Barcelona and Napoli finely poised, Rangers look to finish job against Dortmund
Barcelona’s Europa League tie against Napoli is finely poised heading into the return in Italy on Thursday as Rangers look to finish the job against Borussia Dortmund following their stunning 4-2 win in the first leg last week.
Barca needed a Ferran Torres penalty to draw at home to Napoli in the first leg of their knockout round play-off tie after Piotr Zielinski put the Serie A side in front at the Camp Nou.
However, with the away goals rule having been dispensed with this season by UEFA, the heavyweight tie remains very much in the balance going to the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.
Barcelona are enduring a troubled season, but Xavi Hernandez’s side still cross the Mediterranean in good form having gone five unbeaten and not lost in 90 minutes since Bayern Munich dumped them out of the Champions League in early December.
They won 4-1 at Valencia in La Liga at the weekend with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring a hat-trick, while Napoli are third in Serie A after drawing 1-1 with Cagliari on Monday.
Scottish champions Rangers are hoping to secure a spot in the last 16 as they welcome Dortmund to Ibrox following their stunning 4-2 win in Germany.
It would go down as one of the best results in their history in Europe if they could see off the Bundesliga giants, but the outcome of the tie could hinge on whether Erling Haaland plays any part.
The Norwegian, scorer of 23 goals in 20 appearances for his club this season, missed the first leg and his team’s last three domestic outings due to injury but has now returned to training and could feature in Govan.
However, USA starlet Gio Reyna, whose father Claudio played for Rangers and is a close friend of the Ibrox side’s manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst, is sidelined.
Barcelona are one of four Spanish teams aiming to advance to the last 16, with Real Sociedad hosting RB Leipzig and Real Betis leading 3-2 against Zenit Saint Petersburg after the first leg in Russia.
Sevilla, the record six-time winners of the second-tier European competition and who will host this season’s final, lead 3-1 as they go to Dinamo Zagreb.
In the Europa Conference League, Marseille, PSV Eindhoven and Leicester City are among the teams primed to advance to the last 16 but Celtic must overturn a 3-1 first-leg deficit as they travel to Norway to play Bodo/Glimt.
The Norwegian champions shocked the Scottish Premiership leaders at Parkhead but Celtic captain Callum McGregor believes they can turn the tie around in the Arctic Circle.
“We are that type of team that still want to be aggressive even if we are going away from home, we still want to play the same way, and that way will get us chances,” he said.
“It’s then just being ruthless and clinical when the chances come.”
Fixtures on Thursday (2000 GMT unless stated) (first-leg scores in brackets)
Europa League knockout round play-offs, second legs
Dinamo Zagreb (CRO) v Sevilla (ESP) (1745 GMT) (1-3)
Olympiakos (GRE) v Atalanta (ITA) (1745 GMT) (1-2)
Real Sociedad (ESP) v RB Leipzig (GER) (1745 GMT) (2-2)
Lazio (ITA) v Porto (POR) (1745 GMT) (1-2)
Napoli (ITA) v Barcelona (ESP) (1-1)
Real Betis (ESP) v Zenit Saint Petersburg (RUS) (3-2)
Rangers (SCO) v Borussia Dortmund (GER) (4-2)
Braga (POR) v Sheriff Tiraspol (MDA) (0-2)
Europa Conference League knockout round play-offs, second legs
Qarabag (AZE) v Marseille (FRA) (1745 GMT) (1-3)
Maccabi Tel-Aviv (ISR) v PSV Eindhoven (NED) (1745 GMT) (0-1)
Randers (DEN) v Leicester City (ENG) (1745 GMT) (1-4)
Bodo/Glimt (NOR) v Celtic (SCO) (1745 GMT) (3-1)
Partizan Belgrade (SRB) v Sparta Prague (CZE) (1745 GMT) (1-0)
Slavia Prague (CZE) v Fenerbahce (TUR) (3-2)
PAOK (GRE) v Midtjylland (DEN) (0-1)
Vitesse Arnhem (NED) v Rapid Vienna (AUT) (1-2)