Paolo di Canio has told Il Mattino that Harvey Barnes has ‘exploded’ with Leicester City, but James Maddison is the real midfield threat Napoli must look out for in the Europa League.

Luciano Spalletti’s Azzurri visit the King Power Stadium on Thursday night to open Group C. They secured their place in UEFA’s secondary club competition after finishing fifth in Serie A last season. While Leicester booked their place by finishing fifth in the Premier League.

Barnes was a sensation for Brendan Rodgers before a setback in his recovery from a knee injury ended his 2020/21 campaign in February. The 23-year-old recorded nine goals and four assists over 25 league appearances, and made his senior England debut in October.

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Barnes returned from injury over the off-season and has started all four of Leicester’s top-flight fixtures thus far this term. He is yet to score or assist, while Maddison – after endless links with Arsenal this summer – is also yet to get off the mark for either, after four starts.

Di Canio namedrops Barnes and Maddison as two Leicester players Napoli must look out for on Thursday, along with Jamie Vardy, Youri Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi.

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“In front, there is always Vardy, who tries to give depth but with the farewell of [Claudio] Ranieri and the arrival of Rodgers, [tactics] have changed,” he said. “Sometimes they try to emulate that team [Stoke City] that tried to throw long and that’s it, but now it’s different.

“Tielemans and Ndidi are on the scene, but they also have the license to shorten with the three in front. Barnes has exploded, Maddison is their real attacking midfielder, there are young people with talent [at Leicester]. Even those who are out can make a difference.”

Can Barnes and Maddison get off the mark for Leicester against Napoli?

Rodgers will hope Barnes and Maddison live up to Di Canio’s expectations and kickstart their seasons when Leicester host Napoli. The former was influential with his pace and trickery on the opening day against Wolves, but without the end reward.

Barnes again lacked an end product against West Ham, despite plenty of promising runs into the Irons penalty area. The Hammers could easily read his crosses, as well, and was massively off the pace against Norwich, too.

The 23-year-old came close to opening his account a few times against Manchester City at the weekend. But Kyle Walker was a match for his pace, while Maddison held onto the ball too long, too often. The 24-year-old also shied away from the action come the second half.

Maddison additionally lacked consistency against Norwich and Wolves, while playing some nice passes against West Ham. So, Rodgers will hope for better from both against Napoli.

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