MILAN • Desperate Napoli fans have signed up as official Real Madrid supporters in a bid to attend a Champions League clash that will see an estimated 10,000 Neapolitans descend on the Spanish capital tomorrow.
Napoli, last season's runners-up, are nine points behind Juventus in the Italian Serie A title race but, with a league-topping 57 goals in 24 games, are playing arguably the best football in Italy.
The southerners' first appearance in the last 16 of the competition since losing to Chelsea in 2012 has fans in a frenzy.
And Naples' Mayor Luigi de Magistris is whipping it up.
"I know the mayor of Madrid well... but we have to give them a nasty surprise on Wednesday," he said in a video post on YouTube. "Spain is a great country, but Naples is better and we have to go there looking to win."
STOKING THE FIRE
Spain is a great country, but Naples is better.
LUIGI DE MAGISTRIS, Mayor of Naples, making no effort to hide his allegiances.
Along with Juventus, Napoli are supported by fans throughout the peninsula due to mass migration from the south during the post-war years to more industrial parts of Italy.
And fans are going to extreme measures to reach the Spanish capital. Allocated only 3,917 tickets for the game to be played at the Santiago Bernabeu, an estimated 6,000 more Napoli fans want a piece of the action.
They have chartered planes, taken indirect flights via Istanbul, Zurich and Brussels and hired mini buses, according to widespread reports.
Most will be without a ticket, but gazzetta.it said: "Some have secured a ticket thanks to a Real Madrid-supporting friend or season-ticket holder while others have spent a fortune for a place in the executive boxes.
"But a lot more spent the €30 (S$45) it costs, payable via Internet, to become an official Madrid supporter (Madridista) in a bid to their hands on a coveted ticket."
But the statistics suggest disappointment awaits.
Napoli and Real have met only once in the competition, in the 1987 European Champion Clubs' Cup. After a 1-1 draw in Naples, Real won the second leg of their first- round tie 2-0 to advance.
And to make matters worse for Napoli fans, the 11-time European champions are unbeaten in 11 consecutive Champions League games.