-21.

 

TOP STORY – MARTINEZ OUT, AUBA IN?

Inter will look to replace Barcelona target Martinez with Arsenal star Aubameyang, according to Calciomercato.

Martinez has been heavily linked to LaLiga champions Barca as well as Real Madrid, Manchester United and Manchester City following his exploits for Inter.

The Daily Mail claims Arsenal are considering selling forward Aubameyang, who is out of contract in 2021, and he could be targeted by Inter should Martinez leave San Siro.

ROUND-UP

- Kepa Arrizabalaga is Chelsea's record signing but his future at Stamford Bridge is in doubt. El Chiringuito TV reports Chelsea have offered out-of-favour goalkeeper Kepa plus €30million (£25m) to Atletico Madrid for Jan Oblak.

Madrid are ready to offer €70m to Napoli for star midfielder Fabian Ruiz, claims Calciomercato. City and Barca are also reportedly looking to sign the Spaniard.

- Manchester Evening News writes that United have stepped up their interest in Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish. It comes as the Daily Express claims United are likely to offload Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira.

- Calciomercato says Inter are ready to battle Europe's elite for the signing of Gent star Jonathan David. The Canada international is wanted by the likes of United, Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal, Tottenham and Ajax.

Juventus hold an interest in Lyon midfielder Houssem Aouar, according to Calciomercato. Aouar is an option for Juve should the Serie A champions fail in their efforts to sign either United midfielder Paul Pogba or Brescia's Sandro Tonali.

Dries Mertens suffered a bruised ankle in the Champions League draw against Barcelona after equalling Marek Hamsik's goalscoring record for Napoli.

Mertens scored his 121st goal for Napoli in all competitions on Tuesday as the Italian side drew 1-1 with LaLiga champions Barca in the first leg of their last-16 tie.

The 32-year-old forward matched the record with a stunning 30th-minute opener at Stadio San Paolo, where Barca salvaged a draw thanks to Antoine Griezmann approaching the hour.

Mertens, who leapfrogged Diego Maradona (115) into second place on the all-time list in October, was substituted in the 54th minute at home to Lionel Messi's Barcelona.

Afterwards, Napoli released a statement which read: "Dries Mertens sustained bruising to his right ankle during a collision which forced him to leave the pitch early in the second half of tonight's match against Barcelona."

Mertens joined Serie A side Napoli from PSV in 2013 and the Belgium international has flourished.

Of Mertens' 121 goals, 90 have come in Serie A, with another 26 via European competition.

This term, Mertens – who is out of contract at the end of the season amid links to the likes of Inter and Chelsea – has scored 12 goals across all competitions for Napoli.

Gennaro Gattuso said Napoli would buy "helmets and armour" to take into the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Barcelona.

Despite going ahead through Dries Mertens, who equalled Napoli's all-time goalscoring record, the Serie A side were held 1-1 at home on Tuesday.

Antoine Griezmann levelled for Barca during the second half, although the LaLiga giants also had Arturo Vidal sent off late.

And Gattuso said his team were ready for a battle at Camp Nou on March 18.

"Nothing is over for us when we're playing the last 16 in the Champions League, not even when we play cards," the Napoli head coach told a news conference.

"We know the difficulties we are going through. We will buy helmets and armour.

"We will get all the necessary [tools] and will play the next game. Nothing is over."

While Mertens' brilliant finish gave Napoli a lead, a well-worked team move led to Griezmann's equaliser for Barca.

Gattuso lamented his side's defending for Griezmann's goal, but was largely satisfied with their performance.

"I am disappointed because we made kind of a mistake defensively and they hit us. For sure we could do better," he said.

"When Lorenzo Insigne had his chance [Arkadiusz] Milik and [Piotr] Zielinski were not marked. Perhaps we could have exploited that situation in a better way. Same applies for [Jose] Callejon.

"There is some disappointment, we suffered but the team did almost everything right from a tactical point of view.

"I am happy for this, perhaps we could have done better passing. This is the only regret."

Quique Setien says he remains positive about Barcelona's hopes of progressing in the Champions League despite Sergio Busquets and Arturo Vidal's absences for the last-16 second leg against Napoli in three weeks' time.

Barca laboured to a 1-1 draw against the Serie A side at Stadio San Paolo on Tuesday, scoring through Antoine Griezmann.

The France international's strike cancelled out a superb first-half goal from Dries Mertens, who limped off early in the second half after a heavy challenge from Busquets.

That foul earned the holding midfielder a yellow card, which rules him out of the second leg, while Vidal will also sit out the clash at Camp Nou after receiving his marching orders for quick-fire cautions in the same incident with Mario Rui late on.

Setien is not despondent, though, and is confident his side – who also lost Gerard Pique to injury late in stoppage time – will have enough firepower to overcome Gennaro Gattuso's men.

"We will look for solutions," he told a media conference.

"We have lost important players, but we will recover two others – Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto. We have to look at things with optimism. We will be optimistic and think positively."

Setien refused to blame his players for their lacklustre performance, instead preferring to criticise what he perceived to be a negative display by the hosts.

"It is a good result considering that we have a return game at home," he added.

"They have defended with 10 players very close to their area. It is true that we have not generated much, but we knew that it was a matter of patience.

"It has been a close match and I consider it fair. We have had control, but in the first half they defended well and took advantage of the only occasion they had.

"The second half was different; there were more spaces and we have done more damage. A 1-1 draw is fine for the second leg."

Barcelona "barely tickled" Napoli as head coach Gennaro Gattuso praised his team's performance in their 1-1 draw in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Dries Mertens equalled Napoli's all-time scoring record to put the home side ahead before a toothless Barca outfit salvaged a draw approaching the hour-mark in the opening leg of the last-16 tie.

Napoli – disciplined and compact in defence – were unfortunate not to take more from the showdown as Lionel Messi and Barca struggled at Stadio San Paolo.

"Since [Barca coach Quique] Setien arrived, they systematically push five or six players into attack, they don't just pass and that's it," Gattuso told Sky Sport Italia. "They force you to defend deep and we had to play like that, because if there were spaces back there, they could really hurt us.

"I think they barely grazed us tonight, they hardly had a single shot on goal. They could've been there all night and not scored, but we conceded after one single error. They didn't hurt us, it barely tickled."

Mertens put Napoli ahead with a curling effort in the 30th minute after some relentless pressing from team-mate Piotr Zielinski.

Napoli had a couple of chances to double their advantage, but Barca managed to equalise via Antoine Griezmann in the 57th minute before Arturo Vidal was sent off late.

"We could've done better on a few counter-attacks, but the team did what we had to do. We allowed them very few opportunities," Gattuso said.

"I am a little disappointed that we didn't create more playing out from the back and in possession, but a little fatigue can happen when you work so hard throughout. Unfortunately, you can't make a single mistake against Barcelona.

"Naturally, qualification is wide open, we will have time to prepare for the second leg and know they will be missing Sergio Busquets and Arturo Vidal, as they'll be suspended.

"It's our duty to go there and play for qualification. Napoli have many strong players, Barcelona have something more, but if we play with focus then we can have our chances."

Barca will host Napoli in the return leg at Camp Nou on March 18.

Antoine Griezmann is optimistic about Barcelona's chances in their Champions League last-16 tie with Napoli after a 1-1 draw in Naples on Tuesday, the Frenchman adamant it will be "very different" at Camp Nou.

Barca produced an underwhelming display at Stadio San Paolo as they struggled to break down a resilient Napoli side who took the lead in the 30th minute through Dries Mertens' wonderful strike.

Griezmann turned home Nelson Semedo's squared pass just before the hour and that proved to be enough to secure a share of the spoils, despite seeing Arturo Vidal sent off late on.

Although the performance from LaLiga champions Barca was nothing to get excited about, Griezmann expects things to be different on home soil.

"We wanted to win, we came to win, but it wasn't possible," the Barca star said post-match.

"We still have to play at home, which will be very different. [There will be] more space, we'll be in front of our fans and we have to win.

"We know that it's a very important week, I think we're focused on that, now we have to work and recover well for the Clasico."

Griezmann had just six touches of the ball in the first half, as the France international struggle to make an impact, and he accepts he was not involved enough.

"It was hard for us to get into the game and create space and shots at first," he added.

"We have to work on it. It's up to me to add depth, sometimes they [team-mates] can see me, at other times not. It's me who has to create space. In the first half I didn't but in the second I did."

Barca welcome Napoli to Camp Nou for the second leg on March 18.

Barcelona were held to a 1-1 draw away to Napoli on Tuesday, extending their unimpressive winless run in Champions League knockout matches in Italy to six.

Quique Setien's men fell behind late in the first half to Dries Mertens' gorgeous 25-yard strike, seeing the Belgian go level with Marek Hamsik as the club's all-time leading scorer on 121.

Barca did rescue a draw that at least sees them return home with an away goal, and therefore an advantage, with Antoine Griezmann equalising despite an otherwise anonymous outing.

Still, Barca - who had Arturo Vidal sent off towards the end - remain winless away to Italian opposition in the knockout phase of the Champions League since a 1-0 victory at Milan in April 2006, when Napoli's incumbent coach Gennaro Gattuso was in the Rossoneri midfield.

Following Tuesday's stalemate, we look back at the other results in this run...

Inter 3-1 Barcelona, 2009-10 (semi-final first leg)

The good old days, when Jose Mourinho v Pep Guardiola was about as gripping as it got. Although the tie was billed as being pragmatism v flamboyance, it was the typically disciplined Inter who thrilled in a 3-1 first-leg win in San Siro. Pedro opened the scoring, but the hosts ultimately romped to victory through Wesley Sneijder, Maicon and Diego Milito. The Italians succumbed 1-0 in Barcelona after the dubious sending off of Thiago Motta, but they clung on to spark comically passionate celebrations from Mourinho and Inter went on to lift the trophy.

Milan 0-0 Barcelona, 2011-12 (quarter-final first leg)

Barca certainly couldn't be accused of failing to dominate in San Siro in 2012, as they controlled much of the game in Italy, but Messi and company failed to find a way through. Luca Antonini was crucial to that, making a brilliant last-ditch block late on to ensure Milan went to Camp Nou with a fighting chance. As it was, Barca had too much for them in the second leg, Messi scoring two penalties as they claimed a 3-1 win.

Milan 2-0 Barcelona, 2012-13 (last-16 first leg)

A major shock saw Barca seemingly staring at an early exit in 2012-13, with Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng scoring in a 2-0 win in San Siro. The Rossoneri had been forced to defend desperately at times, before stealing two goals in the second period. Thankfully for Barca it didn't prove costly, as they crushed Milan 4-0 in the return leg, with Messi's brace added to by David Villa and Jordi Alba. It made Barca the first team to overturn a two-goal first-leg deficit without scoring an away goal.

Juventus 3-0 Barcelona, 2016-17 (quarter-final first leg)

Massimiliano Allegri's Juve became 'nearly men' in the Champions League, but there was also no doubting their class, as the 3-0 win over Barca in April 2017 showed. It was a commanding display in Turin, with two-goal Paulo Dybala turning on the style. Giorgio Chiellini rounded off the win that rarely looked like being overturned in Barcelona despite drawing inspiration from their comeback against Paris Saint-Germain in the previous round. Juve held out for a 0-0 draw.

Roma 3-0 Barcelona, 2017-18 (quarter-final second leg)

Barca have been involved in some monumental Champions League comebacks and turnarounds in recent years – on this occasion they were the victims. After winning 4-1 at Camp Nou, needing some luck to do so as they produced an unimpressive display, Barca looked destined for the semi-finals, but in Rome they were completely outmanoeuvred by an energetic Roma. Goals from Edin Dzeko and Daniele De Rossi left Barca twitching ahead of the latter stages and Kostas Manolas' header eight minutes from time secured a famous result, dumping Barca out of the competition.

Antoine Griezmann's second Champions League goal for Barcelona helped the LaLiga giants secure a 1-1 draw against Napoli in the first leg of their last-16 tie.

Quique Setien's side were insipid in the first half and deservedly went behind to Dries Mertens' superb strike after 30 minutes at the Stadio San Paolo.

Napoli lost Mertens to injury early in the second half and their advantage was erased before the hour mark when Griezmann, who had previously cut an isolated figure in attack, thundered home after a flowing move.

The hosts squandered two golden opportunities to restore their advantage soon after, with Barca ultimately holding on despite Arturo Vidal's late dismissal to take a precious away goal back to Camp Nou in three weeks' time.

After a quiet opening, the game burst into life after 30 minutes courtesy of a moment of magic from Mertens.

Piotr Zielinski picked out the Belgium international on the edge of the penalty area, where he took a touch and whipped a sumptuous finish past Marc-Andre ter Stegen to put the hosts ahead.

They almost doubled their advantage before the interval, but Kostas Manolas flashed a close-range effort past the post.

Barca were a team reborn at the start of the second period and pulled level in the 57th minute, Griezmann slamming home Nelson Semedo's low cross from eight yards.

Ter Stegen twice denied Napoli soon after, first getting down well to paw away Lorenzo Insigne's effort and then racing off his line to block Jose Callejon's strike.

The game ended on a sour note for Barca, with Vidal seeing red for quick-fire bookings – the first for hauling down Mario Rui before clashing heads with the Napoli full-back – and Gerard Pique limping off after landing awkwardly.

Quique Setien has long been regarded as a strong judge of potential in young players – they said it was one of the reasons Barcelona hired him in January despite leaving Real Betis last year having arguably fallen short of expectations.

Ironically enough, Setien's keen eye and faith in academy products could end up costing Barca upwards of €60million, as the reimagining of their midfield looks set to continue.

Why? Because in 2017, just after becoming Betis coach, Setien stepped in and insisted the club not sell Fabian Ruiz to Barca's B team for €1m. A paltry sum in current terms, but at the time the midfielder had only featured a few times for the Verdiblanco's senior side and just spent time on loan at Elche.

"I refused as we wanted him at Betis. I saw Fabian's potential and we decided to keep him," Setien told Marca last year. His faith was well-placed – Fabian made 34 LaLiga appearances in 2017-18 and was one of the league's standout midfielders, earning a move to Napoli that reportedly cost €30m.

An impressive first season in Serie A vindicated the fee and marked him out as one of Europe's most promising midfielders, leading once again to rumours of interest from Barcelona, and Real Madrid too, with both apparently seeing him as a candidate to replace ageing midfield options.

Struggling to adapt to change, or lack of motivation?

It's not all been plain sailing, however. This season has proven a challenging one for Fabian, who had a quiet start to the campaign before seeing his form drop off dramatically.

When Gennaro Gattuso replaced Carlo Ancelotti, he retained faith in Fabian despite his issues, though his form didn't improve particularly with the alteration from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3.

Italian publication Gazzetta dello Sport blasted Fabian just last month, suggesting there was a link between his form and the apparent interest of Barca, before saying his "slowness is embarrassing, almost penalising for Napoli's actions".

But there's a feeling in Italy that Napoli's signing of midfield competition in Diego Demme and Stanislav Lobotka have coaxed a positive reaction from the Spaniard.

With two goals in his past three matches, including excellent performances against Inter and Brescia, Fabian seems to have settled again – and just in time.

The audition

Given Fabian's wide-ranging skillset, he has been mentioned as a potential long-term replacement for more than one Barca midfielder.

Chiefly, it has been suggested he might be the ideal man to push out the increasingly unpopular – among Barca fans, anyway – Ivan Rakitic, as Fabian boasts ability on the ball, incisive passing skills and is a capable striker of the ball. 

While he may lack some of the industriousness of the Croatian, there's little doubt he would present a more refined technician in the final third.

However, with Frenkie de Jong already at the club, others feel Fabian could be moulded into a long-term successor to Sergio Busquets, owing to their similar physical attributes and the Betis product's excellent distribution.

According to Fabian, much of his game has been modelled on former Barca pass-master Xavi, having previously idolised Betis icon Capi – a more attack-minded midfielder – as a youngster, and such influences are clear to see.

Regardless of Setien's presence – as it's by no means inconceivable to think he won't be at the club next season – it's obvious this tie represents a real opportunity for Fabian to shine against the players he could potentially be brought in to replace.

How does he compare to Barca's current options?

Currently, there is no one in the Barca midfield creating goal-scoring chances at the same rate as Fabian, who has laid on 121 opportunities since the start of last season across all competitions - Rakitic (41), Busquets (50), Arthur (41) and Arturo Vidal (47) are all way behind.

Despite questions about his form, the Spaniard has played 38 key passes in 30 matches in 2019-20. De Jong is proving the most effective in that regard for Barca, but his 24 chances created in 33 outings on all fronts is also still some way behind Fabian.

Fabian's record of 527 passes into the final third over the past 18 months compares pretty favourably against Rakitic (598), Arthur (374), Vidal (273) and Busquets (717).

Fabian's average overall pass completion percentage at Napoli stands at 89 per cent, and while that is less than those posted by Busquets (91) and Arthur (93), it's by no means a dramatic drop-off and is the same as Rakitic's record. It suggests Fabian would have no issue acclimatising to Barca's style of play, regardless of whether or not Setien is still at Camp Nou.

But proving those previous struggles merely came down to a blip in a generally tumultuous season at Napoli and building on his recent revival with eye-catching performances against Barca, in a Champions League tie no less, would suggest he has the mentality as well as the ability to play for the Spanish champions.

Lionel Messi will hope to better a barren record on Italian soil when Barcelona visit Napoli in the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday.

Quique Setien's first match in charge in the competition will see him tasked with improving Barca's fortunes on their travels in Europe, although Napoli have an enviable goalscoring record in front of their own fans.

Bayern Munich head to Chelsea in a repeat of the 2012 final that they lost on home soil, and goals certainly appear likely given the previous meetings between the pair.

However, the Bundesliga champions will need Robert Lewandowski to find his shooting boots given the striker has struggled in recent seasons when going beyond the group stages.

Here is the pick of the Opta facts ahead of two tantalising first legs...

Chelsea v Bayern Munich

17 - The four previous matches in all competitions between Chelsea and Bayern Munich have produced 17 goals, an average of 4.25 per game.

18 - Bayern won maximum points (18/18) and had a goal difference of +19 in the Champions League group stages this season, the best performance by a team in the group phase of the competition. However, none of the previous six teams to have won all their group games have subsequently lifted the trophy that same season.

1 - Chelsea have won only one of their past six Champions League games at Stamford Bridge (D4 L1), a 2-1 victory against Lille last December.

5 - Chelsea and Bayern scored the joint-most goals from set-pieces in this season's Champions League group stages (5), including three each from corners.

597 - Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski has scored 10 goals in this season's Champions League, only the second time he has reached double figures in the tournament after 2012-13 with Borussia Dortmund. However, he has failed to find the net in his past 597 minutes in the knockout stages of the tournament, his longest drought.

Napoli v Barcelona

2 - Napoli were eliminated in their two previous European Cup/Champions League two-legged ties with Spanish opposition, both times against Real Madrid: 3-1 on aggregate in 1987-88 (first round) and 6-2 in 2016-17 (round of 16).

0 - Barcelona's last away win against Italian opposition in the Champions League knockout stages came in April 2006, when they beat Milan 1-0, courtesy of a Ludovic Giuly goal; current Napoli boss Gennaro Gattuso played in that game for Milan. Since then, Barcelona have failed to win any of their five such away trips to Italy (D1 L4) and have failed to score in the past four.

20 - Napoli have only failed to score once in 20 Champions League games at the San Paolo, a goalless draw against Dynamo Kiev in November 2016. They are also unbeaten in their past seven home games in the competition (W5 D2).

1 - Barca have won only one of their past eight away games in the Champions League knockout phase (D2 L5), a 1-0 victory against Manchester United in April 2019. In those eight games, they have scored only two goals and conceded 17.

10 - Lionel Messi's total of two goals in five games in this season's Champions League group phase was his lowest for 10 years (since two goals in 2009-10). His only goal on Italian soil in the Champions League knockout stages was in the 2009 final against Manchester United at Rome's Stadio Olimpico – he has failed to find the net (or deliver an assist) in each of his subsequent five appearances.

Gerard Pique believes it is possible Lionel Messi could one day play for Napoli, but the Barcelona defender hopes the superstar retires at the LaLiga giants.

Messi and Barcelona face Napoli at the Stadio San Paolo on Tuesday in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

It has led to fresh comparisons between Messi and Diego Maradona, an Argentina great who starred at Napoli.

Asked if Messi could emulate Maradona and sign for Napoli, Pique told a news conference: "You can never say never in football, but I guess that is complicated.

"You should ask him as he decides his future. I would like him to retire with us. I can't tell you more."

Messi has scored 23 goals in 28 games in all competitions for Barcelona this season.

Lorenzo Insigne had no interest in comparing Lionel Messi to Diego Maradona ahead of Napoli's clash with Barcelona, saying the latter was "divine for Neapolitans".

Messi and Barcelona make the trip to the Stadio San Paolo, where Maradona starred as a player in the 1980s and '90s, for the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday.

Like Maradona, Messi is considered among the best players of all-time, but Insigne preferred not to compare the Argentine duo.

"I had an interview and I said Messi is the best player in the world," he told a news conference.

"However, I do not want to compare him with Maradona, who is everything for us. I do not want to compare him.

"Maradona is divine for Neapolitans, with all respect for Messi who is the best right now."

Despite some off-field issues, Barca are top of LaLiga and will go into the last-16 tie as favourites.

But Insigne said Napoli simply needed to focus on themselves heading into the first leg.

"I do not know what kind of problem Barcelona have got. I read some things as other people did," he said.

"I think after four goals scored by Messi against Eibar ... they have no problems.

"We do not have to think about them. We have to think about ourselves. They have to play a great game from the beginning until the end. That's it."

Gerard Pique told Barcelona to remain undistracted ahead of facing Napoli amid the social media controversy at the club.

Barca earlier this month denied allegations made by Spanish radio network Cadena SER that they hired a company to damage the image of people associated with the club by spreading negative messages on social media platforms.

But Pique is keen to ensure his team are focused ahead of the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie in Naples.

"We just try to be focused on our task as for this club in the last few years it has been massive what happens on the pitch," he told a news conference.

"Just the results have been holding back the entire club, so we know how important it is [to get results].

"The responsibility we have as Barcelona players to try to keep winning on the pitch. If not, there will be troubled water."

Despite the off-field controversy, Barca are two points clear atop LaLiga and go into their tie with Napoli as favourites.

But Pique warned his team the Serie A giants would lift for the last-16 tie.

"It is the first time Barca comes to Napoli to play at such a historic stadium. A football player always want to live new experiences, so coming here is one of them," he said.

"Regarding Napoli, they have improved a lot lately. They did not start well this season but have improved a lot lately. It will be a very difficult one.

"They have beaten Juventus and they beat Liverpool at the group stage. They raise their level against the big teams, so we will have to be very concentrated in order not to get badly surprised."

Quique Setien insists Barcelona have not spent much time talking about their Champions League exits at the hands of Liverpool and Roma ahead of their latest attempt to navigate the knockout stage.

Barca are in Italy ahead of facing Napoli in the first leg of their last-16 tie on Tuesday.

The clash comes after they infamously lost a three-goal first-leg lead in last season's semi-finals at Anfield, a year on from an away quarter-final collapse at the Stadio Olimpico.

While they fell to a Copa del Rey defeat against Athletic Bilbao this month, four straight LaLiga wins have Barca two points clear of Real Madrid at the top of the table, a run head coach Setien believes has his team battle-hardened.

A first Champions League success since 2015 is perhaps the most alluring prize still available for Barca and Setien, who is preparing to take charge of his first match in the competition.

"The reality is that very little has been said about what has happened, although surely everyone has it in mind," Setien said at his pre-match news conference when asked about Barca's recent European exits.

"Perhaps it is not comparable. Now we are carrying a very good dynamic and the morale is very positive. The team is in a good moment, like Napoli are.

"We have had tremendously hard matches in the league and lived through them, so I think the team is fine. 

"I trust we will continue in this dynamic, can maintain the level we have been giving and can keep it going for a long time."

Setien has told his players to expect Napoli to rise to the occasion under Gennaro Gattuso.

"It's a game that I think will be exciting – I hope that it goes down in history because we have played well and shown personality," added Setien.

"I always tell the players that we have to expect the best version of our opposition. Every team needs to give their all and this match will be no different. 

"I know what Napoli are capable of doing. In the group stage, they did very well up against some top-class sides. I'm sure they will produce an extraordinary performance.

"It's my first game in the Champions League game and that is a special motivation for me. 

"It's very exciting to start this stage of the Champions League in a stadium like Stadio San Paolo, full of passion, full of history." 

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.