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Napoli will host FC Barcelona on Wednesday at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona for the first leg of the UEFA Champions League's round of 16, and the two sides have a lot of things in common. They won their respective domestic league last season and now they are both struggling. While Napoli are currently ninth in the Serie A table and just sacked their second coach of the season, Barcelona are not involved in the title race and club's manager Xavi already announced his departure in the summer. 

It has been one of the most disappointing seasons for Napoli of the last decade. Not only because of the poor results but mainly because it comes the year after the Azzurri managed to win their first Serie A title in more than 30 years, the first one since the Diego Armando Maradona era. Summer of 2023 started off with an immediate internal earthquake when former coach Luciano Spalletti decided to step down while the fans were still celebrating the much-awaited title. At the same time, Napoli's sporting director Cristiano Giuntoli also left and decided to join Juventus. 

Two of the main faces of the recent success of the club both decided to leave at the same time, right after winning their historic title. Napoli's owner decided to appoint French coach Rudi Garcia, but things didn't work well and the former Al-Nassr manager was sacked in November, with Walter Mazzarri took the role as caretaker manager. Then, on Monday, Mazzarri was also sacked with Francesco Calzona replacing him until the end of the season. Calzona was the assistant coach of both Maurizio Sarri and Spalletti at Napoli before starting his coaching career in 2022 when he became the manager of the Slovakian national team. Napoli became the first team in the history of the Italian league to replace two managers the season after winning the title. 

At Barcelona, things are going slightly better. The Blaugrana are currently third in the league but eight points behind La Liga leaders Real Madrid and already out of the title race. After some disappointing performances, coach Xavi announced he will leave the club at the end of the current season, leaving the president of the club, Joan Laporta, to appoint a new manager in the summer. Like Napoli, Barcelona also went through a revolution in the summer of 2023 when former club midfielder Deco became the sporting director replacing Mateu Alemany. 

Xavi's team has struggled also due to injuries, but some poor performances of the team led the manager to make the unexpected decision to leave Barcelona and add more questions to the club's future. While the club will start to look at the options available for the job, Xavi will try to leave his beloved club with another trophy, and the Champions League is a concrete target. 

Both Napoli and Barcelona dominated and won the league title during the season 2022-23 but also both had a disappointing European campaign. While Napoli were eliminated by AC Milan in the quarterfinals (2-1 aggregate), Barcelona were knocked out in the group stage by Inter and Bayern Munich. At the end of that season, Xavi stayed in charge as expected while Napoli's coach Spalletti decided to step down before accepting the role as manager of the Italian national team later during the same summer. 

Summer 2024 will be crucial for both teams and they will need to choose the right manager for the job. While Napoli definitely can't miss another chance after sacking two managers in less than three months, Barcelona's decision will be even more difficult, replacing a club legend and looking to elevate their game. Both club presidents, two similar and straightforward personalities, will have to make one of the most difficult decisions they have had to take in the past years with no room for making mistakes. 

In the meantime, the two teams will try to save their current season with the Champions League campaign. Both sides have nothing to lose and will try to advance to the next stage. For sure, whoever will be knocked out will have the only goal to finish this season as soon as possible and plan the next one.