The Champions League is finally back and there are three Italian teams left in the competition after AC Milan were eliminated in the group stage and will play Rennes in the Europa League play-off on Thursday. Inter could be one of the candidates to win the entire tournament, especially after reaching the 2022/23 final, at least if they can get past a tough round of 16, with Atletico Madrid, Napoli and Lazio being the outsiders and certainly not the favorites. qualify for the quarter-finals. Lazio will play Bayern Munich on Wednesday, while Napoli will play FC Barcelona in one of the most exciting matches of the round. So who has the best chance of advancing to the quarter-finals? As always, you can get full coverage as the Champions League returns on CBS, Paramount+, CBS Sports Network and CBS Sports Golazo Network.
Check the sign-up box to confirm you want to subscribe.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox.
An error occurred while processing your subscription.
The current status of Lazio
The team led by Maurizio Sarri is not living their best life this season. After reaching second place in the league last year, the Biancocelesti saw their star Sergej Milinkovic-Savic leave the club in the summer of 2023 when he joined Al-Hilal in the Saudi Pro League. Lazio worked to replace him with a number of young players, including Nicolò Rovella from Juventus and Mateo Guendozi from Marseille, and also signed free agent Daichi Kamada, winger Gustav Isaksen and striker Taty Castellanos, who were needed to provide a real backup option for the club’s captain Ciro Immobile. . Despite the changes in the summer, Lazio struggled in the first part of the season to play as we expect from a team led by Sarri. Moreover, they also had a difficult time in terms of results.
The Biancocelesti are currently eighth in Serie A, five points behind the top four, but they will face Juventus in the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia after beating city rivals AS Roma thanks to a goal from Mattia Zaccagni. Munich awaits in the Champions League. They drew the German giants after finishing second in the group stage behind Atletico Madrid. Lazio’s relatively poor season so far is largely due to them struggling to score goals, as they have scored just 28 goals in 23 Serie A games (only Torino have scored fewer in the top ten). Their leading goalscorer, Ciro Immobile, has had a challenging season so far due to injuries, scoring just nine goals in all competitions so far, but against Cagliari last weekend scored his 200th Serie A goal to become the eighth all-time top scorer in the League. history of the competition.
A season to quickly forget for Napoli
So far, this has been one of the most disappointing seasons for Napoli in the past decade. Not only because of the (poor) results, but especially because it comes the year after the Azzurri won their first Serie A title in more than thirty years, the first after the Diego Armando Maradona era. The summer of 2023 started with an immediate internal earthquake when former coach Luciano Spalletti decided to step down while the fans were still celebrating the long-awaited title. At the same time, Napoli’s sporting director Cristiano Giuntoli also left and decided to join Juventus. Two of the key faces of the club’s recent success both decided to leave at the same time, straight after winning their historic title. Napoli’s owner decided to appoint former Al-Nassr coach Rudi Garcia, but things did not go well and the Frenchman was sacked last November, with Walter Mazzarri taking on the role of caretaker manager until the end of the season.
Mazzarri is doing even worse. After leading the table for 16 games, Napoli have managed just six wins under Mazzarri and scored just 15 goals since his appointment. Furthermore, Napoli failed to score in nine of these sixteen matches and the club currently sits ninth in the table, seven points behind the top four. Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen will finally return this week after losing the 2024 AFCON final to Ivory Coast on Sunday, and Napoli expect him to pilot the team in the coming matches. The feeling is that the club is already making plans for next year, but it is still too early to think about that because the end of the season is not yet around the corner. Napoli must fight to finish in the top four and will also try to advance to the knockout stages of the Champions League, as FC Barcelona is not in much better shape. If results don’t come, it’s not impossible to see another manager change in the coming weeks.
Who is most likely to experience a disruption?
That said, their opponents aren’t having their best seasons either. Bayern Munich are currently second in the Bundesliga and lost a key match against Bayer Leverkusen this weekend, which could potentially end their dream of winning the title for the twelfth year in a row, but at the same time won the Champions League group stage without also only one game to lose. After signing Harry Kane from Tottenham in the summer of 2023, Thomas Tuchel’s team’s main problems come from defense as Bayern concede much more than we were used to seeing. Lazio will have to be careful as the German giants’ wingers and attacking line are still among the best in Europe, but they will have chances to score, especially in the first leg at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
Barcelona, on the other hand, is also having a challenging season, with coach Xavi set to leave the club at the end of June, as he had already announced. The Blaugrana are currently third in La Liga, just ten points behind Real Madrid and all but excluded from the title race. They will likely be pushing for the European season despite a disappointing year so far. Napoli may not be in top form and Barcelona are the favourites, but the first match in Naples will be crucial for the Italian side as the Azzurri certainly have the players to beat this Barcelona. Overall, Napoli have the better chance to advance, but above all they need team spirit and players like Khvicha Kvaratskhelia or Victor Osimhen to get back to the level of the 2022-2023 season. Otherwise it will be almost impossible for them.