Maurizio Sarri is open to a brand new trident attack for Napoli, but warned Shakhtar Donetsk “will force us to defend deep at times.”
The Champions League clash kicks off in Kharkiv on Wednesday at 19.45 UK time (18.45 GMT).
“I want to start off by pointing out it is false to say I imposed the Press silence. The club ordered it and I as an employee acted accordingly,” noted Sarri first off, as Napoli have been criticised for refusing to speak to the media before or after Serie A games this season.
The clubs are contractually obliged to hold Press conferences and give interviews around Champions League matches, so Sarri sat down in Kharkiv with the reporters this evening.
“It is possible we could use Jose Callejon, Arek Milik and Dries Mertens, as they are three players who can work together and it is one of our options.
“Shakhtar Donetsk are a strong side, even if they’re not well-known in Italy. They are accustomed to taking the initiative, have very technically-gifted attacking players and tend to swarm the opposition.
“They have two full-backs who are always bombing forward and will cause us huge problems in certain periods of the match, forcing us to defend deep at times.
“Clearly, this also means they will allow us opportunities to score and we must do well to take them. It’ll be tough against a side that is less physical than (last season’s Ukrainian opponents) Dinamo Kiev, but with more quality.”
Napoli and Shakhtar Donetsk are in the same group as Manchester City and champions of Holland Feyenoord.
“In a group with six games, clearly the first result will make a big impact, so it is very important going forward. It’s a tough group, we picked Feyenoord, who were the best side in the fourth pot, City are very dangerous and in my view Shakhtar’s quality is underestimated.”
The Partenopei have won each of their last 10 competitive matches, but this season against Atalanta and Bologna showed their ability to ‘win ugly.’
“This is our third year together. I prefer it when we play well for 90 minutes and not just 40. I think the difference in these initial games is that we have found more defensive solidity when under pressure. If we overcome those difficult moments of the match without conceding, then we will get a result thanks to our strength in attack.
“Our objective is to maintain the initiative throughout the game, that must be our philosophy. I am not satisfied with the victories over Atalanta and Bologna, because it’s risky and sooner or later we’ll pay for that attitude.”
Marek Hamsik was tired after international duty, but never seems to be rested for a match, even if he is often substituted an hour in.
“I consider him irreplaceable,” continued Sarri. “He has characteristics that none of our other midfielders possess, especially playing between the lines. This is why he is substituted in every game, as it’s the only way to let him rest while also having him in the team.
“Our fitness levels are fine, because the statistics show we run harder than anyone in the second half and often dominate games. The European calendar is ridiculous, because for three months there’s no chance to train at all for teams in the UEFA competitions.”
Sarri was also asked about super agent Mino Raiola’s suggestions he should find a bigger club than Napoli.
“It’s his supposition based on his knowledge of the transfer market, but right now that is the furthest thing from my mind. We are playing in the Champions League and that is enormously satisfying. We’ve got a fascinating season ahead of us and I am concentrated only on that.
“If I do end up leaving Napoli, I imagine Raiola would find me a club!”