The Italian giants will be without a key figure when they welcome the Spanish champions to Stadio San Paolo next week,

Napoli head coach Gennaro Gattuso has shown that Kalidou Koulibaly will play no role in next Tuesday’s meeting with Barcelona from the Champions League.

Koulibaly sustained a hamstring injury during a 2-1 home defeat to Parma on December 14, which has kept him on the sidelines for the past two months.

The 28-year-old made his long-awaited return to the pitch on February 9, playing the full 90 minutes of a 3-2 loss off at Lecce, but he was an unused substitute in a Coppa Italia success over Inter three days after.

Gattuso chose to leave him out of his group entirely for Sunday’s triumph at Cagliari, along with the Italian boss has delivered a definitive update on the center-back’s fitness.

Napoli will be back in action against Brescia in Stadio Mario Rigamonti on Friday, but Koulibaly won’t travel with the rest of the squad, with Gattuso confirming he will even miss an enormous last-16 first-leg clash with Barca.

Gattuso told a press conference: “Koulibaly against Barcelona? He has swelled, I would rather stop him for 7-10 days and then evaluate how he feels physically.”

Hirving Lozano and Allan will be available for Napoli’s most current Serie A outing, with Arkadiusz Milik back in the fold after recovering from illness.

Gattuso’s men must conquer Brescia so as to keep their faint hopes of Champions League qualification living, having fallen 12 points behind fourth-placed Atalanta.

Napoli could also get entry to next year’s contest by winning the trophy come May, but they are heavy underdogs going into their battle with Barca.

The Blaugrana attained the semi-finals in 2018-19, while Napoli exited from the group stages, but they improved to the last 16 in remarkable fashion this time around.

Napoli finished second in Group E by only a single point behind reigning champions Liverpool, whom they beat 2-0 in Stadio San Paolo and held to a 1-1 draw at Anfield.

Barca, meanwhile, picked up 14 points from a possible 18 in their group, qualifying ahead of Borussia Dortmund, together with Inter falling into the Europa League.

Gattuso insists his side won’t be looking beyond Brescia, however, as he anticipates a similar challenge to the one Cagliari introduced his side.

“Tomorrow’s match against Brescia is the priority,” he added. “We are anticipating a similar game to the one against Cagliari. We certainly must be completely focused heading into it”


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