Pep wary of Napoli threat

Dries Mertens will lead Napoli's attack against Manchester City. The Belgian has 10 league goals so far.
Dries Mertens will lead Napoli's attack against Manchester City. The Belgian has 10 league goals so far.PHOTO: REUTERS

Guardiola expects tough match against Serie A leaders, Sarri rates City as the best team

ROME • Pep Guardiola takes his swaggering Manchester City side to Napoli today looking to make the Champions League knockout stages with two games to spare.

City, unbeaten this season, notched an eighth straight Premier League win on Saturday. Guardiola's free-scoring side have won 13 games in a row in all competitions and are unbeaten in their past 21 outings - two club records.

The Champions League Group F leaders - with three wins from three - know a draw against Napoli would see them qualify for the knockout rounds.

But Guardiola remains wary of the Neapolitans - third in the group behind City and Shakhtar Donetsk - with Belgian Dries Mertens catching the eye up front this season.

"We are going to the team that are leading Serie A and everybody knows the type of football they play in their own stadium so it's going to be very difficult," said the City manager.

"But it's a great opportunity for us to book our place and we're going to try our best to do it."

The Spaniard is targeting a third Champions League trophy after wins in 2009 and 2011 at the helm of Barcelona.

  • 32 

    Goals Napoli have scored in

    11

    Italian Serie A games so far.

He failed to progress beyond the semi-finals during his three-year spell at Bayern Munich. But Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri is mindful that he will be up against the best in the business today.

"Nobody is unbeatable, but I consider them the best European team of the moment with the best coach in the world," he said of the Premier League leaders.

His side have been similarly dominant in Italy this season, where they are unbeaten in 11 league games - including 10 wins - as they chase a first Serie A title since 1990.

They lost 1-2 at the Etihad two weeks ago,when the visitors were 0-2 down inside 13 minutes, and Sarri has challenged his men to keep City at bay for a longer period.

Guardiola's men have scored 45 goals in 15 matches in all competitions, an average of three per game.

"Manchester City usually make a great start to games. They score plenty of goals in the early minutes, so we need to change approach or we need to ask Uefa to start the game from the 21st minute," Sarri told a press conference yesterday.

"They are used to being comfortably ahead after 20 to 30 minutes. We have to keep the game in balance as long as possible and see how they react.

"I'm sure we can cause them problems, but obviously we need a perfect defensive performance."

Napoli forward Jose Callejon said the hosts will play " this game as if it was a final" while City will not hold back despite their comfortable position.

"(Securing qualification) would be a nice position for us to be in," midfielder Kevin de Bruyne told the club's official website. "And then hopefully we can get another good result against Arsenal (in the Premier League) on Sunday and put some pressure on the rest of the teams."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NAPOLI V MAN CITY

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 01, 2017, with the headline 'Pep wary of Napoli threat'. Print Edition | Subscribe