MANCHESTER - Napoli are treating
Wednesday's Champions League opener against Manchester City as a
final and are forgetting about their opponents' spending power.
The Italian side travel to England as underdogs in a Group A
that also features Bayern Munich and Villarreal but coach Walter
Mazzarri refused to be daunted and said Napoli could draw much
encouragement from their Europa League outings last season.
"I will tell my players not to focus too much on the other
side and how strong they are," Mazzarri told a news conference
on Tuesday. "Statistically we are the least favourite in this
group, but I do not think that is very important.
"All we need to do is keep focused, keep calm and think
about the competition one game at a time. Tomorrow we will play
Manchester City and we will play it as if it were a final, after
we have done our best we will see where we are at."
Napoli, who last appeared in European Cup competition 21
years ago, only returned to Serie A four season ago and have
rapidly grown into title contenders despite modest means.
Manchester City, meanwhile, have invested hundreds of
millions of pounds on players in the past three years, prompting
reporters to ask Mazzarri whether he felt like it was a bit of a
David and Goliath contest.
"It's either us being very clever for the approach that we
have or the other side being a little bit foolish because if we
manage to do what we are doing in the way that we do it then
people can see it does pay off," Mazzarri said.
"It's only a matter of getting in the right mindset and
looking after and nurturing our group of players. Last year
Manchester City finished third in the Premier League and so did
Napoli in Serie A so we can see the results were there."
The Italian side got a taste of life on the big stage by
playing a friendly against European champions Barcelona last
month and despite losing 5-0, it was valuable experience.
"It was quite useful to have a feel of the atmosphere, to
take in the environment," Mazzarri said.
"We possibly had too much reverence for the other team, so
in a way we were surprised Barcelona chose us for a friendly.
But more important than game in Barcelona was our very
convincing performance in the Europa League."
Napoli reached the round of 32 in the continent's second
tier competition last season, losing to Villarreal. City were
also in the Europa League last term, falling at the last-16
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