Barcelona clash with Napoli headlines Europa League play-offs

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The Catalans crashed out of the Champions League in the group stage with just two goals scored in six matches, the arrival of Xavi Hernandez not enough to revive their fortunes in a competition they have won five times.

A meeting with a Napoli side currently fighting for the Serie A title would be worthy of the continent’s elite club competition, and indeed the sides met in the last 16 of the Champions League just two years ago.

Yet Barca instead face a real challenge in this play-off tie just to make it through to the last 16 as they try to salvage some pride in Europe and go all the way to the final in Seville in May.

“It is not a favourable draw. They are one of the toughest sides we could have faced, a Champions League-level team,” Xavi said when the draw was made.

The Catalans, who lie fourth in La Liga a huge 15 points behind leaders Real Madrid, had appeared in the knockout rounds of the Champions League in each of the last 17 seasons, last missing out in 2003-04 when they played in the UEFA Cup.

Barcelona were not the only high-profile name to be knocked out of the Champions League prematurely, with Borussia Dortmund also dropping down into the Europa League.

The Germans will face Scottish champions Rangers with the first leg at the Signal Iduna Park as the home side wait to see if Erling Haaland will play.

The Norwegian, scorer of 23 goals in 21 games in all competitions this season, has missed Dortmund’s last two outings against Bayer Leverkusen and Union Berlin in the Bundesliga.

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